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Research IT Staff Present at UC Berkeley CaVraCon

3D model of Egyptian sarcophagus constructed using photogrammetry software

Emerging image technologies took digital humanities to new heights in this year’s statewide CaVraCon [1], the biennial California Visual Resources Association Conference, which is affiliated with the Visual Resources Association. Librarians, archivists, and scholars gathered at UC Berkeley to discuss developments and issues in the field of image and media management.

Near Eastern Studies graduate student Kea Johnston presented a talk developed with Research IT's Quinn Dombrowski on “Photogrammetry & Supercomputing for Librarians, Archivists, and Visual Resources Curators” as part of a session on 3D, virtual reality, and emerging imaging technologies. Their talk focused on using photogrammetry to construct 3D models of Egyptian sarcophagi housed in the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology.

Kea’s work with Near Eastern Studies professor Rita Lucarelli offered a cheaper, more accessible alternative to using 3D scanners on fragile and oversized artifacts, but she stressed that her research workflow would not have been so smooth without the Savio cluster. If she didn’t have access to high performance computing (HPC) resources, Kea said, each run of the computationally-intensive program on her laptop would have “taken two weeks,” eliciting chuckles of agreement and familiarity from the CaVraCon participants.

Quinn highlighted Berkeley Research Computing’s efforts to bridge the gap between humanists and computing resources more widely used by researchers in the hard sciences. Maurice Manning’s Jupyter notebook for photogrammetry and its associated Singularity container, for example, takes the guesswork out of using Savio by setting up the necessary Python and job scheduler scripts in a way that humanists unfamiliar with tech can navigate. In tandem, the power of HPC and Jupyter notebooks’ intuitive interface significantly improve usability by making computing resources far more accessible to researchers in the digital humanities.

Like Quinn and Kea’s talk, two other talks in the CaVraCon session described alternate ways of using 3D models to extend research applications and acoustic augmentation. Elaine Sullivan from UC Santa Cruz demonstrated the historical insights that her 3D Saqqara project provides by modeling landscape and architecture over time, and the limitations of the traditional paper monograph. Maya Gervits and Augustus Wendell from the New Jersey Institute of Technology described their use of VR and real time acoustic simulation to make a 3D model of the Odessa Theater experiential rather than simply visual.

Together, each talk described how image technology can push the limits of visual resources in research that is happening across the country and invited discussion on how to make these improvements accessible and sustainable to communities nationwide. If you’re interested to learn more about how Berkeley Research Computing can support multimedia research in the digital humanities, e-mail us at

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