Digitising the Montague Collection

Blog by Francesca Farmer sharing digitisation work at RAMM. Francesca is a research assistant at the museum in collaboration with the University of Exeter working on the GLAM-E Lab which is an interdisciplinary digitisation clinic for smaller and less well-resourced cultural institutions and community organisations.

Leopold Agar Denys Montague

In March, the team from The University of Exeter’s Digital Humanities Lab digitised objects from the Montague collection.

Leopold Agar Denys Montague was born in Exeter in 1861. Aged 17 he joined the army. He served with the Sherwood Foresters regiment and during World War I trained recruits for home defence. He retired from the army as a Lieutenant Colonel and married in 1886. From his home in Crediton, Montague played a big part in local affairs and created his own private museum.

Montague acquired a large collection of antiquities from Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Near East. These consisted of seals, engraved gems, amulets, ceramics and bronzes. He acquired these through dealers, auction houses and other collectors. Montagu wrote a regular column the ‘The Collector’s Room’ for The Bazaar, Exchange and Mart. He also organised the first scientific excavations in Devon and Exeter in the 1930s.

On his death in 1940, Leopold Agar Denys Montague left his collection of about 800 pieces to RAMM.

Digitisation – why these objects?

When deciding which objects to digitise with the Digital Humanities Lab (DHL), RAMM’s antiquities curator chose votives and gemstones from the collection. There was a a lot of interest in it coming from the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference held in Exeter this year. Votives like these were on display in RAMM’s ‘Earth Spells: Witches of the Anthropocene’ exhibition. Artist, Lucy Stein, took a special interest in these while creating her work for the exhibition. There was also specific interest in the gems from Dr Emily Selove, Senior Lecturer in Medieval Arabic Literature, who is researching gemstones and magic. The Digital Humanities Lab suggested two methods of digitisation: photogrammetry for the votives and RTI for the gemstones.

Photogrammetry and the votives

The DHL digitised terracotta votives using photogrammetry. This produces 3D models by taking photos from at least two different vantage points. Similar to how your eyes work, it obtains depth and perspective because of separate points of observation. The DHL staff placed the objects on a turntable and took photos of each point of the object. These photos overlapped with one another and were intersected using software to create 3D coordinates of the object which produced 3D models. These models are now on Sketchfab, a 3D modelling platform website to publish, share, discover, buy and sell 3D content.

The DHL digitised 6 of these objects:

RTI and Gemstones

The DHL used RTI to digitise the engraved gemstones. This creates an interactive digital image of an object with a moveable light source. While not a full 3D scan, RTI gives a better view of surface relief and texture than is usually possible from conventional photography. It can produce views of marks, inscriptions and indentations on surfaces. This made it a great option for the engraved gemstones as the viewers can move the light in the images to focus on different elements of the engravings. .

The DHL digitised engraved gemstones which are on RAMM’s Collections Explorer, including:

These artefacts were digitised as part of the GLAM-E Lab project. This project is a collaboration between RAMM and the University of Exeter. The images and models been released CC0 for everyone to see, download and 3D print.

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