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Film, Video Digital Restoration Initiative: Reading the Invisible Library

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  • Digital Restoration Initiative: Reading the Invisible Library


  • Progress over the past decade in the digitization and analysis of text found in cultural objects (inscriptions, manuscripts, scrolls) has led to new methods for reading inaccessible text due to condition, the "invisible library." W. Brent Seales explains the development of non-invasive methods for revealing hidden or inaccessible text, showing results from text restoration projects on Homeric manuscripts, Herculaneum material and Dead Sea scrolls. Focusing in particular on a new approach for virtual unwrapping or unrolling -- Reference-Amplified Computed Tomography (RACT) -- the talk examines how machine learning becomes a crucial part of the imaging pipeline. RACT may be the pathway for rescuing still-readable text from some of the most stubbornly damaged materials, like the enigmatic Herculaneum scrolls.

Event Date

  • February 14, 2018


  • -  W. Brent Seales is professor and chairman of the Department of Computer Science and Director of the Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments at the University of Kentucky. His research centers on computer vision and visualization applied to challenges in the restoration of antiquities, surgical technology and data visualization. In 2012-13 he was a Google Visiting Scientist in Paris, where he continued work on the "virtual unwrapping" of the Herculaneum scrolls. In 2015, Seales and his research team identified the oldest known Hebrew copy of the book of Leviticus (other than the Dead Sea Scrolls), carbon-dated to the third century C.E. The reading of the text from within the damaged scroll has been hailed as one of the most significant discoveries in biblical archaeology of the past decade.

Running Time

  • 1 hours 17 minutes 27 seconds

Online Format

  • video
  • image
  • online text

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Credit Line: Library of Congress

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Chicago citation style:

Digital Restoration Initiative: Reading the Invisible Library. 2018. Video.

APA citation style:

(2018) Digital Restoration Initiative: Reading the Invisible Library. [Video] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Digital Restoration Initiative: Reading the Invisible Library. 2018. Video. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.