Vatican library to award NFTs to donors in ‘experimental project’

Vatican Library A view of the Vatican Apostolic Library in 2021. | Credit: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The Vatican library announced Monday that it will expand its use of Web3 technologies by awarding nontransferable NFTs (nonfungible tokens) to supporters of the manuscript collections.

For the time being, the project, considered “experimental,” only applies to Italian donors to the Vatican Apostolic Library. A trial was first launched in Japan in February 2023.

According to the library, which preserves roughly 180,000 manuscripts and more than 1.5 million printed books, Italians who share about the NFT project on their social media accounts through July 16 will receive a “Silver NFT” through which they can access a special collection of high-resolution images of 15 manuscripts of the library. 

Financial supporters of the project, instead, will receive a “Gold NFT” giving them access to high-resolution images of all 21 manuscripts in the special collection.

The Vatican has partnered with the Japanese multinational company NTT DATA to expand “the Vatican Library’s online community by connecting the cultural institution with its supporters through Web3 technology,” according to a June 17 press release from the Vatican Library.

The future of the project, the Vatican said, may include the ability to visit the library through immersive extended reality (XR) experiences, like augmented or virtual reality.

“I believe that our heritage requires special attention and dedication geared toward preservation and promotion,” Salesian Father Mauro Mantovani, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, said this week.

“NTT DATA,” he continued, “has played an important role in supporting the Vatican Library’s mission to make its unique collections accessible to the public, regardless of origin, culture, religion, politics, or ideology, while nurturing scientific research and development.”

The papal library, in its current form, dates to the 14th century, though there is evidence the Catholic Church has had a library and archive from as early as the 300s.

The Web3 project continues the papal library’s efforts to make ancient documents more accessible to the public.

The Vatican launched a new website for the library in 2020 with improved search functions and easier access to digital reproductions of digitized manuscripts, inventories, archival materials, coins, medals, and incunabula, which are books printed in Europe before the 16th century.

According to its website, the Vatican Library “preserves over 180,000 manuscripts (including archival units), 1,600,000 printed books, about 9,000 incunabula, over 300,000 coins and medals, more than 150,000 prints, thousands of drawings and engravings, and over 200,000 photographs.”

The Apostolic Library is located in Vatican City in a building dating to the late 16th century.

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