Multi-Year Partnership Between The State Hermitage
Museum and IBM Unveiled
"Besides the paintings and the Raphael Loggia, my museum
in the Hermitage contains 38,000 books; there are four rooms filled with
books and prints, 10,000 engraved gems, roughly 10,000 drawings and a
natural history collection that fills two large galleries."
-- a note sent by Catherine the Great to her agent in 1790
St. Petersburg, Russia, June 15, 1999 -- A digital library of high-resolution
masterpieces, a first of-its-kind web site, an image creation studio,
multimedia navigation-kiosks, and an education and technology center are
the major elements of a nearly $2 million IBM technology grant to the
State Hermitage Museum. The grant positions the Hermitage as one of the
most technologically proficient museums in the world.
Today, at an event at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky,
Director of the State Hermitage Museum, and IBM's Bill Etherington, Senior
Vice President and Group Executive, Sales and Distribution, will unveil
the results of a multi-year project involving the collaborative development
of new technologies by IBM researchers in Russia, Italy, Israel and the
U.S., as well as Hermitage museum art researchers.
This includes the launch of a new virtual Hermitage Museum on the World
Wide Web -- a site (www.hermitagemuseum.org) that makes it possible for
anyone in the world with an Internet browser to view more than 2,000 masterpieces
and treasures -- from ancient Russian icons to highlights of French impressionists.
The complete Hermitage collection of three million works of art will eventually
be digitized and added to the library.
The State Hermitage Museum web site features a searchable IBM DB2 Digital
Library database of high-resolution images from 12 different categories
of works of art (painting, sculpture, jewelry, etc.). This database enables
Internet users to access, view, study and magnify the smallest image features
from a standard PC. With its Java-based applications, the Hermitage web
site allows visitors to zoom in on artwork for a detailed look or access
a feature called PanoramIX, which allows for virtual reality tours of
halls that have been photographed in three dimensions. Visitors may also
search the Digital Library using IBM's QBIC (Query By Image Content) technology,
allowing queries based on selecting various color proportions or using
geometric shapes to approximate the visual organization of the work of
art (instead of searches merely based on the name of an artist or painting).
To protect the rights of the Hermitage and deter unauthorized use, images
of the artwork on the museum web site will be invisibly watermarked with
a patented data hiding technology from IBM.
Also available today is a new Education & Technology Center on the first
floor of the Winter Palace of the Hermitage. The Center is a computerized
learning area that can accommodate seven visitors simultaneously and run
fully interactive educational curricula in both Russian (Cyrillic) and
English. These curricula are designed to make it possible for users to
visually compare works of art belonging to different museum exhibitions
based on the same subject-- from the Gospels or from ancient myths. This
comparison enables users to follow the evolution of the various interpretations
of the subject matter. Also, a zoom function enables viewers to look at
the art from different angles and in sharper detail, allowing discernment
of details that is often impossible to achieve at live exhibitions.
At the very core of the Hermitage Museum Image Creation Studio, the
third piece of the technology grant, is a unique digital camera and lighting
environment. The studio's digital camera, part of a capture system called
the Pro/3000 Scanner, uses specially designed color filters that allow
it to record the color from a piece of art in a manner modeled after that
of the human visual system--delivering color accuracy an order of magnitude
better than that of the best conventional photography. Software developed
by a group of scientists at IBM's T.J. Watson lab in New York subsequently
reduces and compresses the scanned images, without changing their color.
They are then stored in the Digital Library database on IBM RS/6000 computers.
The fourth piece of the Hermitage's new technology infrastructure announced
today includes four multimedia Visitor Information Kiosks that are installed
within the Hermitage Museum buildings. These kiosks allow museum visitors
to learn more about museum news and events, explore the museum through
its highlights, collections, and floor maps, and take suggested and individualized
tours. The kiosk application also provides navigational information about
routes from the kiosk locations to museum highlights in the form of floor
maps and text descriptions. Navigation information is generated dynamically,
based on daily updates of halls and works of art that are currently available.
All information is provided in both Russian and English languages.
"Today, it is with great pride that we present the Hermitage to our
visitors with a new focus, one that will showcase not only the unique
art collections and the residence of former Russian Czars but which will
serve as a model of the organic synthesis of leading-edge computer technologies
and the marvelous artistic legacy of past centuries," said Piotrovsky.
"IBM is delighted to have been part of this project which has brought
a unique, networked solution of innovative technologies to this world-class
museum," said Etherington. "Now that we have opened the doors of the Hermitage
Museum to the entire world, it is our hope that everyone, from scholars
and curators to children and teachers around the world, will use this
technology to study and appreciate the Hermitage and its treasures."