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Google Partners with Israel Antiquities Authority to Bring Dead Sea Scrolls Online
Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library will Enable Imaging, Digitization of 900-Manuscript Collection. Photo: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
JERUSALEM.- As part of the celebrations on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its establishment, the Israel Antiquities Authority is launching a unique project – The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library – to document the entire collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

A major lead gift from the Leon Levy Foundation, with additional major funding from the Arcadia Foundation and the support of Yad Hanadiv Foundation, will enable the Israel Antiquities Authority to use the most advanced and innovative technologies available to image the entire collection of 900 manuscripts comprising c. 30,000 Dead Sea Scrolls fragments in hi-resolution and multi spectra and make the digitized images freely available and accessible to anyone anywhere in the world on the internet. This is the first time that the collection of Scrolls will be photographed in its entirety since the 1950’s.

The IAA announced this morning that it is collaborating with the Google R&D center in Israel in this milestone project to upload not only all of the digitized Scrolls images but also additional data online that will allow users to perform meaningful searches across a broad range of data in a number of languages and formats, which will result in unprecedented scholarly and popular access to the Scrolls and related research and scholarship and should lead to new insights into the world of the Scrolls.

The innovative imaging technology to be used in the project has been developed by MegaVision, a U.S. based company, and will be installed in the IAA’s laboratories in early 2011. The MegaVision system will enable the digital imaging of every Scroll fragment in various wavelengths in the highest resolution possible and allow long term monitoring for preservation purposes in a non-invasive and precise manner. The images will be equal in quality to the actual physical viewing of the Scrolls, thus eliminating the need for re-exposure of the Scrolls and allowing their preservation for future generations. The technology will also help rediscover writing and letters that have “vanished” over the years; with the help of infra-red light and wavelengths beyond, these writings will be brought “back to life”, facilitating new possibilities in Dead Sea Scrolls research.
Uploading the images to the internet will be achieved with the assistance of Google-Israel and will be accompanied by meta-data including transcriptions, translations and bibliography.

According to Shuka Dorfman, IAA General Director, “we are establishing a milestone connection between progress and the past to preserve this unique heritage for future generations. At the end of a comprehensive and profound examination we have succeeded in recruiting the best minds and technological means to preserve this unrivalled cultural heritage treasure which belongs to all of us, so that the public with a click of the mouse will be able to freely access history in its fullest glamour. We are proud to be embarking on a project that will provide unlimited access to one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th Century, crucial to Biblical studies and the history of Judaism and early Christianity. We are profoundly grateful to Shelby White and the Leon Levy Foundation for their lead major gift and to the Arcadia Foundation for its major gift to this project.”

Professor Yossi Matias, Director of Google-Israel R&D center, said that “We are proud to take part in a project that will share the IAA’s National Treasures with the entire world. This project will enrich and preserve an important and meaningful part of world heritage by making it accessible to all on the internet. We shall continue with this historical effort to make all existing knowledge in archives and storages available to all”.

The announcement this morning comes after 3 years of research in which the IAA investigated the best imaging technologies, information systems, and preservation methods and raised the necessary funds to begin the project. Pnina Shor is the project manger on behalf of the IAA and is assisted by academic institutions and the best professionals in their respective fields in Israel and abroad, including Prof. Steve Weiner from the Weitzman Institute, Prof. Zeev Aizenshtat from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr. Gregory Bearman, formerly a principal scientist at the jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Dianne van der Reyden, Director of the Library of Congress Preservation Directorate, Washington, USA, and Prof. Emilio Marengo and Marcello Manferdi from Eastern Piemont University, Italy.



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