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How Advanced Technology Reveals Hidden Histories

Evening Program

Thursday, May 7, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1J0037
$30 Member
$45 Non-Member
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Michael Toth using multispectral imaging to uncover hidden information

For centuries, historic information on paper was erased or damaged by fire and flood, parchment was scrubbed clean and reused, and papyrus torn and repurposed for mummy masks. Artwork was covered by paint and canvas, and names scrawled on walls obscured by wallpaper. Now thanks to modern imaging technology, historic and religious information that was damaged or removed is visible again. 

Digital imaging and processing of historic artifacts has taken place around the globe in locations as diverse as Venice, Scandinavia, the Vatican, the Sinai Desert, and America. The technology allows investigators to make significant discoveries from newly visible early drawings found on artwork and information hidden in mummy masks, maps, bibles, manuscripts, palimpsests, journals, and even old walls—as well as make the findings accessible for online research. 

Michael B. Toth, ‎president of R. B. Toth Associates of Oakton, Virginia, discusses his pioneering work over the past two decades to reveal new historic information. He offers examples of writings and drawings revealed with the latest advanced imaging systems by the international teams of researchers he leads.

Toth highlights how they have adapted and developed some of these technologies from their initial applications in satellites, X-ray physics, and medicine into imaging tools now used for cultural heritage studies. He also discusses how some projects that made use of these technologies became detective hunts into aspects of lost history.

Other Connections

Get a close-up look at how technology used by Michael B. Toth enhanced once-hidden graffiti on the walls of historic Blenheim House in Fairfax City, Virginia, and the how the discovery helped to identify the Civil War soldier behind it.

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)