The project (initial phase)
The Vatican Library is a library that has held fast to its essential task for more than 500 years: to collect, conserve, and
restore the heritage of books it holds in order to make it available to the public. Today, we are aware that consultation also entails
a progressive deterioration of books, especially the oldest ones. The intention to make its immense patrimony accessible to scholars
from all over the world constitutes one of the institutional objectives since the founding of the papal Library.
Precisely in order to respect this charge and to preserve its manuscripts for future generations as well, the Library has initiated a long-term digital preservation project in order to provide all possible guarantees of the longevity of the technological product created. At the same time, the project allows the manuscripts to be consulted by a very large number of users around the world.
It can be said that the launching of the digital preservation project has enabled the Library to bring to fruition a desire that has been nurtured for a long time, since at least the 1980s, when the then Prefect Fr. Leonard E. Boyle wished the Vatican Library to enter "the homes of every scholar". After this first indispensable phase of study on preservation, it became possible to begin work in another area of expertise: analysis for the establishment of a digital library open to public consultation.
The preservation project was preceded by a lengthy period of preliminary study, in which the guidelines to be followed during the acquisition phases were established. A test bed was also set up to enable the proper design of all the infrastructure and hardware resources necessary for the purpose, as well as the resolution of master files and the choice of a preservation format: FITS.
To achieve this ambitious goal, the Library became engaged in dealings with numerous institutions throughout the first decade of the 21st century. Such collaboration sought to lay a solid foundation for the creation of the necessary expertise and identify necessary technology to be developed for the choice of preservation format. One of the first contacts was the International Astronomical Union (IAU), an association responsible for the maintenance and documentation of the FITS format. Local keywords (managed in the FITS file) were submitted to IAU, according to the customized design of the Library. Also at this stage, a constructive dialogue was opened with researchers from the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) and members of the European Space Agency (ESA), who were interested in following the implementation of the preservation archive and the Library’s implementation of FITS. Even NASA in 2011 relaunched information on its website that the Vatican Library was committed to adopting the FITS format for the long-term preservation of its manuscripts.
Thus, in 2012, in this atmosphere of intense collaboration and of contacts with the best possible interlocutors, the project of long preservation digital preservation of the manuscripts of the BAV began. The Library enjoyed the support and consensus of the most relevant realities in the field of digital preservation. His Holiness Benedict XVI offered the Library a financial contribution for the start of the project, and the then Librarian and Archivist of H.R.C. His Eminence Rev. Cardinal Raffaele Farina secured a new, more appropriate location for CED and its data center and for the planetary scanners to be used for the operations of digital acquisition.
It was the beginning of a succession of fruitful cooperation between the Library and numerous partners in the field of research and production of objects and tools intended for digital acquisition and preservation. The project also acquired an important international platform in several countries around the world, and some of these relationships gave way to new developments, as in the case of Japan, with whom an important digitization collaboration was undertaken and remains ongoing today.
The first analysis and design were carried out thanks to the collaboration of the following (whose names are reported with the affiliations valid at the time of the beginning of the project, 2010)
- Luciano Ammenti
Head of Coordination of IT Services
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
- Daniele Lisci
Centro Elaborazione Dati
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
- Giuseppe Di Persio
IAPS - Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziale
INAF - Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica
- Francesco Gambino
DB Seret S.r.l. - Rome (Italy)
- Stefano Allegrezza
Universitá degli Studi di Udine
- Riccardo Smareglia
Astronomer research Head of ICT office of INAF
International Astronomical Union