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Digitally preserving cultural heritage for generations to come

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Digitally preserving cultural heritage for generations to come
Morne Bekker, Country Manager NetApp South Africa.

Capturing the past

South African art galleries and museums hold a myriad of history, cultural heritage and even hidden treasures. And while the generations of today still have the opportunity to experience these treasures in the flesh, there may come a time where our fragile cultural heritage depreciates beyond the point of no return. This alternate and stark reality could involve the loss of human remains from the Cradle of Mankind through to the cherished art of the Renaissance. In order to mitigate this risk, digitisation could hold the key to preserving valuable information and fragile items for generations to come.

Digitisation within this context involves the capturing of valuable objects as 3D digital images. As early as 1997, web-based museum projects have been initiated by Russia’s Hermitage Museum.

Today this digitisation process is underpinned by ubiquitous data management in order to categorise and process the mass of historical data. A good example of this can be seen today at the National Museums of Kenya. Founded in 1910, the museum boasts one of the largest collections of archaeology and palaeontology in the world. Last year the museum began to digitise this entire collection into a database framework accessible over the cloud.

Creating the future

As the pace of innovation accelerates at unprecedented rates, data management technology is not only being used to capture the past, but also to re-imagine the future. We are now seeing the rise of AI as a core element of this digitisation journey. Although many museums and galleries are adopting new AI platforms, tools, and practices, many don’t have enough control over their distributed data stores to ensure that complete, current, and accessible data is available for their AI projects. Success with AI depends on a business’s approach to data. To be effective in today’s AI use cases and future-proof a business for new AI applications, organisations must achieve visibility into and control of their data, from edge to core to cloud.

Recently, Cambridge Consultants, a research lab dedicated to discovering, developing and testing breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, took this into account when they created an AI system that can turn human-made sketches into artworks reminiscent of Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Picasso. The system was aptly named Vincent.

Built on NVIDIA DGX-1 servers and NetApp storage, Vincent required nothing less than 14 hours of training and 8 GPUs to generate millions of iterations and a huge amount of data, as it tunes over 200 million parameters within its neural networks. NetApp’s cloud-connected data solutions and new proven architecture with NVIDIA DGX created a single data environment for Vincent.

As a result, Cambridge Consultants had the control, access, and performance they need to provide the right data at the right time at the right location to their AI applications – all at scale and all integrated, managed, and protected by the NetApp Data Fabric.

In today’s world we are beginning to see art and science collide as we find realistic solutions to preserving our rich and historical past. Data management underpinned by AI advancements clearly hold the key to preserving our cultural heritage forever.

By Morne Bekker, Country Manager NetApp South Africa

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