Digital image analysis in microscopy for objects and architectural conservation

Elizabeth Goins and Chandra Reedy

Abstract

The advent of high-speed computers and comparatively large memories, coupled with digital microscope cameras, has brought about a revolution in computer-assisted image analysis. New software can ease the pain of previously laborious methods of thin-section and cross-section analysis. Image analysis not only speeds traditional microscopical methods, such as point counting, but also improves accuracy. By using image analysis software, a job that would have taken hours by traditional methods now takes only seconds. This increase in speed allows more time for additional investigations, such as examination of textural relationships between particles. The great accuracy enabled by area analysis of thin sections also allows more detailed comparison between samples in technological studies, and facilitates new tests of sampling issues and statistical accuracy.

Increased accuracy is now possible in examination of materials characteristics such as percentage of aggregates, pores, temper, or specific minerals; pore or grain size; grain shape; and other important features of petrographic thin sections. The increased accuracy and the ability to conduct more detailed and comprehensive studies can positively impact characterization, analysis, and interpretation of composition, technology, provenience, deterioration, and preservation. In this paper we explore new applications of image analysis technologies to the microscopical examination of a cross sections or by petrographic thin section analysis of low- and high-fired ceramics, unfired clay artifacts, stone objects, and historic mortars.

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