Ligatus news

From Codex to Code - Ten years of research by graduates of the Ligatus Research Centre

We invite you to celebrate with us the 10th Anniversary of the Ligatus Research Centre at the CCW Graduate School with a conference at which our first seven PhD and M.Phil graduates will present papers about their current research interests.

The conference will take place on Friday, 24th February, from 10am to 6pm, in Banqueting Hall of the Chelsea College of Arts and Design, University of the Arts London, John Islip Street, SW1P 4JU
and it will be followed by a reception.

THE BOOKING IS NOW CLOSED - if you have any queries please contact


Georgios Boudalis
(Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki)
The birth of the codex and the crafts of Late Antiquity

Alberto Campagnolo
(Library of Congress, Washington)
The digital representation of books as objects: from cultural objects to digital cultural objects

Anna Gialdini
(University of the Arts London)
Luxury, Hybridism, and the Strange Greekness of Some Florentine Bindings

Theresa Zammit Lupi
(The Notarial Archives, Valletta, Malta)
On the parchment trail: following music manuscripts from Malta

Heather Ravenberg
(Saint Catherine Foundation)
Documentation schemas for recording conservation activity

Martha Romero
(Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
From research to practice

Nikolas Sarris
(National Library of Greece, Athens, Thesaurus-Islamicus project, Cairo)
The Ligatus Condition Assessment Form: a tool for training, studio workflows and surveys: Experiences from Iraq, Ethiopia and Egypt

Gino Ballantyne in Bookmarks XIV


Gino Ballantyne is the artist who perhaps has worked with Artivity for the longest period of time. Gino tested Artivity since phases one and two, working with Inkscape and Linux. He produced a significant body of work for these phases including work developed inside the fine art studios of Chelsea College of Arts. A further development to his work led to his contribution to Bookmarks XIV. He mentions Artivity in the extended pdf on that page.
Gino has endorsed the ideas of Artivity and made them part of his practice. An extensive blog entry with his views on the benefits, use and future of Artivity will be published soon.

Summary of work during phase 3 (so far)


Artivity on MacOSX

Going forward from phase 2 our main target has been to release Artivity for the MacOSX platform supporting Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop as two popular creative applications used by artists and designers. We have not abandoned Linux and we certainly have Windows support in the pipeline but given the popularity of MacOSX in the design community, we felt it was the right platform to focus at this stage, to have good chances of the community adopting Artivity. Artivity is now available for MacOSX thanks to a lot of work by Sebastian Faubel and Moritz Eberl. It is built using a range of tools. These have been considered carefully to ensure that we can then compile Artivity for all three platforms. A lot of time has also been spent on packaging Artivity for the MacOSX. While on Linux the distribution and updating of applications is done by maintaining a central repository, applications on the MacOSX are typically distributed through a package file and updating them is done through the application itself. This is now all in place for Artivity and installation of the main application will also install plugins for Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop as well as Google Chrome.
Other important tasks have been integrating Artivity with E-Prints and ORCHID as well as distributing it in the UAL network. Much of the work for these is complete and we will report on these tasks soon.

New website for Artivity

Following feedback received from phase 2, a new Artivity website has been launched. is the main avenue for downloading and installing Artivity and it serves as a product website for the software. The original project website on will remain active, as well as this blog and the Bitbucket repository which is still the home for our source code. We would welcome feedback about the new website.

Testing for phase 3

We have selected two artists to test Artivity for a period of at least one month. Gino Ballantyne and Peter Gander are working on a range of projects on their computers with Artivity installed. This will be the first time that we will have a large body of Artivity data. Using this data we are hoping to see how easy it will be to run queries in order to build useful narratives about the context within which creative work has been undertaken by the artists.

New Artivity website


Given that the Alpha release of Artivity for MacOSX is now ready to download, this was a good chance to create a new online presence where the most recent Artivity versions can be found. Check out:

This is a more outward looking website highlighting some important features of Artivity as well as featuring links to the research project page (this page) and the partner pages.

Future Artivity releases for all platforms will be made available through that website.

For now: happy browsing!

Artivity for MacOSX


Sebastian Faubel and Moritz Eberl from Semiodesk have been working hard on the first version of Artivity for the MacOSX which supports Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe Illustrator and Google Chrome.
Artivity keeps track of work undertaken on the popular Adobe software alongside the records collected from browsing history. By combining the data collected from these applications we are hoping to build a picture of the context in which art practice develops and capture important steps in the methods used by artists.
Artivity's underlying architecture remains based on the Virtuoso triple store which collects the Artivity data. The PROV ontology is used to structure that data.
Artivity for MacOSX has been packaged as a single downloadable file which can be installed easily. It handles all dependencies and also installs the required plugins for the three supported applications.
Work on integrating Artivity with ORCID is underway and we have already started work on integration with e-Prints. Although these are online services which require access to the Internet, by default Artivity functions solely within the local desktop, i.e. all data is stored locally like any other data on your computer. Exporting options are available, but we have scheduled more work on this in the coming months.
We will soon be announcing a new website for Artivity with a download link for the new version as well as the two artists who will be testing it.

CORES Symposium: 'A multi-faceted look at limp bindings'

Friday 17 June 2016 (Theaterzaal Biekorf, Sint-Jakobsstraat 8, 8000 Brugge)


How to keep quires together in an envelope or binding? The question sounds simple; whereas the answer is not.
This symposium does justice to the fascinating world of simple bindings. The different perspectives that are covered are: terminology, techniques and structures in bindings, conservation and restoration, history, contemporary binding creations.
International experts give lectures, restorers share their experiences on specific restorations, and archives and libraries in Bruges show their bindings in house.

With this symposium, CORES Brugge aims to create a biennial platform for knowledge exchange among restorers of books and archives, in close collaboration with collection managers and experts in paper heritage.

Practical information

You can find a short explanation of all the lectures and more information about the speakers:

There you can also subscribe:
Registration fee: 70 euros
Former Syntra West students and members of Belgisch-Nederlands bandboekgenootschap: 50 euros


The CORES symposium is an organisation of Syntra West in association with CORES and FARO.

Libre Graphics Meeting 2016


Last month, Sebastian, Moritz and I attended the Libre Graphics Meeting and gave a paper about Artivity. The paper was received very well and we did have a short discussion about the project following the presentation. Two issues were raised:

  • Privacy: there were concerns about the fact the Artivity captures private data. In fact, this is the most frequent concern raised when I describe the software to colleagues. The answer is simple: Nothing leaves the computer without the user's explicit request. Artivity collects private data. This is the point of the software: it collects data automatically so that the user does not have to do it manually. But nothing is stored online. This is no different to many other applications storing personal data on the user's computer account. Transmitting this data to a server on the Internet will be possible once the development cycle finishes, but this will have to be setup by the user, if the user wishes to share their data. There is a growing community of artists who share their work openly (for example the group photo from the LGM shown here was shot by Peter Westenberg and shared under the Free Art License) and therefore having the option to share Artivity data does make sense. It also makes sense in a large institution context when collective reporting of creative work is required.
  • Interpretation: another interesting point was raised which has to do with the interpretation of artistic process by a researcher looking back at the data captured by Artivity about an artist's work. The point being that this interpretation is too subjective. Indeed, the data collected by Artivity does not tell a story. A researcher looking at the data in relation to the finished artwork and trying to make sense of it all builds a narrative of an interpretation. But this is how art historians work when working with conventional archives. They typically identify a starting point with a suggestion and then look at archives to support this. Subjectivity and interpretation is present in art history anyway. What Artivity tries to do it to bring this practice to digital art and make sure that when art historians in the future require evidence to support their narratives, Artivity can provide these.

Sebastian and Moritz also joined the Inkscape hackathon before the LGM and got some critical work done which would allow a pluggable interface for Inkscape. This means that Artivity will be able to support Inkscape in the form of a plugin and without having to alter the Inkscape core files (which means much faster compiling times).

Next LGM is in Rio.

Artivity goes on to phase 3


With a bit of a delay, I am updating the project blog to announce that Artivity has been awarded funding for the third phase of the project. See Daniela's blog entry about it. Since the end of phase 2 Artivity could run on Windows and MacOSX but with limited support for creative applications. There are lots of exciting developments for the third phase:

  • Sebastian and Moritz are working on the plugins for Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. This will mean that we will be able to support popular creative tools and make Artivity accessible to a much larger number of users. Of course, support for Inkscape and Krita remains.
  • We are also looking to integrate Artivity with orchID to allow artist researchers to identify their data for institutional and academic reporting purposes.
  • Depositing of data to institutional repositories is also a priority and we are looking at the best solutions to integrate Artivity with popular protocols.
  • Finally we are hoping to be able to offer easy installers and packaged versions of Artivity and deploy the software in UAL network.

Further updates will follow soon.

Ligatus Public Lecture: The Parthenon Restoration Project with Prof Petros Koufopoulos

Tuesday 9 February 2016
The Red Room
Chelsea College of Arts
16 John Islip St
London SW1P 4JU

The Ligatus Research Centre is delighted to announce a public lecture by Professor Petros Koufopoulos on the history and development of the Parthenon Restoration Project.
Professor Koufopoulos spent 10 years working on the conservation and restoration of the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. He will speak about his experiences and the challenges and achievements of this ambitious project.
Professor Koufopoulos is a world-leading expert in architectural conservation and restoration who has worked on a wide range of projects in Greece, Cyprus and Sinai. Since 2009 he has been Associate Professor of Architectural Design and the Conservation of Historic Buildings and Sites at the University of Patras. He is the author of numerous publications and a regular speaker at international conferences.
The talk is open to all and will be followed by drinks and refreshments.
Tickets: £5 (Standard) | £3 (Students).
We expect this to be a very popular event so book your place quickly to avoid disappointment!
To book, please visit:

St. Catherine's boxing: spotting wrong dimensions

I spent a few hours today reviving the St. Catherine's boxing project and especially the Java code that has been dormant since this publication and while waiting for the library renovation to be completed.
Petros Koufopoulos, Stuart Welch, Andrew Honey, Nicholas Pickwoad and myself have had a few meetings over the past few months trying to finalise the exact dimensions of boxes in relation to the dimensions of books and also the exact dimensions of the cupboards in the main library.

We are now reasonably confident that these dimensions are optimised and therefore I started looking at the data from the St. Catherine's database to extract the book dimensions. This was straight-forward. I then fired up my NetBeans "booksorter" project and without much trouble a solution for sorting and stacking the boxes was ready. I did notice some strange looking books in the resulting chart, so I started looking more careful at the measurements.

These measurements were first noted on paper which was then digitised. We had two points of human error:

  • when a measurement was written down on the paper
  • when a measurement was typed into the computer

Some measurements were missing a digit or had a zero added to them resulting in strange book dimensions. These were easily spotted as soon as I sorted by height, width and depth. Having digitised all the survey forms, it was easy for me to go back and double-check.


Not quite.

Years ago a cedar tree was being felled and we received a request on the likely dimensions for book boards so that the tree was cut in the right-size pieces. I remembered that the aspect ratio of the boards at that time had little variation and I thought I will check this with the book height and width data as well.

I quickly produced a chart of ratios of height/width on a spreadsheet and I plotted a chart (Figure 1). Sure enough the aspect ratio was relatively similar (between 1 and 1.6), but I could spot suspicious outliers. It would have been extremely difficult to identify these by looking at measurements. I got the shelfmarks of the books, checked these dimensions and indeed they were wrong. In one case the height had been swapped with the width. In another a figure was missing. After correcting the outliers the new chart (Figure 2) looked a lot more reassuring. The border points in the new chart have been checked and they are indeed strange shaped books.

Can we be sure that no other errors have been made? Of course not, but at least we have eliminated the most substantial ones. Watch this space for more updates on the boxing project.


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