Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the mission of Factum Foundation?
Our mission is to demonstrate the importance of documenting, monitoring, studying, recreating and disseminating the world’s cultural heritage through the rigorous development of high-resolution recording and re-materialisation techniques.
2. How does Factum Foundation contribute to cultural heritage preservation?
We engage in activities related to preservation of cultural heritage such as 3D scanning and recording, digital reconstruction, education and training, virtual experiences, exhibitions, archiving, and research collaborations and the creation of physical replicas where needed. We work globally on projects focused on preserving and sharing cultural heritage.
3. How does Factum Foundation use digital technologies in its work?
We live in an age where technologies are key tools for enabling the recording of different aspects and characteristics of an object in high-resolution. This can mean recording the topography, the colour, the structure and the marks that lie beneath the surface of an object.
The Foundation has used and developed digital technologies and methodologies over the last 20 years to record and process data captured from material culture. These include photogrammetry, the Lucida 3D scanner and the Selene Photometric Stereo System. This results in digital and physical outputs such as detailed digital models of cultural heritage objects and sites. This also includes visualisations and virtual reality. These technologies aid in documentation, analysis, restoration, and accessibility of cultural heritage.
For a description of the specific technologies visit our Technology page for more details and reviews of specific Projects.
4. Why is high-resolution recording important for preservation?
A high-resolution recording provides an authoritative record of the work’s appearance at a given point – a vital document given the extent to which objects change over time. The creation of this sort of record allows us to see what the object looked like prior to any physical conservation. Conservation techniques change with every generation and so preserving a record of the pre-conservation state of objects has become an indispensable part of the conservation process, and 3D digital recordings offer a more complete visual representation of an object’s surface than any other method.
Through such high-resolution recordings Factum has made discoveries and saved sites:
- Tomb of Tutankhamun
- Cave of Kamukuwaká
- The Bakor Monoliths
- The Lamassu
- The Mosque at Kala Koreysh in Dagestan
5. How can I access Factum Foundation's digital archives?
We strive to make selected digital outputs (high-resolution viewers and 3D Models) and documentation accessible to researchers, educators, and the general public through our website:
- High Resolution Viewers
- 3D Models on Sketchbfab
6. How can I support Factum Foundation's work?
You can support our work through donations, partnerships, collaborations and volunteering. If you are interested in supporting or getting involved in one of our projects head to our Support Us page.
7. Who do we work with?
We collaborate closely with museums, galleries, governments and other cultural institutions. We provide expertise, technological support, and research collaborations to enhance the capabilities of these institutions in preserving and studying cultural heritage.
8. Can I visit Factum Foundation's projects or exhibitions?
We organise exhibitions and projects globally. The availability of specific projects or exhibitions for visitation varies and if you would like to visit our workshop please get in touch with us via email:
9. Does Factum Foundation offer educational resources or programs?
We are actively involved in education and offer various programs, workshops, and resources related to cultural heritage preservation. Check out our Institutional Collaborations and Training page for more information.
If you are affiliated with a school, university or cultural institution and wish to organise a training activity, write to email@example.com.
10. How can I stay updated on Factum Foundation's projects and activities?
You can subscribe to our Newsletter or follow our social media channels to receive updates on our current projects, exhibitions, and other activities.
11. What is the purpose of Factum Foundation's physical replicas (facsimiles)?
Factum Foundation pioneered the exploration of using recordings and replicas/facsimiles. We create physical replicas of cultural heritage objects and sites using digital models and viewers from the data we record. It has become abundantly clear that facsimiles can create new forms of sharing that enable access to fragile objects that cannot travel as well as opening up the possibility of new forms of sharing in relation to repatriation. They can facilitate the reassembly of fragmented objects and collections. They can also allow objects to be touched and accessed for a range of different reasons, such as museum display, research, conservation and preservation and for educational initiatives, allowing broader access and understanding of cultural heritage. These purposes are ultimately decided by the entity that owns the objects.
12. Who keeps the facsimiles made by Factum Foundation?
The person able to commission a facsimile is the owner of the cultural heritage at the time of purchase.
13. Can I ask for a model to 3D print for personal use or buy a facsimile of a project you already made?
As we do not own the data of the objects we record, we are not able to offer this type of service.
1. How do we collect the data?
We use a mixture of technologies and methodologies to collect the data. This expands as new demands and new discoveries are made. Please visit the Technology section for more information on the technically advanced equipment used and the methods of employment. Factum also uses traditional tools and techniques alongside the digital recording systems.
Our approach is to identify the best hardware and software that exists for the recording of cultural heritage. If something does not exist or is not designed specifically for cultural use we aim to make it or modify it. All equipment has to be able to record at the highest level but at the same time it must be affordable, easy to use, long-lasting, require minimum maintenance and not be subject to constant expensive upgrades.
In all recordings we place a great importance on raw data. By this we mean data that can be re-processed at higher resolutions in the future as the technology becomes available. We are developing an approach to condensing rather than abstracting information.
2. How do we process the data?
Once the data is collected using our various digital recording technologies and methods it is archived as raw data. This raw data can then be processed in many ways depending on the desired usage. If specific outputs are required then it is managed, mediated, manipulated cleaned and made coherent – this is post-processing. It is essential that every action is recorded and clearly archived.
For example, the Lucida Scanner records raw black and white video – this can then be output as a tonal depth map, stitched and assembled as an image. The operator errors and mechanical faults corrected (within reason). The file can be converted into different formats and can be made compatible with most software applications. It can be output as a tonal image or converted into an STL (Standard Template Library) and routed or 3D printed.
Layered Archives can be assembled bringing together high-resolution data in many forms – 3D, colour, infrared, X-ray etc. In addition to this historical data, archival data, conservation reports and restoration procedures can all be held in an accessible form in one digital place – but to make sure this data is archived for posterity the files are saved in raw format.
3. How is the data used?
The data is typically used to monitor the current condition of cultural heritage and material culture, for study purposes and in some cases for the production of facsimiles in association with the owner or custodian of the artefact.
4. Who owns the data?
Our position on this is has always been very clear. All data recorded across any sites globally remains with the custodian. The custodian decides on how the data is used and receives the benefits from any use and any revenues created by the data and from any commercial applications that exist or might emerge. It is hoped that they will then use this revenue to record and preserve other sites or objects that they look after.
Also, we maintain that the conservation and academic community should have free access to the data for study and monitoring purposes. Non-commercial applications of this kind can be covered under the Creative Commons access protocol.
5. What is Creative Commons Model?
Data recorded (and as agreed with the custodian) is made available to the public openly through the Creative Commons license. Creative Commons is a legal structure that means anyone can see the data and use it for research and analysis but anyone wishing to use the data for commercial purposes will have to go to the custodian who may license or allow use of the information. Any resulting benefits and payments go to the custodian.
6. Are there clear protocols for the use of digital technology in preservation and conservation?
Yes and no – Digital tools and media offer myriad new opportunities for cultural heritage preservation and with these new opportunities, there are also difficulties and many conflicting opinions. These can stem from commercial interests, misunderstandings and the normal confusion associated with new terminologies and new technologies.
The current established protocols and best practices for digital technology in preservation include:
- Documentation and Metadata Standards: Adhering to documentation standards such as the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) guidelines. These standards define best practices for data capture, metadata creation, file formats, and data management to ensure consistency, interoperability, and long-term accessibility.
- High-Quality Data Capture: Emphasis on high-resolution and accurate data capture using advanced imaging techniques, 3D scanning, and photogrammetry. This includes capturing colour, texture, and geometric details with appropriate equipment and calibration to ensure fidelity to the original cultural heritage object or site.
- Data Validation and Quality Control: Rigorous validation and quality control procedures to ensure the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of digital data. This involves cross-referencing with physical measurements, comparison with existing documentation, and peer review to validate the captured data.
- Preservation and Storage Strategies: Implementation of preservation strategies to ensure the long-term storage and accessibility of digital assets. This includes data backup and redundancy, file format migration, metadata preservation, and adherence to digital preservation standards like the OAIS (Open Archival Information System) reference model.
- Ethical Considerations: Consideration of ethical aspects in the use of digital technology, including obtaining proper permissions, respecting intellectual property rights, and protecting sensitive or sacred cultural heritage. Adherence to ethical guidelines and legal frameworks to ensure responsible and respectful practices.
- Open Access and Collaboration: Encouraging open access to digital data and fostering collaboration among institutions, researchers, and communities. Sharing of digital assets, knowledge, and resources to promote research, education, and public engagement with cultural heritage.
These protocols and best practices are informed by international organizations, professional bodies, and experts in the field of cultural heritage preservation (ICOMOS, UNESCO). They provide guidelines and standards that inform and shape the responsible use of digital technology in preservation and conservation efforts. Specific protocols may vary depending on the context, type of cultural heritage, and technological advancements.
Additionally, part of our aim is to encourage collaborative efforts and ongoing research that contributes and encourages the discussion and the evolution of protocols and best practices around the use of digital technology in preservation and conservation.
1. UNESCO Guidelines for the preservation of digital heritage
2. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee’s Outstanding Universal Criteria(s)
1. What do you mean by the biography of an object?
Treating an object as an organic and evolving subject, we are able to consider it’s biography or story. Just as we age, paintings, sculptures and buildings also age. How something ages depends on how it is looked after.
The biography of material culture reveals the various levels of human intervention during its lifecycle. By studying the biography of an object we can get insight into the various possible alternatives for how it would have looked when it was first made; it also reveals what people and cultures value and are (and were) interested in, how they understand the importance (or not) of an object. It indicates how the importance of cultural heritage lies in the fact it has a living history, a present and a future.
2. What do you mean by non-contact preservation?
The traditional approach to the preservation (conservation) of material culture has centred on academic study, analysis and professional dialogue followed by physical interventions, aimed at restoring and/or stabilising the subject. Non-contact preservation focuses on detailed and high-resolution documentation of material culture in its present state, combined with looking at how to create the optimum conditions for the sustainable preservation of the work, all of this is without any physical intervention happening to the object (no touching). It focuses on revealing why a work looks as it does and why it has aged in the way it has. For objects under threat it can also aid in future decisions on the optimum environment for the object to be preserved.
3. What do you mean by a “facsimile”?
The term facsimile refers to an object which uses all available objective means to replicate an original. The colour is the same as the original in the same lighting conditions, and the dimensions correspond precisely, not only in terms of the size of the canvas but down to the precise surface relief such as the marks of a paint brush. When displayed alongside the original, the facsimile should be visually indistinguishable to the human eye, even though the materials may vary.
Within the Islamic tradition of miniature painting, copying is an accepted way to deepen understanding and appreciation of an established canon of great works. Copies – or facsimiles – have existed throughout the history, from Roman copies of Greek statues, to eighteenth century plaster cast imitations of original sites and artifacts, which enabled famous works to reach a wider audience. The great European art academies used it as a valuable tool for learning about art. The process of copying requires attention to all aspects of the object – its meaning, purpose and function as well as the way it was made and the ways in which it changes with time. It is an ionophilic activity in which subtle observations cultivate an intimacy with the physical nature of the surface. It leads to a deeper understanding of the object as a complex thing.
In cases like the caves at Lascaux, Chauvet and Altamira, the tombs of Seti I and Nefertari in the Theban Necropolis, or the Etruscan tombs in Tarquinia, strict controls or a total ban on visitors to these sites has been the only answer. This has detrimental impacts on the local communities that rely on tourism for their livelihoods. Facsimiles have already been made of some of these examples. The technologies that are employed and promoted by the Foundation make the production of these facsimiles more objectively accurate and are able to re-create an experience that can be both emotionally and didactically equivalent. The Facsimile of the tomb of Tutankhamun has set new standards for this approach.
4. How do you make a facsimile of an object?
In the process of making facsimiles or replicas we use a combination of the latest re-materialisation technologies and traditional skills such as gilding and surface patination, employing highly skilled digital artisans alongside those working with long-established craft skills.
5. What does a “recreation” mean?
In the context of Factum Foundation, a “re-creation” refers to the process of digitally recreating cultural heritage objects, artworks, or historical sites recorded in high-resolution. It is a transformed version of an existing object often using lacunose available data to imaginatively reconstruct the past state of an object which is lost or damaged, or enhancing datasets to create entirely new objects which illuminate the original in new ways. A recreation is different from a facsimile.
Our re-creations are aimed at providing a tangible and accurate representation of cultural heritage, enabling a deeper understanding and appreciation of these valuable artefacts and sites. We use advanced digital technologies, such as 3D scanning, imaging, and digital modelling, to create faithful and precise recreations based on what we understand the original looked like.
- Colossus of Constantine
6. What is sustainable tourism in relation to cultural heritage preservation?
For us, sustainable tourism refers to the promotion of responsible and mindful practices that support the preservation and protection of cultural heritage sites and artefacts. It ensures cultural heritage longevity and enables visitors to experience these sites and artefacts while minimizing any potential damage or degradation.
Factum Foundation advocates for sustainable tourism practices by:
- Preservation and documentation: we use digital technology to record and create a digital record of the heritage in question, making cultural heritage more accessible to a wider audience. This facilitates virtual experiences, remote access, and online educational resources, reducing the need for extensive physical visitation and potentially mitigating mass tourism.
- Education and Awareness: We place importance on educating tourists and the general public about the significance of cultural heritage and the need for its preservation. By raising awareness, they encourage visitors to engage responsibly with cultural heritage, promoting respect, and minimising negative impact from tourism.
- Community Involvement: we collaborate with communities to develop community-based tourism projects, ensuring that local residents are active participants in decision-making processes and receive fair economic benefits from tourism activities.We also provide a full transfer of digital recording skills and technologies to members of the local community through an integrated training and educational programs, that enable locals to have access to the tools to initiate their own projects and conduct their own recordings in the future. The ultimate goal is a self-sustaining centre which offers long-term digital recording and archiving facilities, while bringing new skills to the locale.
It is vital to Factum that the local community benefits financially from the preservation of cultural heritage through the provision of new skills and employment to reinforce their sense of ownership.
By promoting sustainable tourism practices, we strive to protect cultural heritage sites and artefacts, support local communities, and enable a long-term, balanced relationship between tourism and cultural heritage preservation.
7. What is the difference between Conservation and Preservation?
The Foundation is not a conservator; we promote the importance of documentation and works to develop solutions that are of use in conservation. The Foundation is encouraging forensically exact recording; we are seeking innovative ways to study and manage the information and ensure that we understand any physical interventions that may have been imposed, so that clear knowledge is attained
Conservation and preservation are often synonymous terms in the context of cultural heritage, but they refer to slightly different approaches and objectives.
Conservation focuses on actively preserving and restoring cultural heritage to ensure its longevity and resolve damage or deterioration. It involves a range of activities aimed at maintaining, repairing, and stabilising cultural artefacts, artworks, or sites. Conservation seeks to solve and prevent further decay or loss, often utilising scientific analysis, specialised treatments, and preventive measures. The goal of conservation is to preserve the authenticity, material integrity, and historical significance of cultural heritage while ensuring its continued accessibility and enjoyment.
Preservation, on the other hand, primarily focuses on maintaining and safeguarding cultural heritage in its existing state without significant intervention or alteration. It emphasizes protection and preventive measures to minimise damage or loss due to external factors such as environmental conditions, human activities, or natural disasters. Preservation may involve activities like documentation, monitoring, climate control, and security measures to ensure the long-term survival and stability of cultural heritage. The objective of preservation is to retain the original character and authenticity of the cultural heritage, allowing future generations to experience and appreciate it as it exists today.
In summary, conservation involves active intervention and restoration to address damage or deterioration, while preservation focuses on safeguarding and maintaining cultural heritage in its existing state. Both approaches play important roles in the field of cultural heritage management and aim to ensure the long-term preservation and accessibility of significant artefacts, artworks, or sites for future generations.
8. Does Factum work alongside traditional conservators and restorers?
Yes, at all times. Conservation is a complex discipline and what we do at Factum is one part of the process. Good conservation uses all appropriate methodologies and analytical techniques to inform the decision-making process. Good conservation also includes environmental monitoring, assessment of atmospheric pollution and site management. Though many of these skills require digital technology it is the high-resolution recording of different aspects of the object that the Foundation focuses on. This work is collaborative.
9. Why are we interested in the surface of objects?
Superficial, when applied to a person is a criticism – but superficial qualities in an object reveal a great deal about how it was made, how it has aged, what has been done to it and why it looks as it does. 3D surface scanning of objects has found some applications with the recording of sculpture – replacing the role of plaster casting (direct casting) that is now forbidden by most museums.
Historically, the recording of the surface of paintings has largely been overlooked. The reason for this is simple – previously available scanners could not record the level of detail that was required to make the data meaningful. The noise outweighed the information. Both Factum Arte and the Factum Foundation have spent a great deal of time and effort addressing this: the result is the Lucida 3D Scanner, and more recently the Selene Photometric Stereo System.
The recording must be at the highest resolution that is technically possible in colour, multi-spectral recording and in three dimensions. This allows for absolute clarity and understanding of the surface of the object in such a way that the data can be used for study and analysis to review change and also, where appropriate, it can be used to create an exact copy that is effectively indistinguishable from the subject. If it is possible to create a facsimile of an object that is ‘identical’ under museum viewing conditions, it is evidence of the quality of the data. The Factum Foundation is devoted to understanding and explaining exactly what this means in practice.
10. What is the best way to protect an object?
In environmental conservation, the best way to conserve an animal population is to preserve its ecosystem; in the conservation and preservation of material culture, environmental control is equally important. To protect material culture from ageing, everything must be kept as stable as possible – homeostasis. If there are changes of temperature, humidity and a dynamic environment, the object will age faster than if the environment is stable. Many cultural objects have been exposed to unstable environments and aged fast – a tomb, when left sealed, is one of the very few examples of a stable environment.
Cultural heritage that is at risk from mass tourism and climate change (rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and natural disasters) as well as iconoclastic destruction are the key driving forces making it difficult to maintain homeostasis of cultural heritage ecosystems. It is for this reason that high-resolution documentation and the creation of facsimiles have become essential in some cases. Before we accept intrusive and remedial actions that change the appearance of the object irretrievably, or we must act to control its environment and record what currently exists.
11. Forensic recording is increasingly used in medicine and surveillance. Is this possible with paintings?
Multi-spectral photography (including, X-Ray, Infrared, Ultraviolet) has played an important role in the scientific study of paintings since the middle of the C20th. When we couple this with the high-resolution recording of an objects surface (with Lucida 3D Scanner, Selene, Photogrammetry) an intimate understanding of the painting can be achieved.
In recording our cultural heritage, the colour, brush strokes, support and restorations can be recorded and studied in detail. With laser and white light scanning systems information can be captured about surface characteristics and also about the importance of treating objects as subjects. Previously, lack of or low-resolution, the problems of recording both dark and glossy surfaces and the high costs related to the technology had rendered this approach useless for serious study.
There was also a historically significant reservation in the conservation community about the use of lasers. In interventionist conservation, laser beams are used in cleaning to burn organic material from the surface of the object being treated and lasers are often associated with ‘Star Wars’ and destruction- in laser scanning the comparison to a bar code reader is more appropriate.
Recent research has demonstrated that laser scanning with low-powered lasers is one of the safest recording methods using only light at the red end of the spectrum and generating no measurable heat. It could be argued that it is even less harmful than conventional photography using lighting. If the right equipment is used, the digital data requires limited or no post-processing. The aim is to get as close as possible to an objective record of the surface.