A visit to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

As part of the joint project “Materialized Holiness”, SCC researchers have the unique opportunity to visit one of the most valuable collections of literature in the world.

View of the reading room of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Credits: www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/01/03/gods-librarians)

Admittedly, the words “Vatican Library” or “Sacred Manuscripts” do not immediately bring to mind computer science or the SCC. But digital research data management bridges the gap between the Vatican Library's valuable books and manuscripts and modern information science methods. As part of the joint project “Materialized holiness” funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), researchers from the SCC are working with experts in Jewish Studies and materials science to investigate medieval Torah scrolls and their transformation into the digital world. In particular, the question arises as to how the multi-perspective information content of the Torah scrolls can be converted into machine-readable, structured objects and data in order to enable targeted computer-aided analyses and visualizations. In order to study and collect this information, it is essential to view the real objects.

The Vatican Library's collection contains two medieval Torah scrolls as well as many other interesting manuscripts relevant to the project. In April, Laura Frank and Dr. Danah Tonne (both SCC) were granted access to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana together with the Jewish Studies experts to examine these treasures. Under strict supervision and after many security checks, the researchers were allowed to examine the ancient, valuable objects for any special characteristics and differences. Laura Frank and Danah Tonne were not only able to gain deep insights into the work of the humanities scholars, but also clarify many questions about the data models designed and the technical implementation of their own research work.

Laura Frank