Article Overview

The future of the living past

Conserving and restoring precious murals in a truly professional way is both time consuming and costly, usually taking years rather than months. Not only technical challenges await the specialists, but ethical ones as well. The answers to questions regarding conservation ethics have a direct impact on the actual work involved.
In the case of the beautiful renaissance murals at the Broemserhof in Ruedesheim, Germany, some of these questions led to some inspiring solutions to the problems at hand.

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Since 2007 Prof. Dr. Nicole Riedl from the University for Applied Sciences and Art in Hildesheim (HAWK) has worked together with students and alumni from the Cologne University for Applied Sciences at conserving and restoring the famous murals at the Broemserhof in Ruedesheim. They were joined by additional students and alumni from HAWK in 2009.

Since 2007 Prof. Dr. Nicole Riedl from the University for Applied Sciences and Art in Hildesheim (HAWK) has worked together with students and alumni from the Cologne University for Applied Sciences at conserving and restoring the famous murals at the Broemserhof in Ruedesheim. They were joined by additional students and alumni from HAWK in 2009.

The Broemserhof’s foundations go back to the 13th century, however it would take another few hundred years, before the artist Hans Ritter, a student of Lucas Cranach the Elder, would paint the murals as part of the Broemserhof’s ancestral hall and chapel.

Experts consider the murals to have been painted in the particularly complex secco-style. Some parts of the elaborate murals, which depict some biblical scenes next to a great variety of genealogical motifs, were heavily damaged during the second world war. Luckily the artist Mogens Francesco Hendrik Ballin created a very precise water colour painting depicting the still intact Broemserhof murals during the 19th century.

The water colour work inspired Michaela Janke, a student at the Cologne University for Applied Sciences’ conservation and restoration institute, to come up with a groundbreaking new idea to restore the damaged murals.

Not only did she manage to inspire the trust of different experts in her chosen field, but also found two reliable partners in the award winning software and hardware company coolux GmbH and Burmester Event- und Medientechnik. With their combined help, Michaela Janke managed to turn her initial idea into reality.

Using the 19th century water colour painting, Janke was able to create a digital picture file that could be projected onto the very uneven and contorted surface, using coolux Pandoras Box Player Software.

A conventional slide projection could have succeeded in making a picture appear on the damaged part of the murals, the picture however would have been badly distorted due to the curvature of the arches. In addition to this, it would have been impossible to neatly fit the slide projection onto the grey plaster gap.

In contrast to such problems, the coolux Pandoras Box Warper projected a grid pattern onto the target area, which was recognized by the advanced software and allowed for the picture to be easily manipulated.

It took Patrick Verhey, one of coolux’ project managers, less than an hour to adjust the digital picture to fit the shape of the damaged area of the murals perfectly.

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Although the projected picture only had to cover an area of one and a half square meters, the software used was originally created and is still typically being used for large scale projections e.g. for Opera performances, Rock concerts, Theatre plays, branded entertainment events etc.

There is almost no limit to the performance power when it comes to the coolux Pandoras Box product range. Though powerful projectors can indeed be costly, the prices are hardly worth mentioning when compared to the average sum one has to invest to conserve even small parts of murals or oil paintings.

Michaela Janke’s dissertation project is not aimed at completely replacing traditional conservation techniques, her successful completion of this challenging task has demonstrated however, that this kind of virtual restoration does offer a multitude of creative options that were previously completely unthinkable.

With the right kind of set-up one could let audiences/visitors experience different eras / different states of corrosion through simply clicking on a single button. All this is possible in a completely reversible, non-destructive way.

The „before“ and „after“-effect in itself is a very potent way of supporting and challenging the visitors’ awareness of the works of art in question.

Especially in cases where a limited budget would prohibit the use of traditional conservation techniques, coolux technology could lead the way to an impressive alternative approach, that could bring a multitude of works of art back to life.

The award winning coolux Pandoras Box product range can also be used for integrating any other type of media (e.g sound effects, music etc.) in this context.

The coolux Widget Designer is a great software solution, that offers its users the ability to connect and control almost any kind of secondary equipment imaginable, for a truly interactive experience.

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Credits

Reversible digital restoration at the Broemserhof:
Project Leader/Idea: Michaela Janke
e-mail: m.janke@gmx.de
Financing: Hessian Department for the Protection of Historical Monuments, LfDH
Supervisors:
Professor Adrian Heritage and Professor Dr. Elisabeth Jaegers, University for Applied Sciences, Cologne
Christine Kenner, LfDHProf. Dr. Nicole Riedl, HAWK Installation/Sponsoring: coolux GmbH,
Burmester Event- und Medientechnik
Financing supervision: Hessian Department for the Protection of Historical Monuments, LfDH Financial support/Governmental grants: Ministry of Commerce for the support of world cultural heritage in the upper Rhine-valley, Special heritage protection programme of the BUND.
Owner Broemser Hof: Siegfried Wendel

coolux

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Burmester Event- und Medientechnik Denkmalpflege Hessen

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HAWK FH Köln

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