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Thursday, November 10, 2016

How Europe's Space Agency Is Helping Preserve the Vatican Library |

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Samantha Mathewson, Contributor reports,  "The European Space Agency (ESA) will continue its partnership with the Vatican Apostolic Library to preserve, manage and share the library's extensive collection of documents and texts."

Collections of the Vatican Apostolic Library.
Photo: ESA

The partnership between the two organizations follows a five-year effort to digitize the library’s collection using a special file format called Flexible Image Transport System (FITS), which was developed by NASA and ESA in the 1970s. FITS files allow for universal storage and accessibility, meaning that the files will not have to be reformatted to accommodate future technology.

Both NASA and ESA use the FITS file format to preserve data from numerous space missions and make it accessible to future generations. ESA officials said in a statement that both the Vatican library and ESA "are facing very similar issues in relation to data assets preservation and exploitation and can achieve mutual benefit in cooperating with and complementing each other in lessons learned and experiences." [Best Spaceflight and Space History Books]

Previous preservation methods that were used by the Vatican library involved scanning the delicate files while those files were pressed against a plate of glass, which would inevitably distort them to some degree. However, the FITS scanner software developed for the Vatican Library project automatically accounts for the different angles and generates a more accurate and flat image.