Replica 360 Recto/Verso Scanner

The Replica 360 Recto/ Verso Scanner was designed and built by engineers at Factum Arte and Factum Foundation for the rapid digitisation of a vast photo-archive belonging to the Fondazione Giorgio Cini (Venice). The archive contains roughly one million annotated photographs of paintings and other objects from the Veneto region and is considered the most complete photographic record of the history of art and architecture of Venice. The digitisation of the archive is part of the Replica Project an innovative digital humanities initiative by the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Factum Foundation.

The idea is that the vast amount of data recorded with the Replica at the Cini is stored and analysed by DHLAB at EPFL. The images are processed using algorithms that facilitate archiving and automate the data flow. DHLAB is also developing a search engine run with computer vision to facilitate the study of genealogical affinities between images from the Cini archive – a revolutionary new approach to the study of images that will lead to new discoveries and insights in the development of artistic form. The Replica Project, coordinated by Isabella de Lenardo, is a partnership with Venice Time Machine and supported by the Fondazione Lombard Odier.

The Replica 360 Recto/Verso Scanner at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini archives.

The Replica 360 Recto/Verso Scanner

The Replica 360 Recto/Verso Scanner is a working prototype for a rapid photographic capture system. It is designed as a rotary table that moves continuously during a digitisation session, simultaneously photographing both sides of single-page documents and automatically downloading the images onto a computer.

Two operators must work together: one places a document on the table, the other removes it after the photographic cycle has ended. This crucial feature of the scanner is designed to permit interaction between the operators – the digitisation of cultural heritage often involves repetitive tasks that we believe are better performed in a social environment. At the same time, the system reduces manipulation time per document, and the circular set-up is space-saving.

The controlled-speed rotation of the table is driven by a motor. A sensor system detects the moment when a document is placed on the glass surface and detects its position for the cameras. Images are captured with two identical high-resolution cameras. The documents are lit using custom-designed flash-units electrically engineered, 3D printed and assembled at Factum Arte. The units provide low-level light that allows the cameras to obtain high-quality, focused images whilst keeping glares to a minimum.

In real-time the images are automatically downloaded onto a computer; the recto and verso images of each document are matched together, and an md5 signature for the files is generated to ensure integrity. The developed software uses the existing Cini catalogue, and corresponding technical and descriptive metadata, that are placed in a shared-folder for data backup and transfer to EPFL servers.

Left: Technical drawing of Recto/Verso scanner; Right: Birds-eye view of the scanner and disposition of the operators.

Enrique Esteban from Factum Foundation working with the Replica 360 Recto/Verso Scanner.

Enrique Esteban from Factum Foundation working with the Replica 360 Recto/Verso Scanner

The scanner in testing at Factum in Madrid.

The scanner in testing at Factum in Madrid.

The scanner in testing at Factum in Madrid.

Progress of the Replica Project

The Replica was installed at Fondazione Cini in 2016. By August 2017, 377,000 double-sided ‘Cardboards’ from the Art History photo-library had been imaged. The digitisation of the second part of the photo-library, archived in envelopes, started in September 2017 and a total of 110,000 items were digitised in subsequent months.

From October 2017, the scanner has been used intensively in the digitisation of a number of other documents, including:
– the Terzani Archive – 11.100 photos, 27.000 documents (project closed)
– the Mediterranean Linguistic Atlas Archives – 1.000 photos, 35.000 documents and maps (still running)
– the Music Archives – 53.000 photos, 110.000 documents (still running)
– the Theatre Archives – 62.000 photos on cardboards, 18.000 photos, 11.000 documents (still running)
– the Glass Archives – 12.000 photos on cardboards, 28.000 photos, 5.000 documents (still running)
– the Cini Historical Archive – 1.000 photos, 9.000 documents (still running)
– the Sottsass – 8.000 photos, 76.000 documents.


As of early 2019, the total number of single-page documents recorded using the Replica, stored and used for analysis at EPFL totals 490,000 – or more than 940,000 image files. In late 2018, the Replica Scanner was moved into ARCHiVe (Analysis and Recording of Cultural Heritage in Venice) at the Fondazione Cini. It will continue to be used in the digitisation of the Cini Archives as well as for new educational activities taking place at the centre.
Factum Foundation is currently producing Replica scanners for a number of other archival institutions who want to digitise their collections of unbound works on paper. The new design, now in progress, improves both the lighting system and the method for flattening bent documents, to avoid glare and shape distortions in the images. Software updates are periodically carried out and improvements to the software are in development, including plans to introduce QR code reading.


For more information on the Replica 360 Recto/Verso Scanner contact
Adam Lowe / Scanner concept design and direction, Factum Foundation
Enrique Esteban / Principal Engineer and software developer, Factum Foundation
Dwight Perry / Scanner concept design, Factum Foundation
Pedro Miró Infante / Scanner production Manager, Factum Foundation
Quinner Baird / Scanner production, Factum Foundation
Jorge Cano / Scanner production, Factum Foundation
Andrea Barbon / Project Manager and machine setup for production, Fondazione Giorgio Cini
Remko Bigai / IT management and development, Fondazione Giorgio Cini