Session 1

About This Session

Don Johnson, Rice University

Quantifying Artist Canvas with Digital Signal Processing Tools

In the past, authenticating a painting–establishing the artist– rested on stylistic considerations and provenance. Today, art authentication rests largely on technical examinations of the painting and the provenance. A “technical examination” means studying the chemical composition of the paints, searching for re-working (pentimenti) and re-touching, and determining if an underpainting and underdrawing are present.

A new addition to the examination repertoire is characterizing the canvas: what is the weave pattern, how does thread density vary over the painting’s surface and how raw canvas was initially mounted on the stretcher. Soon after x-radiography was discovered at the end of the nineteenth century, x-rays of paintings were taken and found to reveal underpainting and individual canvas threads. Today, x-ray films are scanned and processed using modern signal processing algorithms that measure the densities of the vertical and horizontal threads everywhere on the painting’s surface. These measurements revealed much about the canvas support: orientation of the canvas relative to the canvas roll, how the canvas was first mounted on the stretcher and whether multiple canvases were sewn together to form the canvas support. More importantly, thread density pattern matching between paintings established whether they came from the same canvas roll or not. Common canvas groups have been established for individual artists, such as van Gogh, Monet and Vermeer, and between artists, Monet and Pissarro for example. The talk will describe and illustrate the signal processing techniques, and demonstrate how the results are used in technical art history.

Kimon Keramidas, New York University and Alex Gil, Columbia University

Of Institutions, Initiatives, and the Importance of Regional Academic Communities: Building NYCDH

Since its inception in 2011 under a tree at Stanford University, NYCDH has brought together individuals interested in the digital humanities across the metropolitan New York region. NYCDH promotes digital humanities in the region by working outside of traditional institutional structures and promoting the work of digital humanists, no matter what their position, discipline, or methodology. With a constituency that includes over 400 scholars, students, academic administrators, members of the GLAM communities, and independent intellectuals, NYCDH has become a successful inter-institutional structure, providing a flexible and knowledge-rich community for scholars looking to develop and promote their work in the digital humanities.

This presentation will discuss how NYCDH enables a wide variety of communities of practice, and the importance of regional communities in facilitating the growth of new academic fields, such as digital humanities. Since small communities within larger academic institutions can often suffer at the hands of institutional structures, organizations like NYCDH allow for the kind of local support that helps small projects grow larger, and for isolated individuals to find resources for research, professional development, and collaboration. We will discuss how NYCDH’s online platform, topic-centered subgroups, community-building events, and administrative practices enable inter-institutional organization that can function within, outside of, and across established institutions. We will also outline how volunteer committees, such as NYCDH’s steering committee, can have significant impact through low-effort high-impact practices that allow participants to play a role in shaping communities of practice in the region, while not detracting from their responsibilities elsewhere in their careers.

Farès el-Dahdah and Alida C. Metcalf, Rice University

imagineRio: A Diachronic Atlas of the Social and Architectural Evolution of Rio de Janeiro

The platform imagineRio is a searchable atlas that illustrates the social and urban evolution of Rio de Janeiro over the entire history of the city, as it existed and as it was often imagined. Views of the city created by artists, maps by historical cartographers, and ground floor plans by architects –from iconographic, cartographic, and architectural archives– are located in both time and space while their associated visual and spatial data are integrated across a number of databases and servers including an open-access digital library of images, a geographic information system, an open source relational database, and a content delivery web service. The relationship between the various project elements produces a web environment where vector, spatial, and raster data are simultaneously streamed in, probed, toggled, viewed, or queried in a system that supports multiple and interconnected expressions of diverse data sources. It is an environment where, for example, historians can visualize specific sites of inquiry both temporally and spatially, where architects and urbanists can see proposed design projects in situ, where literary scholars can map out novels while visualizing their specific contexts, and where archaeologists can reconstruct their complex stratigraphy. Scaled down into a mobile app, tourists and residents will be able to walk about town while visualizing the city as it once was as well as it was once projected. Rio de Janeiro's urban history is particularly well suited to being captured in a diachronic web map environment considering how much the city's natural environment, urban fabric, and self-representation has changed over time.

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John Martin

  • Scholarly Communication Librarian

Dr. John Edward Martin is a Scholarly Communication Librarian at the University of North Texas Libraries.  He serves as a consultant to faculty, students, and the university community on issues related to transformations in scholarly communication and academic publishing. He is also resource librarian for the Department of English.

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Don Johnson

Don H. Johnson received his S.B, S.M, E.E. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1977, he joined the faculty of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Rice University, where he is currently the J.S. Abercrombie Professor Emeritus.

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Kimon Keramidas

Kimon Keramidas is Associate Director and Clinical Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities in New York University’s John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program.

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Alex Gil

Alex Gil is Digital Scholarship Coordinator for the Humanities and History at Columbia University. He serves as a consultant to faculty, students and the library on the impact of technology on humanities research, pedagogy and scholarly communications.

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Farès el-Dahdah

Following a professorial career in architecture, Farès el-Dahdah is director of the Humanities Research Center and Professor of the Humanities at Rice University. He is the recipient of Harvard University's Cisneros Visiting Fellowship (David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies) and the Arthur W.

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Alida C. Metcalf

Alida C. Metcalf is Harris Masterson, Jr. Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at Rice University. She received the B.A. from Smith College (1976) and the Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin (1983).

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