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Vatican signs agreement with Japanese firm to digitize 82,000 manuscripts

2014-03-21

The Vatican Apostolic Library contains one of the biggest and most important collection of historical texts in the world. The history of humanity is recorded through its texts and manuscripts. In the future, all that information will be accessible to anyone, wherever they're at.

MSGR. CESARE PASINI
Prefect, Vatican Apostolic Library
"In about four years time, we'll have about 15,000 manuscripts completely digitized, out of a total of 82,000.”

The Vatican just signed a four-year agreement with Japanese IT services company NTT Data Corporation, to digitize part of its historical collection. Priority will be placed on texts and documents from Japan, China and pre-Columbian America.

All the documents will be uploaded to the Library's web page. People all around the world will be able to access the digitized documents in HD, and free of charge.

PATRIZIO MAPELLI
NTT Data Corporation
"We decided to also include the option to sustain the digitization through donations. We are developing a way to show next to each scanned image who donated or sponsored it.”

Though it may sound simple, the process is rather complicated, and will happen in three stages. The first is the scanning of documents, using up to five specialized scanners. The work will take place within the Library, and with trained people to avoid any damage to such fragile documents.

The second will be to archive the images on a secure server that will be integrated to the Vatican. And third, is adding it to the Library's page online, where users will be able to search and view individual pages or entire texts.

MSGR. CESARE PASINI
Prefect, Vatican Apostolic Library
"There are manuscripts that are very delicate or difficult to handle. During this first phase, which has to run smoothly and rather quickly, we decided to leave aside any complicated cases.”

The total cost is estimated at about 18 million euros, but the Vatican sees it as an investment in the future. To start off, 20 workers from the Japanese company will join Vatican employees in the digitization process. But as work progresses, the number of workers will swell to 50. 

To date, the Vatican has about 6,800 digitized items, but only about 300 of them are available to view online. 


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