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Micro-CT Applications for Art and Conservation

  • 28 June, 2019
  • Sumita Chandiramani
  • Micro-CT

Credit: Interior view of a Prayer Bead, The Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), 29365. The Sustainable Archaeology facility in the Department of Anthropology at Western University, in London, Ontario provided the micro-CT scans.


An animation from a micro-CT data set produced by scanning a 16th-century Northern European wooden micro-carving slices through the exterior shell of this prayer bead. The bead measures 6.1 cm in diameter when closed, and the scan reveals an intricate interior showing the Last Judgement. The complexity of the prayer beads has made it impossible to fully understand their construction as some of these miniature carvings contain close to 100 separately carved elements. The way the beads were pieced together obscures joins so that traditional tools such as X-rays could not assist in deciphering the objects’ interiors.

VIEW the micro-CT animation of a 16th-century prayer bead, from the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Imaging Techniques in Conservation


An excellent overview of the uses of imaging technologies for conservation and the implications for object preservation and accessibility, this article details several examples of unique applications “across the cultural heritage sphere”. The article discusses using micro-CT to virtually unwrap and digitally flatten papyrus scrolls, imaging objects contained within soil blocks from a medieval cemetery, and using 3D printing to produce models of frail natural history specimens.

READ MORE on using micro-CT for conservation, from Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies.

Integrating Imaging and Analytical Technologies for Conservation Practice


This report of an experts’ meeting discusses the opportunities and challenges for researchers to “explore  the extent  to  which  computer-assisted  technologies  may help  cultural  heritage  researchers  integrate  different types  of  data,  including  those  from  different  researchers  and  different  institutions,  in  a  way  that  facilitates  the  extraction,  sharing  and  understanding  of  new  information  by  a  broad  community  of  users.”

READ MORE about the shared use of data for conservation, from The Getty Conservation Institute.

Restoration by Other Means: CT Scanning and 3D Computer Modeling for the Re-restoration of a Previously Restored Skull from the Magdalenian Era


The Field Museum utilized micro-CT scanning for part of the methodology of technical examination and documentation of a previously restored Magdalenian Era skull and determined that the original restoration was not anatomically correct. “The high dimensional accuracy of CT scans, and the ability to reconstruct the interior of objects in three dimensions, provides essential information for complex objects.” This article details how CT-derived 3D models of fragments of this prehistoric human skeleton were used to produce a new, and more anatomically correct, re-construction of the skull.

READ MORE on using micro-CT for restoration of an ancient skull, from The American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Work.

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