Rock Art Institute protects priceless African history with HD 5450

Fragile historical documents of unlimited length

The Rock Art Research Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa uses the Contex 54” HD scanner to support researchers in their work to digitize and protect priceless and irreplaceable rock art collections for future generations. With outstanding image quality and flexibility, the Contex HD wide-format scanner gives researchers a fast and reliable way to digitize fragile historical documents of varying lengths and media – quickly and carefully – without damaging the originals.

"The rock art recording spans over several centuries – from drawings, sketches, and notes to sophisticated photography and tracings," explains Mr. Azizo Da Fonseca, Director of the Digitising Laboratory Rock Art Research Institute

The challenge
When the Rock Art Research Institute received the green light to expand their project to digitize more priceless African rock art collections, they knew what they wanted – a wider scanner that could handle the most delicate rock art materials no matter what the length.

The solution
In choosing the Contex HD 54” large format scanner, the expert staff at the Ringing Rocks Digital Laboratory are now able to scan large rock art materials, such as: tracings, redrawings, historical copies, renderings, prints, sketches and photographs, and create pristine digital facsimiles – quickly and carefully – without jeopardizing the integrity of the original.

Benefits & Results

  • Produces high quality scans of sensitive historical documents made of diverse media and thicknesses
  • Scans documents of unlimited length, and thereby limits the need for image stitching later
  • Saves time with best-in-class scans the first time with automatic camera calibration
  • Built to last and can scan all day long.

When it comes to handling priceless irreplaceable documents, you need a steady hand, maximum concentration and nerves of steel. No one knows this better than Azizo Da Fonseca, the director of the Ringing Rocks Digital Laboratory in Johannesburg, South Africa.

240,000 digital images

The laboratory is part of the South African Rock Art Research Institute, the custodian of the world’s largest rock art digital archive. The Contex HD 54” large-format scanner is part of an extended project to digitize the existing rock art collections from more than 30 institutions and individuals throughout Africa, providing access to more than 240,000 digital images.

Rock art is a term used in archaeology for any humanmade markings made on natural stone. According to Mr. Da Fonseca, archeologists have been identifying and documenting rock art sites using photography, tracings, redrawings, rubbings and sketches for many decades: These original rock art materials spans over several centuries and are stored at universities, institutions and in private collections all over Africa and abroad.

As the quality often deteriorates over time, The Rock Art Research Institute, with funding from the Ringing Rocks Foundation, started the digitization of its own collections. The project expanded to include other institutions throughout South Africa. There are many different kinds and sizes of materials to digitize.

Fragile documents up to 6 meter long

There are many challenges when scanning long, fragile documents – some up to 6 meters long. It is a painstaking process sometimes requiring several people, so to ensure the integrity of the original object, the idea is to get the best image as possible on the first scan so as to limit the physical handling of the original object. “Many of the materials we are scanning are extremely fragile and we need to be as careful as possible with the original objects. We want to send them back to the partner institutions in the same condition as we received them in,” says Mr. Da Fonseca and very much appreciates the HD scanner’s automatic scanner maintenance system. This helps to keep the scanner top-tuned and the cameras automatically aligned, adjusted and calibrated for optimal image quality every time.

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