Headwall and Dr. Gregory Bearman Bring Hyperspectral Imaging to Cultural Heritage

Chemical Imaging Helps Unlock Secrets Behind Historical Artwork, Artifacts, and Documents

Fitchburg, MA - May 27, 2014 – Headwall has signed a consulting agreement with cultural heritage imaging professional Dr. Gregory Bearman to introduce hyperspectral imaging to historical preservation experts worldwide. Hyperspectral imaging technology will prove extremely useful since it is non-invasive and can provide information unobtainable by any other means.

“Our hyperspectral imaging systems cover the range from 380nm all the way up to 2500nm and beyond,” said Headwall CEO David Bannon. Imaging in the visible/near-infrared (VNIR, 380-1000nm) and especially the shortwave infrared (SWIR, 950-2500nm) spectral range (chemical imaging), preservation and conservation experts will be able to collect a vast array of chemical information with respect to pigments, substrates, materials, and unseen features.” Imaging, as compared to widely available point methods, provides the ability to examine larger areas and heterogeneous objects,” said Dr. Bearman.  

“Information about ancient documents, artifacts, and paintings not only broadens our overall historical knowledge, but also helps preservation experts carry out their valuable work,” said Bannon.  Quantitative imaging in the VNIR and SWIR can provide a way to measure and monitor changes in cultural heritage objects over time, a constant struggle for conservators. Such approaches are applicable not just to objects such as art and texts but also to historical buildings and sites, archeological excavations and built heritage in general.

Dr Bearman Imaging Frescoe ItalyDr. Bearman’s experience applying hyperspectral imaging within the field of cultural and historical preservation is unequalled.  He was a pioneer in applying modern imaging to cultural heritage, as the first to build a compact, simple to use imaging system to bring difficult fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls to light.  As a consultant to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) for more than 20 years, he designed the imaging protocol for the massive imaging and conservation monitoring project now underway, wherein the IAA has created a web-based library comprising its entire corpus of Dead Sea Scrolls.

More recently, he has focused on developing quantitative methods and tools to use a variety of imaging modes to measure and monitor changes in cultural heritage over time. “The key to advancing the science of spectral imaging in this community is to extract precise spectral and chemical information, non-invasively and to the exacting safety standards to which conservators adhere” said Dr. Bearman. “Headwall’s VNIR and SWIR sensors return spectral and chemical data at extremely high levels of fidelity, which is what preservation experts need,” he concluded. 

The consulting work done between Headwall and Dr. Bearman will be on a global scale, including museums, libraries, built heritage and university collections.


About Headwall Photonics

Headwall Photonics is the leading designer and manufacturer of imaging sensors and spectral instrumentation for industrial, commercial, and government markets. Headwall’s high performance spectrometers, spectral engines, and high performance diffractive optics have been selected by OEM and end-user customers around the world for use in critical application environments.  As a pioneer in the development of hyperspectral sensors and imaging spectrometers, Headwall enjoys a market leadership position through the design and manufacture of patented spectral instrumentation that is customized for application-specific performance.

About Gregory Bearman, PhD

Dr. Bearman retired as a principal scientist at NASA/Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  He is currently focusing his attention on bringing imaging and spectroscopy to conservators of cultural heritage around the world. Other notable accomplishments in spectroscopy have been in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and microscopy.  He has published many works on spectroscopy and holds numerous patents and awards, including two R&D 100 Awards for best invention of the year.  More information about him and copies of his publications can be found at

For information contact:

Mr. Chris Van Veen

Headwall Photonics, Inc.     



Unlocking Secrets Behind Artwork, Artifacts with Hyperspectral Imaging

Museum of Fine Arts Boston Takes a New View on its Priceless Antiquities

Fitchburg, MA, November 7, 2013 — The conservators at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (MFA) and the application engineering team at Headwall Photonics collaborated on a hyperspectral project to analyze some of the world’s most treasured paintings, artifacts, and documents. Utilizing Headwall’s large-format Hyperspec® Scanning System which is specifically designed for museums and libraries, artwork and antiquities were scanned with Hyperspec® sensors for both the VNIR (Visible - Near-Infrared) and SWIR (Short Wave Infrared) spectral ranges. The benefit of using dual sensors is that a particular artifact or document can be thoroughly scanned across the VNIR and SWIR range, yielding a wealth of valuable and never-before-seen spectral information relative to pigments, inks, materials, and features. Classifying this spectral data gives collection-care experts around the world new insight into the valuable assets they manage.

Headwall MFAMatthew Siegal, Chair of Conservation and Collections Management at the Boston’s MFA, indicated that “hyperspectral collaboration with Headwall yielded a wealth of information; additionally, the research team jointly worked to establish the necessary work procedures and protocols to protect the historical artifacts throughout the scanning process.”

 “For the purpose of cultural preservation, hyperspectral imaging is an invaluable tool that offers conservators the ability to analyze and assess the current state of the historical objects over time,” said Headwall Engineering Director, Peter Clemens. “Additionally, there is a wealth of new research information on these historical objects that becomes uncovered through the use of these spectral imaging techniques.” With both vertical and horizontal scanning system orientations possible, and the use of non-destructive illumination, conservators utilize hyperspectral imaging to provide additional analysis of artifacts and antiquities that may hold answers to long-held secrets and cultural insights.

During the project collaboration with Boston’s MFA conservators, the Headwall engineers scanned a wide range of objects including famous paintings, a Mayan vase, wood block prints, a chessboard, and a marble relief sculpture. Hyperspectral sensing is applicable not just for flat art such as paintings and documents, but for pottery and other artifacts as well. Scanning of an important Mayan vase yielded the presence of cracks never before seen allowing for better preservation steps for the valuable piece.

About The Museum of Fine Arts Boston

The original MFA opened its doors to the public on July 4, 1876, the nation's centennial. Built in Copley Square, the MFA was then home to 5,600 works of art. Over the next several years, the collection and number of visitors grew exponentially, and in 1909 the Museum moved to its current home on Huntington Avenue.

Today the MFA is one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world; the collection encompasses nearly 450,000 works of art. The MFA welcomes more than one million visitors each year to experience art from ancient Egyptian to contemporary, special exhibitions, and innovative educational programs.

For information contact:

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
General Information: 617-267-9300


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