The Archimedes Palimpsest

Project Management

The Archimedes Palimpsest Project is managed by Michael B. Toth. Mike is the President and CTO of R.B.Toth Associates, which provides a range of strategic services for organizations seeking to structure appropriate and practical responses to complex issues. He provides systems integration, program management and strategic planning for the study, preservation and display of cultural objects for museums and libraries. This includes planning and managing the hyperspectral imaging of the Waldseemuller 1507 Map at the Library of Congress and other technical studies.

Mr. Toth brings extensive experience in program management, strategic planning and systems integration with his work on advanced information and space systems and national policy issues. During his 28 years of US Government service, Mike managed the development, integration and operation of imagery and geospatial information collection, processing, dissemination and storage systems around the globe. He retired from government service in September 2007, and continues to work as a consultant on a range of national security issues.

Mike received his Bachelor's Degree in History from Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and completed graduate courses at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. He also participated in Executive Management Seminars at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and National Policy Seminars at the Brookings Institute, Washington D.C.

Report by Michael B. Toth

While government and industrial programs have integrated complex technical systems and processes for decades, the integration of advanced technologies and techniques to support the new and unique set of requirements of the Archimedes Palimpsest Program required effective program management and systems planning in the museum and conservation community. By adapting integrated program management techniques from industry to produce unique advanced digital images of Archimedes original work, the Archimedes Palimpsest Program has linked the range of skills, techniques and disciplines available in the conservation, scientific and academic communities to use advanced imaging techniques developed for the study of earth and space. Advanced Imaging Magazine awarded the Archimedes Palimpsest Program the "2003 Imaging Solution of the Year" award for its innovation and technical expertise with electronic imaging technology solutions.

When he first started to plan the Archimedes Palimpsest Program, Dr. William Noel, the Archimedes Palimpsest Curator, found he had to rapidly form a management team to assess the best path forward for the efficient digital collection of Archimedes work. As the Program Director, supported by Program Manager Michael B. Toth and Conservator Abigail Quandt, he developed a plan with performance goals that could be accomplished within cost and on schedule. They based their plan on the input from virtual and real teams of scholars and museum professionals, who defined their needs, working closely with the imaging scientists under the leadership of the project management team. This process resulted in the users clearly defining the needed system capabilities and technological needs, as opposed to having the system defined by the available technology and the professionals who work with the technology.

The user needs were defined simultaneously with the development and integration of the appropriate imaging technology through a multi-phased program. These included phases for:

During these phases the imaging team worked on the research, development and integration of a range of advanced technical capabilities to reveal the underlying original writings of Archimedes. Research into a variety of promising imaging technologies identified the technical capabilities most appropriate for this project and how they could be best used. Based on research and study supported by the Archimedes Program, integrated technical capabilities were developed to collect all the required imagery, store the digital information, and display the available information for academic researchers.

The Archimedes team rapidly realized the following key capabilities needed to be developed to support the Archimedes Palimpsest Program:

With so much data to be collected, processed, stored and retrieved, the success of the Archimedes Program was dependent on the integration of ever growing amounts of data from multiple sources. Early in the program, Mike Toth, with the assistance of Bob Toth and Bill Christens-Berry, developed the Archimedes Palimpsest Metadata Standard to facilitate online access and further study of Archimedes data in library and museum digital collections. This standard utilized existing remote sensing, multispectral and geospatial information standards, in particular Dublin Core and the Federal Geographic Data Committee Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (FGDC-STD-001-1998) [link]. As with any technical research and development effort, this program required taking risks in a number of areas. To ensure project success, the program management team also constantly identified and managed various risk areas.

The challenge of retrieving all available information from the digital data and preserving it for future generations has required effective management and teamwork among conservation and other technical and scientific disciplines to reach common goals for the preservation and study of digital information about the Palimpsest. Each of the various disciplines contributed to a multidisciplined team in the integration of diverse work processes and technical skills:

  1. Conserving parchment in poor condition,
  2. Imaging text in appropriate spectral bands,
  3. Processing the data to yield useful information,
  4. Storing the digital data and associated information about the data, and
  5. Making the information available for researchers and the public.

Research into a variety of promising imaging technologies identified the technical capabilities most appropriate for this project and their best application. As new technologies were required to meet new technical challenges, the program management team opened up the effort to a broader scientific community to ensure the best available technologies were considered for this program. An example of this was the ADITUP Conference (Conference on Applied Digital Imaging Techniques for Understanding the Palimpsest) in April 2004, which resulted in two major paths of study: X Ray Fluorescence and Character Recognition. Based on research and study supported by the Archimedes Program, a full suite of integrated technical capabilities was developed to collect all the required imagery, store the digital information, and retrieve and display the available information for academic researchers.

This project is a multiyear effort requiring long-term support from a range of individuals and organizations with other responsibilities. Management of this program with a far-flung team with varied technical and academic knowledge proved challenging. That the team was up to the challenges is evident from the huge amount of useful data, volumes of new information, and the significant contributions to our knowledge of Archimedes, as well as imaging science and new discovery techniques.

April 2004