PhD Position – 2023

Thesis subject : PATRIMALP Materials, Pigments, Lights: the colors of Heritage – Knowledge representation and reasoning for cultural heritage
Laboratory of assignment: Laboratoire d’informatique de Grenoble/LIG-D. Ziébelin ; UMR litt&Arts-CNRS V.Adam

See the PhD position description:

Contact for the questions related to the position:

  • Danielle Ziebelin, Full Professor, Thesis supervisor, computer science Mail :
  • Véronique Adam, Assistant Professor, Humanities Mail

Context and work environment

UMR 5217, the LIG (Laboratoire d’Informatique de Grenoble) is composed by 500 members: faculty, full-time researchers, PhD students, administrative and technical staff. The LIG’s mission is to contribute to the development of fundamental aspects of computer science (models, languages, methodologies, algorithms) and to meet conceptual, technological and societal challenges. The 22 research teams of LIG are organized into 5 focus areas: Software and Information Systems Engineering; Formal Methods, Models and Languages; Intelligent Systems for Linking Data, Knowledge and Humans; Interactive and Cognitive Systems; Distributed Systems, Parallel Computing and Networks. Our research group is part of the area: Intelligent systems for linking data, knowledge and human beings, and is interested in spatio-temporal information, adaptability, multimedia and knowledge representation.

UMR 5316 Litt&Arts. Director: Isabelle Cogitore. Members: 70 researchers, as many doctoral students in literature, digital humanities and performing arts, a CNRS researcher and a group of 3 digital humanities engineers (ELAN) and 4 administrative staff. The PhD student will reinforce the research carried out within the framework of the laboratory’s “Nouvelles philologies” and “Transversalité des humanités numériques” axes.


The main challenge of the Patrimalp project is the development of an integrated and interdisciplinary Heritage Science, in order to ensure cultural Heritage sustainability, promotion and dissemination in contemporary society. The ambition is to produce the forms of intelligibility of a global and moving process which starts from the collection of the raw material, its transformation into a primitive object, different lives as a material (alterations, degradations, transformations …), and finally from its election as an object of historical and heritage value and its “promotion” into a work of art.

This research is applied to understand how colors have been perceived, conceived, used from the late 15th century to early 18th, by craftsmen, scientists, counterfeiters in a specific field (jewelry) that may be reduplicated in other fields (Smith 2010). To make this study possible, the project has started gathering a large collection of textual material made

up of alchemical works and collections of natural or artificial objects collected between the late 15th and the 18th centuries curated and largely digitized in European libraries [see corpus below]. To narrow the field of research, the corpus will be focused on treaties about making false gems, with recipes of color [Canella 2006, Cherry 2001, Bycroft, 2018, Leonhard 2015]. The corpus is mainly printed but few manuscripts will also be helpful as compilation of most practiced readings (Darduin, 1986). To better understand the choice of colors for these “wonders”, to better understand the connection between separated fields of knowledge (jewelry, chemical experiences, mineralogy, medical or magic lapidary…, Halleux, 1975) we want to reconstruct the recipes for making colored material in its context of thought, whether technical or symbolic, textual or pictorial manifestations. The corpus will combine treaties used by non-artistic practitioners (scientists, craftsmen…) and practical treaties of colors dedicated to artists. To better understand the choice of colors for these “wonders”, we want to reconstruct the knowledge transfer between books, authors, sciences and its disposal in recipes for making colored material in its context of thought, whether technical or symbolic. These recipes will constitute a new body of research for literary people and a new data-study case for understanding color and history of knowledge (Oltrogge 2015). This corpus indeed offers modes of verbalization, objects and representation inscribed in complex forms of writing and fiction whose modalities and frames of reference remain to be analyzed (accounts of technical, medical or physico-chemical experiments inscribed in fictional worlds or mythological, symbolic descriptions of artifacts, engravings, or materials collected in nature, mines).

Studying this corpus will enable us to formalize our knowledge of these different skills over time. This corpus will thus provide complex data on the material and symbolic origins of color ingredients, on their use, their names and their physical or symbolic perception: these data represent a challenge for computer researchers who will have to organize them for the benefit of curators, chemists or physicists, in ontologies representing the state of knowledge from the point of view of scholars through the ages. As far as objects are concerned, the data will also provide information for the history of books (overall structure of book production, relationship with the reader and printer, uses of indexing, dialogue between illustrations and texts, authorship).

The final objective is to build a knowledge graph composed by patrimonial objects, components of objects, materials, colors, know-how, reference framework, metadata. Each of the parts of the knowledge graph being able to reference a specific ontology well known of a scientific community (ontology of pigments, ontology of materials, ontology of colors…). In order to enable researchers to observe and reconstruct the trajectory of writing describing color, an analysis of symbols and literary styles will be represented, as well as the trajectory of know-how and technical and artisanal practices, and elements of the corpus relating to recipes. To modelise and implement this analysis, the thesis will propose a suitable knowledge representation language. In particular, this language will cover the constitutional and temporal relations necessary for the color modeling in the diversity set out above.