The Vatican Apostolic Library will be converting 80,000 of its manuscripts into a digital format to ensure their availability for future generations. The “grandiose undertaking” will make use of technology created by NASA to preserve and protect important documents.
This project is not one to be faced with a “weak heart,” wrote Monsignor Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library in the pages of Wednesday’s edition of L’Osservatore Romano. As the director of the project, he expects around 45 million pages including text and pictures to be “digitalized” which will occupy 45 petabytes of memory.
Msgr. Pasini exclaimed, “that’s 45 quadrillion bytes!”
The project of “high and innovative value,” which the prefect estimates will take 10 years and involve over a hundred people in the final phases, aims not only to scan the documents into electronic format, but to ensure their “stability” for the future and facilitate their maintenance and management.
The project will reproduce images of the manuscripts using a scanner and a 50 megapixel camera to convert them into the NASA-invented Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) format. The NASA format has been used by the agency for decades in the storing and sharing documents related to space missions, astrophysics and nuclear medicine.
The Vatican Apostolic Library recently completed a two-year feasibility study that “digitalized” 23 manuscripts into five terabytes of memory space. Referring to that study, Msgr Pasini said that in comparison with the total scope of the project, the work that has been completed is little more than a mustard seed.
“But we know well that that seed contains an immense energy,” he noted.
“Welcoming the promise guaranteed in the parable, we would like to give hope also to everyone who waits for the fruits of the realization of this project.”