Michael PHELPS | Damianos KASOTAKIS
(Early Manuscripts Electronic Library, Los Angeles, USA)

Keywords: spectral imaging, palimpsest, workflow, image processing, IIIF

The Sinai Palimpsests Project, a collaboration of St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt, and the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library (EMEL), is the most extensive application to date of spectral imaging to recover obscured information from historical source materials. Over its five-year course, the project spectrally imaged more then 6,800 palimpsest pages, generated multiple innovations, and managed a successful workflow including scientists, technicians and scholars on three continents . This talk will review the history of the project, its structure and procedures, selected contributions, and future directions.
This project was the first systematic effort to spectrally image a large and diverse collection of palimpsests. Notably, when spectrally imaging a manuscript collection of such volume, most of the effort goes largely unnoticed: cataloging, materials handling, data management, and quality control. All of these considerations defined the day-to-day operations of the project, in order to ensure consistently high-quality data across five years of imaging. The project team accumulated unparalleled experience in implementation of an end-to-end spectral imaging workflow. Protocols and procedures were established that suggest best practices for other spectral imaging programs.
Project results are now online, hosted by the UCLA Library in collaboration with the Monastery. For this purpose, UCLA developed a unique branch to Mirador (IIIF compliant) that supports the comparison of multiple images of the same folio, either side-by-side or in layers.

Relevance for the conference: The Sinai Palimpsests Project is the largest effort to date to use spectral imaging to recover obscured or illegible information from cultural heritage materials, and as such produced technical innovations and workflow optimizations for adoption by other projects.
Relevance for the session: The Sinai Palimpsests Project offers an exemplar for technical innovation, workflow optimization, and the IIIF-compliant publication (Mirador) of 80,000 images of previously unstudied erased text.
Innovation: The Sinai Palimpsests Project built a customized end-to-end workflow for a large-scale, text-recovery project, which included onsite spectral imaging, offsite data management and image processing, scholarly description, and online publication.