Large-Scale Historical Watermark Recognition: dataset and a new consistency-based approach

Historical watermark recognition is a highly practical, yet unsolved challenge for archivists and historians. With a large number of well-defined classes, cluttered and noisy samples, different types of representations, both subtle differences between classes and high intra-class variation, historical watermarks are also challenging for pattern recognition. In this paper, overcoming the difficulty of data collection, we present a large public dataset with more than 6k new photographs, allowing for the first time to tackle at scale the scenarios of practical interest for scholars: one-shot instance recognition and cross-domain one-shot instance recognition amongst more than 16k fine-grained classes. We demonstrate that this new dataset is large enough to train modern deep learning approaches, and show that standard methods can be improved considerably by using mid-level deep features. More precisely, we design both a matching score and a feature fine-tuning strategy based on filtering local matches using spatial consistency. This consistency-based approach provides important performance boost compared to strong baselines. Our model achieves 55% top-1 accuracy on our very challenging 16,753-class one-shot cross-domain recognition task, each class described by a single drawing from the classic Briquet catalog. In addition to watermark classification, we show our approach provides promising results on fine-grained sketch-based image retrieval.

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