Adam Lowe

(Faktum Arte, Spain)

The most pressing issues for museums and collections in the twenty first century are those of preservation, research, dissemination and repatriation. The role of the facsimile is central to each of these debates. The use and applications of facsimiles has the potential to radically alter attitudes towards ownership, display and originality. A brief history of facsimiles will be outlined and one specific example, a new project to raise money for the Ministry of Culture in Iraq, will be discussed in detail.

Following its discovery in 1849 by the English adventurer Austin Henry Layard, most of the high relief narrative panels that covered the walls of the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud were taken to the British Museum in London. Some found a permanent home in the Assyrian galleries while others made their way to Germany and into private collections in Europe. Further panels were acquired by individuals and institutions from the site. Many of these are now in the USA. Almost all the panels that were removed were cast and in the process lost their colour.
Factum Arte, with United Exhibits Group (Copenhagen) and the Ministry of Culture of Iraq, has scanned all the known fragments from the eastern end of the throne-room. The resulting facsimile will be the centre piece in an international touring exhibition: The Golden Tombs of Iraq, treasures from Nimrud and after the exhibition will be given to the Iraq Museum, Baghdad.
High resolution laser scanning and white light scanning has been completed at The British Museum (London), The Pergamon (Berlin), The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen (Dresden), the Sackler Art Museum, Harvard and The Art Museum, Princeton University. Over 100 sq meters of relief carving have been recorded, the majority at a resolution of 100 microns. Most of this work was done with a specially designed scanner. The 3D data requires no post-processing resulting in an objective correspondence between the surface and the digital archive. All aspects of the production of the facsimile will be discussed culminating in images of the finished installation.
The presentation will consider the superficial characteristics that are important when documenting cultural artefacts. Direct comparisons will be made between commercially available equipment. It will focus on the discoveries and insights gained during the time consuming work and will look at the importance of the data for monitoring, conservation and dissemination.

Keywords: Mediation, laser scanning, white light scanning, unmeshed data, facsimile, objectivity, monitoring, dissemination, point cloud, superficial qualities, 3D.