Cultural Heritage

Votive Offering 3, Oughtmama, Co. Clare

One of three hand carved stones found at St Colmán’s Well (Tobar Cholmáin). The well is part of the monastic landscape of Oughtmama, a small monastic site located in a valley above Turlough Hill in the Burren, Co. Clare. The stones were presented to the museum by Rev. O’Doherty, Lord Bishop of Galway.

Original data capture was undertaken at the National Science Museum, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth in November 2016, under the direction of Dr. Konstantinos Papadopoulos. Access was granted by museum curator Dr. Niall McKeith.

This model was created using photogrammetry as part of AFF622 Virtual Heritage module at An Foras Feasa Maynooth.


Ecclesiology3D Data Capture : Votive Offerings

Data capture was undertaken on in November 2016 with a team of four. In order to accommodate the shortage in members three additional artefacts from The National Science Museum collection were recorded. These three artefacts were hand carved stone votive offerings:

  • Votive Offering 1: Mortality Stone
  • Votive Offering 2: St. Anthony’s Key
  • Votive Offering 3: Crucifixion

Objects captured during museum visit (Photo Credit: Costas Papadopoulos)

Historical Information

These three votive offerings were recovered from St Colmán’s Well (Tobar Cholmáin)  in the civil parish of Oughtmama (Irish: Ucht Máma meaning ‘breast of the high pass’), Co. Clare, in the Barony of Burren. St. Colmán’s well is part of the monastic landscape of Oughtmama, that comprises three early-medieval Christian churches, ruined castles, prehistoric cairns and ring forts, and two Martello Towers built in the early 19th century. St Colmán’s Well is located 700m northeast of the churches and reportedly served as a cure for eye sores and cataracts.

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Votive offerings are left at Holy Well sites by people and pilgrims seeking cures for illnesses. It is believed that three visits/offerings must be made in order to effect a cure which may explain the composition of the current collection.


Label reads:

‘Found at St . Colman’s Well. Ochtmama. 1897.’ Ochtmama refers to the parish of Oughtmama (Irish: Ucht Máma) in the extreme north of the Barony of Burren, Co. Clare.’

There is some debate over the provenance of these votive offerings as two different written records exist.The museum catalogue indicates that the offerings were identified at a holy well in Co. Galway, while the labels fixed to Votive Offering 2 and 3 indicate that they were found at St. Colmans holy well in Oughtmama, Co. Clare.

Technical Information

Votive Offering 1: Mortality Stone

A roughly carved stone with skull and cross-bone motif executed in high relief. This motif is a common one that emerged in the 15th century. Traditionally the skull and cross-bone motif is a form of memento mori and mortality symbol. When accompanying the crucifixion, it is representative of the Skull of Adam. Unlike Votive Offering 2 and 3, there is no label fixed to this artefact however it is presumed that it belongs to the same collection due to the material composition and execution of the artefact.

Votive Offering 2: St. Peter’s Key

A roughly carved stone with a hand clasping a key executed in low relief. St. Peter is often depicted in Roman Catholic art as holding a key or set of keys that are seen as a symbol of Papal Authority, or the symbolic keys to the gates of Heaven. Label affixed to the stone indicates that it was originally located at St . Colman’s Well. Ochtmama, Co. Clare in 1897.


Votive Offering 3: Crucifixion

This roughly carved stone depicts Christ on the cross. Additional details are inscribed on the crucifix and include faint traces f a nimbus around the head of the figure of christ, and a loin cloth. Label affixed to the stone indicates that it was originally located at St . Colman’s Well. Ochtmama, Co. Clare in 1897.



Desk Based Assessment

Desk based research was conducted for each object including review of the available catalogue information, analysis of OS maps and details pertaining to the provenance of the object. Two conflicting records exist for the objects in question. The Museum catalogue indicates that the votive offerings were retrieved from () Holy Well in Galway, however the labels affixed to two of the votive offerings indicate that they were retrieved from St. Colman’s Holy Well, in Oughtmama in Co. Clare. Information pertaining to the latter record was collated from various sources (i.e. OS maps, publication, etc.)

Artefact Assessment

Artefacts were removed from Museum display cases using cotton gloves provided by the museum curator. Two of the three objects were labelled with adhesive paper labels with details pertaining to the provenance of the objects. Unlike those labels affixed to the penal cross collection, these were not removed as they now form part of of the context/narrative of the object.

The condition of each artefact was assessed prior to data capture to make a note of any relevant surface details, and to keep a note of the object dimensions. Some damage was observed on Votive Offering 3, where the base of the transom has fractured below the cloth on Christ’s form. The right arm of the cross has also broken away.

Some degree of ware was also observed on Votive Offering 2 at the corners however this has not distorted any of the carved motifs.

Data Capture Preparations

The process used in the data capture and processing phases was photogrammetry.


  • Lightbox
  • Table mounted lamps
  • Florists foam
  • Canon DSLR
  • Tripod
  • Coloured backdrops
  • Notebook
  • Ruler

A collapsible light box was set up with three table mounted lamps. Two lamps were placed at either side of the box, while the third lamp was positioned above the box facing downwards. A Canon DSLR camera was mounted on a tripod and set at a distance from the lightbox. The tripod in question was unfortunately broken and kept dropping its position during data capture. This meant the camera had to be repositioned after each image capture. To facilitate this, the cameras internal balance reader was utilised. This however did not mitigate issues of inconsistency in the data capture process.

Really had enough of your shit tripod!!! #photogrammetry #AF622

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Backgrounds were applied to the lighbox based on the colour of the object being captured. As the artefacts in question were a dark gray, a white backdrop was used. Artefacts were positioned at the centre of the lightbox and were placed in a section of florists foam. A test photograph was taken on automatic to establish best setting parameters for the camera and adjustments were made in manual mode before commencing data capture.

Data Capture Process

The artefact was rotated manually at set intervals ensuring a 60% overlap in each image sequence. 20-30 photographs were taken at three elevations (top, bottom, centre) to ensure full coverage. Other angles were however selected to capture more difficult areas where relevant. Once the artefact had been recorded fully, it was then turned upside down in the foam base and the process was repeated to ensure full coverage.


I would like to thank Dr. Niall McKeith (Museum Curator) for all of his assistance and his infinite patience on the day. He was more than accommodating of our research project and was on hand to assist and give advice wherever necessary. I would further like to thank St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth for facilitating this project.

Reflective Blog 1: AFF622

Who Owns the Digital? 

The issue of digital copyright is one that has yet to be negotiated fully by the state as can copy.pngbe seen by the recent publication of ‘The Copyright and Related Rights (Miscilanious Provisions) Bill 2016’ (O’Dell 2016). Despite this being drafted in direct response to the Copyright Review Committee’s  ‘Modernising Copyright’ document (2013), it has failed to consider the broader implications of digitisation and intellectual property in the current technological climate. It has particularly fallen short in areas relating to 3D recording of cultural heritage and archaeological monuments. In my own work, I have to date, relied upon a general understanding of photographic copyright when producing photogrammetric models and granted/assumed rights of access.

A considered review of these areas in the early stages of my projects has streamlined the process of digitisation and meant that dissemination of data was easily achieved from the outset. It has not however, clarified the issue of copyright in terms of the 3D data produced. This is largely due to the uncertainty surrounding originality of the works being produced and state ownership rights over the monuments themselves. Weinberg’s (2016, 9-10) discussion on Expressive[1] and Representational[2] scans  has provided some tentative guidance in my own digitization process however.

As models of heritage monuments/artefacts generated from laser scanning or photogrammetry are created to replicate the monument as baseline data for analysis and conservation in perpetuity, they are by definition representational models. Therefore, the degree to which I can express copyright over the resulting models may unfortunately be no more than the degree with which I can claim copyright over a piece of text that I have photocopied from another original, fixed work. A potential gray area may however exist when creating photogrammetric models of heritage monuments that is not observed in scanned data. As photogrammetry uses overlapping sequences of photographs, I may retain copyright over those digital mediums[3] (Figure 1) and potentially the resulting 3D model produced. However, it is still by all accounts a representational model of a monument that belongs to the state and does not constitute an original work in its own right.


Freedom of Panorama World Map (Mardus 2014)

In the past I have used photogrammetry to record commemorative stone monuments, largely in the public domain where right of access can be assumed. I have never encountered any issues in capturing or disseminating the results which I had until very recently (with thanks to AFF622), presumed was due to the following reasons:

  • Photogrammetry relies on the capture of overlapping photographs of a feature to produce a 3D model and is therefore likely protected under the Freedom of Panorama act.
  • There is no copyright on archaeological monuments.
  • I have contacted relevant stakeholders (NMS, OPW, heritage officer, city/county council or archaeologist, private landowner etc) to discuss works.
  • Right of access has been granted or could be assumed.
  • I had adopted an open data ethos from the outset ensuring that all collated data would be freely available for research and would not be of financial gain.
  • All stakeholders have been fully acknowledged.

Despite Weinberg’s discussion on representational data having clarified some queries in terms of copyright, the issue remains to be tested legally and until it is, I am doubtful of any further (or initial) clarification under the forthcoming ‘Copyright and Related Rights (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016’. For now it would appear that instead of asking “Who Owns the Digital”, a more constructive question may be “Who owns the Original”.  Any other issues may better be solved under contract.


[1] those designed explicitly to interpret the scanned object differently, and to imbue the resulting file with expressive purpose that varies in some way from the original”
[2] those designed primarily to transfer a physical thing into a digital medium
[3] Photographs of monuments and landscapes fall under the Freedom of Panorama 



Cronin, C.  “Possession is 99% of the Law: 3D Printing, Public Domain Cultural Artifacts and Copyright
Irish Statute Book (1)
Irish Statute Book (2)
Mardus (2014)
Margoni, T. (2016)  The Digitisation of Cultural heritage: Originality, Derivative works and (Non) Original Photographs.
O’Dell, E. (2013) Modernising Copyright: The Report of the Copyright Review Committee.
O’Dell, E. (2016) The Copyright and Related Rights (Miscillaneous Provisions) Bill 2016.
Weinberg, W. (2016) “3D Scanning: A World without Copyright

Further Reading: