Students collaborate to preserve and understand our past

Student working on imaging equipment

An innovative collaboration of the classics, art history and computer science showcases the shared goals of three Kelvin Smith Library student employees to preserve and understand the past. The project organized by Hayley Latta, a fourth-year undergraduate classics major, aims to identify and photograph 365 ancient Roman coins from the library’s Special Collections. Omar Loudghiri, a fourth-year computer science student, and Arielle Suskin, a PhD candidate in art history, bring their expertise to the project that will benefit the global academic community. 

Suskin calls on previous work in Numismatics to verify existing data on the coin’s identity, decipher inscriptions and identify emperors depicted on the coins— to date the coins and determine the minting origin. She then determines the value of the coins —not in today’s terms—but what they were worth in the past.

After identifying the coins, the next step involves photographing them to make the images available online for further research. Loudghiri built a Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) dome to enable a specialized photography technique that captures objects under varying lighting conditions to reveal surface phenomena. Loudghiri created a digital model based on plans from another institution, printed it at Sears think[box] and completed the electrical work on the prototype.

The RTI process begins with a coin under the dome and the camera in a fixed position at the top. The camera captures photographs with each light source, one at a time. This process is repeated 30 to 40 times, with the object illuminated from a different angle. The images are then combined, and the final result is an interactive digital image with a moveable light source that shows surface textures and important details that might not be visible in a conventional photograph. 

The coin project will eventually be available through Digital Case, KSL's repository for digitized collections. 

The project highlights Kelvin Smith Library's position as a hub of collaborative exploration.