RTI and Art Conservation Pilot Program

Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation to fund a pilot program in conjunction with staff at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF). The goal of the pilot program was to produce multimedia content that demonstrates how Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) can be used in the conservation of cultural heritage objects. More…


Group from FAMSF and CHI

Photos: RTI Capture

See our Flickr photo gallery of Susan Grinols and her team at Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) as they documented an Anthropoid Coffin using the Highlight RTI technique.



Art Conservation

RTI shoot at Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

RTI session with staff from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) is readily undergoing adoption by art conservators, who are quick to grasp the utility of this technology for providing visual details that are useful for conservation planning, treatment, research, outreach, and documentation. Because conservators are accustomed to photographing objects using a variety of light sources and lighting angles, RTI becomes a natural progression in which a range of image data can be captured within a single RTI set.

The conservators at the Worcester Art Museum were among the first to understand the implications of RTI for conservation. CHI was very pleased to design a lighting array for them and to teach RTI, using the lighting array as well as the Highlight RTI method. Since that time, CHI has conducted RTI training sessions at numerous institutions including Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A generous grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) 21st Century Museum Professionals program is enabling the CHI team to implement a free training program to reach out to many more museum conservators and allied professionals as well as to current art conservation graduate students and fellows.

For more information on the use of RTI in art conservation, please watch the video below, produced by CHI in collaboration with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and supported by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.


[HD] Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) and Art Conservation

Note: If this high-definition video does not play smoothly, please try the standard-definition version on the Vimeo site.

CHI and Art Conservation: Examples

An RTI capture of a mid-19th-century Japanese woodblock print by Konishi Hirosada, from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), revealed the details of the print’s embossed and textured surfaces. This study led to a better appreciation of the artist’s method and technique, and a greater understanding of the complexity of these woodblock prints.

As a result, CHI produced a video, “Japanese Woodblock Prints and RTI” that was displayed at the FAMSF exhibition, “Japanesque: The Japanese Print in the Era of Impressionism” (October 16, 2010–January 9, 2011). For more information on RTI at FAMSF, see the FAMSF blog.

Following CHI training sessions, conservators have been making good use of RTI. See the CHI blog for guest posts about reverse glass painting, paper squeezes, and other conservation projects.

CHI training sessions for conservators have included the following institutions, among others: