Vatican Library digitises first 10,000 manuscripts

The Vatican Apostolic Library has completed the digitisation of around 10,000 of its 82,000 manuscripts as part of a project to make them available online

The Vatican Apostolic Library has digitised around 10,000 of its 82,000 manuscripts as part of a project to make them available online.

About 1,000 of these, which have around 500 pages each, are now available to view on the library’s website after having meta data applied to them.

The Vatican Apostolic Library’s 45 IT staff are being supported by IT services company NTT Data Corporation, after an initial €18m contract was signed. The company is archiving digital manuscripts as high-definition data, providing long-term storage, managing metadata to increase search efficiency and creating a user-friendly search interface.

The project, which began four years ago, aims to have all 82,000 manuscripts online in four years. “Our aim is to allow all the manuscripts to be read around the world,” said Luciano Ammenti, CIO at the Vatican Apostolic Library. He said that although the manuscripts have been stored for 500 years only about 20% of them have been read.

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The first stage was to create a guide about best practice for digitally archiving the projects and choose partners.

After creating a guide and selecting partners the digitalisation process began. Ammenti said after checking the condition of manuscripts they are sent for scanning. This is a challenge Ammenti said: “These manuscripts can be damaged by humidity and touch and many can only be opened slightly.”

He said once the scanning is done the process recording the data begins. This metadata is essential to make them accessible and identifiable, which is the aim of the project. Then the data is put in long term storage in the Vatican datacentres.

Ammenti said the Vatican Apostolic Library’s experience will be used by NTT Data for other projects at libraries: “All our workflow and processes will be sold by NTT Data to other organisations."

Monsignor Cesare Pasini, Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, said: “We gladly accepted the collaboration of NTT Data to support the further improvement of the project of digital archiving of our manuscripts using their innovative technologies,” he explained. “In so doing, we will further nurture our mission of preserving these treasures of humankind.”

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