East Aurora Resident Images Artifacts at Boston Public Library

RIT undergraduate student Maggie Castle wins grant to fund project, leads team of students

Maggie Castle

East Aurora resident Maggie Castle recently led a team of imaging science students from Rochester Institute of Technology on an expedition to the Boston Public Library to test an imaging device they designed and built over the course of their freshman year.

Castle, the daughter of Dan and Kathy Castle of East Aurora, will enter her second year at RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science this fall.

As a student in the Freshman Imaging Project, Castle won a $3,000 grant from the Carlson Center to test the imaging device she and her classmates designed and built during the yearlong foundation course.

The device, measuring two feet in diameter, makes polynomial texture maps, or PTMs, using visible light. Typically custom-made, the tool aids professionals working with historical documents and artifacts. The dome-shaped contraption Castle’s class built is covered with 23 LED lights that illuminate an object from multiple directions and angles. Software written by Castle’s classmates compiles 25 to 40 shots into one interactive image to reveal subtle surface textures and features, such as dents, cracks and underwriting.

Castle and her team took the device on the road to the Boston Public Library, where RIT alumnus Tom Blake works in the Digital Lab. It was an ideal venue for trying out the device. Activity in the lab focuses on digitizing books and artifacts for public use and to make available on the Internet, Castle explains.

“Our main goal was to take polynomial texture maps of many of the artifacts and historical documents Tom provided us with to see what worked and what didn’t with our device, and how we might improve it in the future,” Castle says.

Blake brought the students a sampler platter of artifacts to image, including ancient cuneiform tablets, the original masthead of The Liberator newspaper, a Mongolian prayer board, two death masks and a page of the Gutenberg Bible.

“It was an awesome experience to be working with such amazing artifacts,” Castle says. “Not everyone gets to hold a real cuneiform tablet in their hands or see the death masks of Sacco and Vanzetti up close.

“Many of the objects that we took PTMs of had a lot of great texture, which made for great PTMs,” Castle says. “You can’t show a PTM with a picture,” Castle says. “It is an interactive image, not a still one. Tom Blake was really excited about the PTMs we created for him because he wants to show his colleagues that there are more ways to digitize and document the artifacts in the library besides just a still picture.”

Castle hopes to publish an article about the experience in an undergraduate research journal. Her team includes RIT imaging science students Kevin Dickey, Scarlett Montanaro and Dan Goldberg.

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