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Thu, Apr 25


McLean Presbyterian Church

Reading the Unreadable: From the Damage of This World to the Virtual Unwrapping that is to Come

You are invited to this amazing Faith & Work talk by Dr. Brent Seales about his groundbreaking work of using modern technology to digitally open and read other inaccessible ancient biblical scrolls. This event is sponsored by the Capital Fellows program.

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Reading the Unreadable: From the Damage of This World to the Virtual Unwrapping that is to Come
Reading the Unreadable: From the Damage of This World to the Virtual Unwrapping that is to Come

Time & Location

Apr 25, 2024, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

McLean Presbyterian Church, 1020 Balls Hill Rd, McLean, VA 22101, USA

About the event

Thursday, April 25, 2024 - 7:00PM

McLean Presbyterian Church - Multipurpose Room

RSVP by April 20

The Capital Fellows invite you to join them for a fascinating talk on vocation, technology, and biblical archaeology.

Time and decay have made many ancient books and scrolls inaccessible to us today. If we tried to open them, they would crumble in our hands. And yet, we long to know what’s in them - especially if they are biblical texts. In the style of Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress", this talk tells the story of a project that became a quest and eventually turned into a pilgrimage.  This work was conceived during the rise of digital libraries and large-scale computing, and has now been realized on some of the most difficult and iconic material in the world - the Herculaneum Scrolls - as a result of the recent phenomena of big data and machine learning.  Although it is now widely accepted that so-called "virtual unwrapping" is a viable restoration pathway for damaged written material, allowing texts to be read from objects that are too damaged even to be opened, the journey to this point was packed with moments that evoke Bunyan's allegorical landscape experienced by the everyman protagonist, Christian.  This talk will help you understand how the scrolls from Herculaneum can possibly be read despite their profound damage, and why that stands to be so important for classical and biblical scholarship.

About Brent Seales

Dr. W. Brent Seales is the Stanley and Karen Pigman Chair of Heritage Science and Professor of Computer Science at the University of Kentucky.  He earned a Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has held research positions at INRIA Sophia-Antipolis, UNC Chapel Hill, Google (Paris), and the Getty Conservation Institute. The Heritage Science research lab (EduceLab) founded by Seales at the University of Kentucky applies techniques in machine learning and data science to the digital restoration of damaged materials.  The research program is funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Google. Seales is a co-founder of the Vesuvius Challenge, an international contest formed around the goal of the virtual unwrapping of Herculaneum scrolls.  He continues to work with challenging, damaged material (Herculaneum Scrolls, Dead Sea Scrolls), with notable successes in the scroll from En-Gedi (Leviticus), the Morgan MS M.910 (The Acts of the Apostles), and PHerc.Paris.3 and 4 (Philodemus / Epicureanism).  The recovery of readable text from still-unopened material has been hailed worldwide as an astonishing achievement fueled by open scholarship, interdisciplinary collaboration, and extraordinary leadership generosity.

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