Visiting the numismatist Marjanko Pilekić in the baroque Friedenstein Castle in Gotha. A conversation about change, the importance of coins and the power of digitization.
The baroque collection of the Schloss Friedenstein Gotha Foundation is being digitalised and is changing. The coin cabinet will be digitalised and the Foundation is taking further steps on the road to becoming a digitally competent cultural institution in 2022. The Fröbus team of digital experts is on board and is working to digitalise the important coin collection – with approx. 145,000 objects (coins, banknotes, medals) as part of the ‘Gotha Transdigital’ project. The aim is to digitalise around 114,000 objects as 2D and partially 3D data by the end of 2023.
“The digitalisation of the coin cabinet poses significant challenges for us as a foundation.”Marjanko Pilekić; Research associate at Schloss Friedenstein Gotha Foundation / Gotha transdigital
Numismatist Marjanko Pilekić is responsible for the foundation’s coin digitalisation process, which is part of the collection digitalisation in the overall Gotha transdigital project. The comprehensive digitalisation campaign of the Foundation, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the Federal Department for Culture and Media and the Thuringian State Chancellery with around 28 million euros – comprises over 1 million properties.
Mr. Pilekić, what is your role in the foundation and in the Gotha transdigital project?
My name is Marjanko Pilekić and I am a research associate in the numismatics department of the Schloss Friedenstein Foundation in the Gotha transdigital project. The project is tasked with digitalising a large section of the collection of the Foundation by 2027. In this context, digitalisation means: object digitalisation, research and mediation. In the digitalisation project, I am a foundation research associate for object digitalisation of the numismatic collection. The coin collection is a universal collection, spanning two and a half thousand years of money history and consisting of coins, banknotes, medals, orders and also coin stamps totalling 145,000 objects. From the first coin from around 600 BC to contemporary stamping.
How do you approach the digitalisation of such a comprehensive collection? What priorities have you set?
We do not digitalise the objects based on a specific prioritization. The digitalisation takes place piece by piece from the depot. However, there is stock that moved to Coburg after the Second World War and didn’t return to us until 70 years later. This pieces forms the baroque heart of the collection and is part of the first days of the collection’s foundation – capturing these items is important to me personally.
Tell us more about the actual digitalisation process. What are the key challenges?
The key challenge is that digitalisation must meet the requirements of future scientific developments, as well as mediation work. So before such extensive digitalisation can begin, many questions need to be asked and answered: Which data formats (2D/3D) are required and in what quality? How do we ensure an individual assignment of digital and physical objects? How does logistics from the depot to digitalisation and back again take place? What resources are required? What technical infrastructure is required? Where is the data stored? What rights of use are granted? Etc.
As a concrete example: We have defined factors in requirements management, which are based on basic standards for coin digitalisation. Coins are mass-produced products, so it becomes clear that “just” a digital image of the coin is not sufficient. For example, if you want work scientifically with an object on digital platforms, additional core data is required alongside the digital image, such as: weight, diameter, high-resolution object image, stamping and inventory number.
The parameters described go far beyond an image in 2D or 3D, how do you solve this challenge?
To date, the Foundation has only been able to provide the necessary resources and digitalisation knowledge to a limited extent. The museum doesn’t generally have photography or IT experts as permanent employees. The formation of interdisciplinary expert teams is therefore essential for success. With ThULB (Thuringian University and State Library Jena) we have an experienced partner for data storage and data logistics. With Fröbus, we have found a reliable expert who understands our main challenges and is also willing to develop individual solutions, processes and quality standards. For example, a temporary digitalisation studio was installed in the castle. This is where Fröbus’ digital experts work hand-in-hand with staff from the Foundation on a daily basis. This makes logistics and communication much easier. Another example is the individual system solution developed by Fröbus in accordance with the requirements of the example described above. An almost fully automated process for digital recording of size, weight, diameter and high-quality object mapping in 2D and 3D. Just imagine: Someone would have to type in the inventory number, size, weight for 145,000 objects by hand… The weight can be seen as the unique fingerprint of a coin. We are talking about data records such as ‘2.38 grams’. Collecting data by hand therefore involves enormous potential for error. The impact on research results would be significant. Fröbus’s technology solution, which was specially developed for coin digitalisation, enables us to achieve precise data acquisition in a flowing process.
What exactly does the digitalisation process involve?
The coin’s digitalisation journey begins in the depot. By assigning a unique object data assignment and identification via QR code. This allows us to keep an eye on which coin is where at all times and ensures that the resulting data record can be 100% assigned to the physical object.
After the coin is checked out from the depot, the coin reaches the Fröbus digital studio and passes through the following stations: Coin checkIn Identification and opening of the data record via QR code, automated recording and digitalisation of size and weight, preparation for visual recording (free of dust, correct alignment and stamping), creation of digitalisation (2D/3D), quality check, closing and adding in the data record. The coin is then returned to the depot and is checked in again there via QR code.
Looking to the future: What application areas do you see in the future for the digital images created today?
There are countless possible uses: from research to mediation to AI or even archive backup. The digital world opens up an unlimited scope of possibilities. Especially for the visibility of the Gotha numismatic collection, which is one of the most important in Germany and Europe.
Schloss Friedenstein @ Schatzkammer Thüringen, Foto: Marcus Glahn