Google puts Dead Sea Scrolls online

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is partnering with the Google R&D Center in Israel as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations. The unique collaboration will enable the imaging and digitization of the entire collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Entitled …

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is partnering with the Google R&D Center in Israel as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations. The unique collaboration will enable the imaging and digitization of the entire collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Entitled The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, the project will use the most advanced and innovative technologies available to image the entire collection of 900 manuscripts comprising about 30,000 Dead Sea Scrolls fragments.

Dead Sea Scrolls Psalms

Photo courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
A fragment from the Psalms Scroll being shot with a particular wavelength; both studio and fragment are lit with the light projected by the wavelength, each wavelength has a different color.

The fragments will be imaged in high-resolution and multi spectra and the digitized images will be 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 1950s.

The project is made possible with a major lead gift from the Leon Levy Foundation, with major funding from the Arcadia Foundation and the support of the Yad Hanadiv Foundation.

In addition to the digitized images of the Scrolls, the milestone project will include additional data that will allow users to perform meaningful searches across a broad range of data in a number of languages and formats.

Digitization process

Photo courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Images taken during the pilot for the project.

The innovative imaging technology to be used in the project has been developed by US-based MegaVision, and will be installed in the IAA’s laboratories in early 2011. The company was chosen following three years of research.

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.’

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.

Meanwhile, search giant Google last month acquired a second company in Israel, buying start-up Quiksee for an estimated several million dollars.

Founded in 2007, the company’s software allows Internet users to turn a simple video clip into an interactive video clip. Users can photograph any location with a digital camera or mobile device, upload the file to Google Maps, and take part in the dynamic mapping of the world.

In April, Google made its first acquisition in Israel, buying start-up LabPixies.