Holograms Could Solve Museum Conservation Problems Say Experts

By Helen Kane | 17 September 2008
a hologram of a full face Knight's helmet

Display holography has been used by various museums around the world since the medium was first developed in the 1960s. Courtesy the Royal Photography Society Holographic Group.

Holograms of valuable and fragile exhibits could offer the solution to museum conservation and access problems and open up exciting new ways of displaying collections according to new findings to be presented at a conference in Leicester.

The one-day conference, held by the Royal Photography Society Holographic Group, and taking place at De Montfort University on September 19 2008, aims to enlighten curators about the many advances in holographic imaging and to promote the valuable contribution holography can make to exhibitions and displays.

According to holography experts, recent developments in holography mean that priceless artefacts can now be safely conserved while the public sees exact replicas, identical in colour, size and every intricate detail.

Colour holography is now the most accurate imaging technology known to science and is able to reproduce an object so precisely it is almost indistinguishable from the original artefact. This includes two-dimensional objects such as oil paintings, where a hologram can reproduce all the surface texture details such as brush strokes and the painter’s signature.

a hologram of a preserved bog body

The British Museum commissioned a holographic replica of Lindow Man in 1980s. Courtesy the Royal Photography Society Holographic Group.

“Display holography is a tool that has been used by various museums around the world since the medium was first developed in the 1960s, but recent developments in full colour techniques make it far more viable and attractive than ever,” said Jonathan Ross, whose Gallery 286 in London is home to one of the most important collections of hologram art works, some of which will be featured in an exhibition of holograms at the conference.

“Many museum professionals have lost track of developments in holography; it has come a long way since their heyday in the 1980s and since Russian scientists used it as a way to ‘Take Art to the People’ and the British Museum commissioned a holographic replica of ‘Pete Bog, the Lindow Man’”

Most of those early holographic images were however monochromatic and limited to a size of object that would fit onto a small vibration isolation table, but now objects of all shapes and sizes can be made into detailed holographs.

“Today it is possible to record full colour images so realistic it is hard to believe the actual object is not there behind the glass and, using CGI techniques, to make scaled-down 3D replicas of objects of any size you wish,” added Mr. Ross.

a hologram of a golden iconographic painting of Christ

Russian scientists used holography in the 1980s as way of taking art to the people. Courtesy the Royal Photography Society Holographic Group.

The conference – entitled ‘Holography in the Modern Museum’ – will hear speakers from pioneers and experts in the field of holography from Taiwan, USA and Europe.

Presentations will include ways of using holograms to replace particularly vulnerable objects. Showing holograms instead of the originals will prove to be an important innovation in the conservation world where curators are constantly looking for new and exciting ways of displaying collections.”

Professor Richardson will be presenting Stopping Time: Harrison’s ‘H4’ Hologram, at the conference, based on holograms of timepieces created by John Harrison, fourth Royal Observatory timekeeper.

Two one-day workshops will also be held in advance of the conference at The Modern Holography Laboratory at De Montfort University on September 17 and 18.

a hologram of a collection of butterflies and moths

Courtesy the Royal Photography Society Holographic Group.

The workshops will explain the basic principles of holography, optical phenomena and optical equipment for the recording of holograms. Attendees will also have the opportunity to record their own hologram.

To register on the workshops contact Amanda Stuart, Department of Imaging & Communication design at DMU, on 0116 257 7671, or by Email: astuart@dmu.ac.uk

More information about the conference can be found at the Royal Photographic Society Holographic Group website or by emailing jross@gallery286.com

Did you know..?

  • The word Holography is a composite of the Greek words for ‘whole’ and ‘writing’ or ‘drawing’.
  • Salvador Dali ran an exhibition of Dali Holograms in New York in 1972. One of the holograms portrayed Alice Cooper in a tiara, holding a statuette of Venus De Milo like a microphone.
  • Hungarian physicist, Dennis Gabor, conceived the idea of holography in 1948 but was unable to make one due to the lack of a sufficient light source. The invention of the laser 10 years later meant the first holographic recordings could be created. Gabor was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1971.
  • Most people in developed countries carry at least one hologram around in their wallets, on the front of their credit or debit cards.
  • An early hologram by Bruce Nauman recently fetched over $200 000 at London auction house Christies.
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