10. Digital restoration

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We will not treat digital restoration as part of this deliverable D4.1 Digitisation workflow description for digitising the selected artworks. Restoration is part of the general conservation tasks of a collection institution, and entails a new series of issues that need to be addressed by a specialist.

It is important to stress that in general when digitisation is for preservation purposes then digital restoration should be disconnected from the actual conversion of analogue to digital. The reasons for this are:

  • one should maintain the possibility of carrying out further restoration in the future (i.e., one needs to be able to start from non-restored source material);
  • the restoration should be reversible (i.e., one should be able to go back to the non-restored source material);
  • the restoration should be transparent (i.e., one should be able to compare the non-restored material with the restored material);

An exception to this could be when the restoration is actually more a reconstruction than a restoration (for instance when the videotape to be digitised is in a poor condition and can only be digitised in parts that need to be assembled afterwards). Another exception could be when restoration is solely for access purposes. In this case quality improvements can be done during digitisation.

The technological evolution has made it possible for current digital technology to dissolve the difference between the original and the restored version, and between the desired result and the achieved result. At the same time these technological possibilities also imply some dangers: what happens with the historicity of the artwork if the restored version is a new or better version of the original?

This means that digitisation and digital restoration always have some ethical implications. The authenticity of an object in the collection of a heritage institution is defined by

  • its context;
  • its content;
  • its structure;
  • its appearance.

The change of one of these characteristics also has an influence on the other characteristics. It is important to remain faithful to the authenticity of the object during the digitisation and restoration.