Culturale heritage research

Digitalizing Europe’s cultural heritage is both an immense challenge and an unprecedented opportunity to tap into forgotten, unrecognized, and hitherto inaccessible sources of knowledge. In view of the overwhelming abundance and variety of this heritage, a system along with optimized processes are required for keeping a virtual record of historically important objects in collections and museums. There is therefore a considerable need to develop corresponding methods, techniques, and procedures.

However, it is already clear that mass digitalization of collections in natural history, art, cultural studies and technology will open up an inestimably wide field of activity for data-based research and science. A systematic capture and evaluation of various objects, which have so far languished in numerous bibliographic stacks, warehouses, archives and the like around the world, will be carried out primarily using machine learning or artificial intelligence methods. 

Digital connectivity will create virtual collections that offer a completely new level of quality as databases and objects of investigation – all without needing to have a direct physical impact on precious, sensitive and rare individual pieces. Examples of such collections are astronomy photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries; medical findings and biopsies from the Enlightenment through today; plant and insect collections from the last 400 years; woods used in household objects, musical instruments, works of art or furniture; scientific instruments and equipment such as clocks, binoculars, scales and sextants; plus coins, clothing, jewelry, etc.

Digitalization will reveal parallels and links that have not yet been recognized, due to the objects being isolated and dispersed throughout the world, and will permit significantly improved statistics. The journey to explore the planet and its inhabitants through the lenses of natural history and cultural science by applying big data methods to historical collections is just beginning. 

Our services

In addition to pure data generation, we develop software, processes and systems for segmentation, visualization, 3D printing, etc., so that the various user groups can work efficiently with the digital data. 

Our work here relates to data storage (server-based or as a cloud service), databases including the capture of complex meta-data (ontologies), web viewers and compression for CT volume data, AI support for segmentation, visualization as well as extraction of surfaces.



Pendant watch with astrolabe

The investigation focused on the functioning of the internal gear mechanism. The question was, whether the sun pointer actually follows the purpose of the inscription.


Peruvian mummy

As part of the Big Picture research project, scientists used 3D X-ray computed tomography (CT) to examine a mummy from Peru. 
Handling the huge dataset this created proved to be quite a challenge.


Henlein clock

X-rays by Fraunhofer EZRT revealed that the clockwork mechanism dates back to Peter Henlein’s time, but the clock itself wasn’t added until the 19th century. This makes it a “compilation” of older and newer components.


Röntgen’s hunting rifle

In 1895, this hunting rifle – owned by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen himself – was the subject of one of the first X-ray photographs.
A full 120 years later, researchers at Fraunhofer EZRT repeated the X-ray examinations using the latest technology.


Relic jar with sealed wax lid

An X-ray examination was carried out to discover whether there are objects such as bones or paper scraps in the wax-sealed jar. 


SG-41 cipher machine

The SG-41 from the collection of the Deutsches Museum was discovered by an amateur treasure hunter in the forest near Ayin in 2017. Researchers at Fraunhofer EZRT used XXL CT to gain insights into the machine’s inner workings, reconstructing the entire encryption algorithm based on the scan data.

Historical instruments


Hubert square piano

The high-resolution three-dimensional images allow experts to examine the valuable instrument in greater depth, at any time and from any location. 


Viola da gamba

The X-ray examination was conducted to provide information about the structural properties of the instrument body.


Baroque trumpet

The X-rays were to clarify how the interior is built and also whether the object has undergone any modifications or repairs affecting its resonance.


Barjansky Stradivarius cello

State-of-the-art 3D CT was used to precisely measure the body of this valuable cello to check that the recently restored lining was an exact fit.



To 3D print exact copies of the instruments, it was necessary to precisely scan the bassoons using 3D CT. Researchers can then use the replicas to safely investigate parameters such as pitch, intonation, and tone quality.

Artworks & portraits


Luther portrait by Cranach

The 3D CT examination of the artwork was carried out to obtain information about the exact composition and arrangement of the paint layers.