Services > Projects >

The Hunt for Submarines in Classical Art
Mappings between scientific invention and artistic inspiration

This project was concerned with the use of advanced imaging ICT (information and communication technologies) within visual arts research. The project:

The project was carried out between January and December 2006 and was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, as one of the ICT Strategy Projects of the Council's ICT in Arts and Humanities Research Programme.


It is well documented that the arts and humanities benefit from scientific advances in ICT imaging technologies. For example, in Content-Based Image Retrieval (CBIR) the arts exploit medical research where technology for retrieving tumour shapes in mammary x-rays also has the potential for finding graphical motifs within digitized paintings. Art historians have used technologies such as high-resolution imaging and digital infra-red photography in the examination of paintings for some time, revealing previously-hidden aspects of artworks. It is also true that the sciences benefit from research in the arts and humanities: the early adoption and subsequent advancement of Virtual Reality technologies, to visualize arts and humanities subjects such as reconstructed archaeological scenes, is one such case.

However, much of the crossover between science and art occurs by fortune rather than design, particularly in the arena of novel ICT-based technologies. This project takes a view that the visual arts could benefit from a more structured and reusable approach to exploring and recording links between focused areas of each sector. Such an approach could extend visual arts research through the discovery of ICT technologies that have not yet been exploited within the arts, particularly for areas of practice-led research, and by building on current research in new ways.

The project identified several clear visual arts ICT needs through integration with the University for the Creative Arts's strong research agenda. This was combined with a focused survey of potentially fruitful areas of scientific research.


The project's primary aim was to establish tangible mappings between the needs and/or desires of researchers in the visual arts and the opportunities afforded by technological advances in scientific areas. A secondary aim was to demonstrate the feasibility of a structured approach to establishing such mappings.

Why submarines?

The project's title comes from a hypothetical mapping between imaging ICT and the uses of digital images within the visual arts: someone wishing to explore a collection of classical art may benefit from new CBIR techniques developed in military research for the identification of submarine shapes within complex sonar images.

Interim results

We presented a summary of progress so far, and some of our initial findings, at the Digital Resources for the Humanities and Arts (DRHA) 2006 conference held at Dartington Hall.

Final Report

Report Cover

A summary of the results of the project and the full report are available to download in PDF format:

Contact details

University for the Creative Arts
Falkner Road
Surrey GU9 7DS

Tel: 01252 892723



about        contact        terms of use        image credits        cookies        © 2018