New tech brings colour to black and white photos of Minden's past
By Zachary Roman
The Minden Hills Cultural Centre has been using an artificial intelligence program called DeOldify to restore old photographs with colour, then posting them to Facebook for the community to view from the comfort and safety of their own home.
Shannon Quigley, curatorial programming
assistant at the centre, is in charge of this new initiative. As of May
12, there were 27 photos in the centre’s “History in Colour” album.
Quigley said that she will be posting new colourized pictures every
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday until the end of May.
“When I saw this digital program for colourizing images, I thought it would be a great way to enliven the museum’s collection of historic photos,” said Quigley. “COVID-19 has prompted a lot of cultural institutions to embrace new and creative ways to make collections available online. We’re using Facebook and our new blog to give people ways to enjoy and get inspired by museum collections at home, while feeling connected to their community.”
Quigley said that people have been using paint to
add colour to black and white pictures since photography was invented.
However, DeOldify relies completely on artificial intelligence. The
computer decides what the colours should be based on information it can
read in the photographs. They aren’t always 100 per cent accurate, but
Quigley said they have a magical quality that draws you in and sparks
“I like how adding colour gives us a new view of an old scene and encourages us to look at the photographs more closely,” said Quigley. “There’s also been a bit of a debate about which is better – black and white, or colour.”
One Facebook commenter, Fay
Wilkinson, said “I have to say, there is something about the black and
white pictures that the colour seems not to capture.” Another commenter,
Daniel Manley, said “the colours bring it totally to life! Wow.”
Some Facebook commenters have even expressed interest in buying copies of the coloured photos. Quigley said the cultural centre will look into this once they reopen to the public and can scan the photos at a higher resolution.
“Museums and galleries have relied on having a physical space – a place where people can see an exhibition with friends and then chat about it in the café. We’re spending more and more of our time online and these conversations are moving online too. If museums want to be part of the conversation, we need to find ways to do that online,” said Quigley. “That’s why I think the comments section on Facebook is so great. It’s just like turning to the person next to you in a museum and striking up a conversation. When people start chatting with each other in the comments section, you know you’ve succeeded in enabling people to connect with those around them.”
Quigley said she likes how putting
content on Facebook makes the museum part of people’s everyday lives and
that it’s been really nice to see people sharing their love and
knowledge of local history. Quigley said commenters were quick to pick
up on details in the photos and relate them to their own family stories
and memories of Minden.
“The goal behind these digital projects is to allow people to enjoy and get inspired by the museum’s collection from home and feel connected to their community,” said Quigley.
If you want to connect with the Minden Hills Cultural Centre, or see their updated collection of colourized photos, check out https://www.facebook.com/