THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

28 March 2010

Vatican Library to digitise 80,000 manuscripts

Monsignor Cesare Pasini, Prefect of the Vatican Library, sent out an "extraordinary" Newsletter 5/2010 on 24 March (see full text as posted by the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog) announcing plans to digitise 80,000 manuscripts held by the Vatican Library. Planning and consulting, as well as testing of workflow and infrastructure, have been finalised. The Newsletter also discloses some details about the project: it is planned to be implemented in three phases over a 10 year period and will initially involve 60 staff in the first phase, incremented to over 120 staff in the second and third phases. A Metis System Scanner and a 50MP Hasselblad camera ("depending on the different types of material to be reproduced") will capture the images which will be stored as FITS (Flexible Image Transport System) files, a non-proprietary file format, originally designed for the storage and transmission of mainly scientific images. The 40 million manuscript pages are anticipated (following "a rough calculation") to take up a total of 45 petabytes storage space.

I am naturally very excited about the news. This is a very ambitious project on one of the world's most important manuscript collections. I will keep my eyes peeled for any further details and developments. I am particularly interested in the business model that the Vatican Library will adopt in making these manuscripts digitally accessible. In particular, I am thinking of the manuscripts that are held across institutions and the potential for aggregating them (or even 'virtually re-uniting' them) in Virtual Research Environments.

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