Dead Sea Scrolls: History Meets the Future
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced yesterday that the dead sea scrolls are going to be scanned and made available on the internet for free. To many of us, this doesn’t seem like a topic of interest….but it should be.
Why? A little background knowledge to help explain…
Most of the dead sea scrolls are dated between 150 BCE and 70 CE. That means that many of them have reached or are close to reaching their 2,000th birthday. Given that they are slightly old, it’s not surprising that they are extremely fragile. There are only four trained people at the Israel Museum that are authorized to handle the documents. Even when they are handled, they are kept in a dark, temperature-controlled room. Oh, yeah, and there are over 900 manuscripts that are broken into over 30,000 pieces.
So, you decided to visit Israel and you want to see the scrolls? Not likely. A request must be filed with the IAA and the viewing time scheduled. This might not seem like an impressive feat, but it gets more complicated. Only two people are allowed to be in the room with the scrolls at a time. This includes the person trained to handle the documents. On top of that, you can only see a limited portion of the documents (which you indicate in your request to IAA) and you can only see them for up to three hours. The exclusivity of viewing the scrolls arises out of conflicting schedules along with the need for permission from IAA.
The solution to this problem? Bring in Google and MegaVision. After three years of research, the IAA identified the infrared imaging technology at MegaVision to be safe enough to scan all the documents. MegaVision will supply the imaging system, which will be used by the museum workers to obtain high resolution, multi spectra images of every document in the collection. The image quality will be equivalent to seeing the scrolls in person, which will remove the need to view the original documents and will help in the preservation of the scrolls. In some cases, the infrared scanning may enhance the quality of viewing by rediscovering writing that may have vanished over time.
After the documents have been scanned, the files will be handed over to the Google Research and Development Center in Israel. From there, Google will provide the images for viewing online by anyone anywhere and for free. Does Google stop there? Absolutely not! In addition to providing the images, they will also be providing transcriptions and translations of the documents and allowing for searches on the documents in many different languages. The result of all of this effort will be a huge library of information on the Dead Sea Scrolls available to the public. After completion of this project, the Dead Sea Scrolls will be forever immortalized. Way to go, Google and MegaVision!
Be sure to keep an eye out! The scanners are going to be installed in early 2011. Soon enough, the Dead Sea Scrolls will be a mouse click away!
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to head over to Blackboard for the quiz!
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