Digital reconstruction of historical documents and archival materials
On March 03, 2009, the building of the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne (HAStK) collapsed after the ground under the archive building had previously subsided into the area of a subway construction site. This resulted in the so-called “Cologne fragments” and a considerable cultural loss: about 18,000 linear meters of historical documents and archival materials spanning some 1,000 years were buried under the rubble, some of them considerably deformed, tattered and soiled. The quantity of fragments and their degree of damage make a comprehensive manual reconstruction of the shredded archival material impossible.
Development of an overall system for digital restoration
In the same year, the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK began conducting a feasibility study on the digitization of the “Cologne Fragments” in a manner suitable for reconstruction. Building on the positive study result, MusterFabrik Berlin was commissioned by the city of Cologne in 2012 to develop an overall concept for the digital restoration of the damaged archive items and finally, in September 2017, to develop an overall system for the digital reconstruction of the “Cologne Fragments”.
The objectives of this project, which was scheduled to run for a total of three and a half years, were the development of an automated digitization unit and the implementation and commissioning of a computer-based assistance system, with the help of which a quantity of approximately 3-4 million fragments will initially be digitally reconstructed in an automated manner by the staff of the HAStK.
The automated digitization unit captures the front and back sides of the fragile and variously damaged fragments in a single scanning pass and was successfully operated on the premises of the Restoration and Digitization Center (RDZ) of the HAStK in Cologne until June 2021. By this time, nearly 260,000 fragments had been digitized by the RDZ staff.
Launch in the new building of the Historical Archive
When the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne moved into the new building at the Eifelwall, the server hardware of the reconstruction assistance system was installed in the data center of the City of Cologne in Chorweiler by the MusterFabrik Berlin in June 2021 and the digitization unit and the puzzle PC workstations were put into operation in the new archive building. The connection of the digitization unit and the puzzle PCs in the new archive building to the reconstruction servers in the computer center is realized by a dedicated fiber optic connection. The administration and continuous optimization of the reconstruction assistance system in productive operation is carried out from the MusterFabrik Berlin.
Further information on the project of digital reconstruction of the “Cologne Fragments”
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