39th Annual Meeting – Research and Technical Studies Morning Session, June 2, “An Open-Source Workflow for the Visualization of CT Data in Art Conservation and Archaeology” by Hai-Yen Nguyen

This talk discussed how open-source image-processing software can be used to manipulate data obtained from computed tomography (CT) scans of objects. In this technique, radiographs are taken around an axis of rotation, and the three-dimensional volume of the object is virtually reconstructed. From JP Brown’s talk (Medical Computed X-Ray Tomography and Volumetric Reconstruction for the Technical Examination of Organic/Composite and Ceramic Objects), we learned that it is relatively easy to gain free access to CT equipment at local hospitals. However, as  Hai-Yen pointed out, the proprietary software for processing the data can cost around $15,000. By using several open-source programs, she and her co-workers were able to obtain quality images highlighting various aspects of the object under study.

CT images of a corroded metal artifact in a tub of water were presented at various stages of processing with different software programs. A median filter was applied in ImageJ to reduce noise. Most other processing applications were performed in ImageVis3D, including thresholding, slice analysis, and manual segmentation. The 16-bit raw tiff file formal was considered the most user-friendly for transfer between the software systems.

After the initial data processing, Hai-Yen demonstrated the use of false color to clearly show different types of material and used clipping (masking) to isolate certain features. Once a complete 3D rendering is obtained, it could potentially be used to create a physical model of the artifact without the need to dry out and clean the original.

Disclaimer: Neither of us bloggers has ever done CT or this type of image processing, so we may have missed salient details. Feel free to add information in the comment section below.