The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Md. has selected digital radiography from GE Sensing & Inspection Technologies as a critical resource to capture, analyze and share images of the museum's art collection. The Walters' conservation and research team uses GE's CR50P digital scanner to capture images of the art, and then analyzes, archives and shares the images with colleagues across the field through GE's Rhythm software.
"We X-ray works of art because it allows us to better understand them," said Terry Drayman-Weisser, Director of Conservation and Technical Research at the Walters. "An X-ray can help us determine the best way to preserve the piece, understand how it was made and has changed or deteriorated over time. It is also a useful tool in evaluating authenticity and whether parts were added later."
The Walters uses GE's digital radiography to analyze pieces such as ancient vases, bronze statues and paintings. The CR50P uses flexible imaging plates, enabling the Walters' team to curve a plate on the inside of a three-dimensional object, such as a vase or statue, to analyze one side at a time. Occasionally, an X-ray of a painting reveals a different painting underneath. In one instance at the Walters, the painting underneath could be dated to a later period than the style of the painting on top, indicating that the painting on top was a fake.
Prior to acquiring the GE digital scanner, the Walters used traditional radiography with film and wet processing. Using this technique, it could take days to determine the appropriate exposure, capture the image appropriately and process the film. "It was a lot of effort to get what you wanted," said Weisser. "A lot of time, expense and frustration."
With the GE digital scanner, the Walters conservation team can process an image in 10 minutes. Following the image scan, the conservation group uses GE's Rhythm software to download and manipulate the image. Rhythm also enables the conservation team to measure and compare what they see in the image, such as core pins in a Renaissance bronze statue that may be invisible to the naked eye.
The Walters has been using radiography since 1935 when the team used a medical unit in a lead lined box. In the 1970s, the Walters purchased a second unit with 300 KV capability for dense objects. The digital scanner from GE is the first digital X-ray system the museum has acquired.
"We chose GE because we felt their team best understood our specific needs regarding art and conservation, and that they would work with us for any special needs we may have," said Weisser. "Having a tight budget, these criteria were very important to us."
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