News By  Iaroslava Kramarenko
Normal +2 241 30 May 2023
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The Vatican Library Goes Web3

The Vatican archives have always piqued the curiosity of scholars due to the wealth of confidential materials they house. The Holy See's officials have decided to embrace decentralization, making a portion of these collections accessible via Web3.

The Vatican - a treasury of global antiquities

The Vatican Library is among the world's oldest and most important repositories. It houses an extensive collection of handwritten and printed artifacts spanning the last two millennia:

  1. Manuscripts. The Vatican holds more than 80,000 handwritten codices on theology, philosophy, science, history, and literature.
  2. Incunabula. It contains 5,000 volumes of books printed before 1501, representing the largest collection of early printed books globally.
  3. Maps and engravings. Over 150,000 maps, engravings, and drawings from the 16th century onward are stored in the Vatican Library, including works by luminaries like Michelangelo and Raphael.
  4. Coins and medals. The vaults hold over 100,000 coins and medals, which include coins from Ancient Rome and Greece, as well as medieval coins.
  5. Musical scores. Within the library's hallowed halls reside a trove of over 20,000 musical scores, encompassing precious manuscripts penned by revered maestros such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach.

In essence, the Vatican Library stands as a veritable treasury of knowledge, housing the most invaluable collections in the world.
Access to this repository is limited and granted only to qualified researchers and scholars. Visitors must submit a written application to the library's director, providing a detailed description of their research project and credentials.
Once permission is granted, visitors are allowed to use the library's reading rooms and examine materials under the supervision of a Vatican archivist or another official.

However, due to the immense public interest in the library's exhibits, the custodians have taken an unprecedented step: they have granted permission to digitize most of the books and manuscripts. This task of digital archiving has been entrusted to the Japanese corporation, NTT Data.

What sparked the Vatican's interest in Web3?

The Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, a state-owned entity, is Japan's oldest tech company. Its history spans back 150 years to when the telegraph service was first initiated in Tokyo. Its impeccable track record in finance and security has earned it the trust of Vatican officials to digitize their precious relics.

For several years now, NTT Data has been engaged in the copying and preservation of invaluable information from all corners of the globe. The company's objective is to foster sustainable connections between the custodians of historical archives and users who desire to study these invaluable relics but lack direct access to them.

To facilitate this, they have established a special software known as AMLAD. This program stores data in compliance with international library classifications and standards, as well as the Vatican Library's proprietary rules.

All data is stored on NTT's cloud servers and is equipped with a user-friendly search system, providing researchers worldwide access to the Vatican Library's digitized content.

The endeavor to digitize the Vatican Library in 2D and 3D formats began in 2014. Today, NTT DATA has embarked on a blockchain project to expand its online community by incorporating the library and its virtual visitors. As project participants share their experiences on social media or express their support for the Vatican archives, they receive NFTs as rewards. These token holders can view high-resolution images, access books from the repository, and read the explanatory texts associated with them. 
NTT DATA's staff regard this project as an extraordinary endeavor, unmatched in its scale. They confidently predict that the ongoing digitization of the archives will span several more years, illuminating the path of progress.