Digital imaging software is currently being used to record the many decorative motifs present in the Breakfast Room, in order to compare and contrast the decoration featured on the ceiling cornice work and on the fireplace, for example, with other decorative schemes around the House. Of particular interest are the rooms on the opposite side of the portico, which appear to have similar architectural detailing to the Breakfast Room.
By recording these motifs digitally, it is possible to more clearly identify these similarities – and begin to explore the relationship between these rooms, both architecturally and stylistically. This means that as well as a useful recording tool in its own right, digital imaging techniques can also be used as a platform for new and exciting research.
One area where digital imaging software – particularly 3D modelling software – has real potential in driving research forward, is through its ability to visualise a range of different interpretations of what the Breakfast Room looked like in the eighteenth century, and indeed over time. Osterley’s Acting House Steward, Laura Hussey, is using her background in archaeological illustration to look into the possibility of producing a 3D reconstruction of the current space, where research can be explored and tested on a whole new, ‘virtual’ level.
One area where digital imaging might be particularly useful is in showing different interpretations of how the wall fillet in the Breakfast Room might have looked. Whilst recent interpretations have shown the fillet work horizontally, James Finlay, NT Advisor on Historic Interiors discovered a ‘shadow’ of fillet running vertically at some point in the room’s history. This vertical fillet could be applied to the digital reconstruction to show what it may have looked like.
Another potential use, is reflecting the paint analysis research in the eighteenth century colour scheme of the room. Again, a digital record would enable a range of different colour schemes, including ‘Naples Yellow’ to be applied at the click of a button. Not only could these kind of visualisations contribute to a better understanding of the rooms history, but it might also aid in the decision making process for the reinstallation.
An important aspect of this work is that the visualisation can adapt as research evolves. As such, digital imaging software has the potential to become an exciting and illuminating interpretation tool – engaging visitors with the progress of the Breakfast Room Project, as they see the reinstallation take place, virtually, before their eyes.