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Entire Vatican Library to be digitized across 2.8 petabytes of storage

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kindle ibooks
kindle ibooks

The Vatican has been going high-tech lately, and its next step is digitizing the entire Apostolic Library — all 40 million pages of it. The project will take nine years and be made possible by a 2.8 petabyte storage donation from EMC, a company that specializes in information security and data storage. The library holds nearly 90,000 documents, including rare pieces like the Gutenberg Bible, one of the first Western books printed on moveable type.

EMC hasn't announced what formats it will use to store the data, or how it will handle the different types of media within the library. The company has assisted in similar digitization efforts in the past, including the creation of a 3D digital reconstruction of a Leonardo da Vinci work, which suggests that the company can handle preservation of both the text, images, and any ornamentation. Many of the texts that will be digitized contain historically (and religiously) important illuminations and marginalia, so it's vital that EMC choose a format that captures all of it.

For valuable pieces like those in the Apostolic Library, any steps toward preservation are meaningful as the physical works continue to deteriorate with time. However their digitization doesn't guarantee a permanent preservation. EMC will be using a format certified by the International Standards Organization, but even so, digital files can break down or become outdated and unreadable. The initial storage of the files is expected to take three years, but neither EMC nor the Vatican have announced what the subsequent phases of the project will involve.