The Vatican Library is an extraordinary repository of rare books and manuscripts. Among its 150,000 manuscripts are early copies of works by Aristotle, Dante, Euclid, Homer, and Virgil. Yet today access to the Library is limited. Because of the time and cost required to travel to Rome, only some 2000 scholars can afford to visit the Library each year. Through the Vatican Library Project, we are exploring the practicality of providing digital library services that extend access to portions of the Library's collections to scholars worldwide, as an early example of providing digital library services that extend and complement traditional library services. A core goal of the project is to provide access via the Internet to some of the Library's most valuable manuscripts, printed books, and other sources to a scholarly community around the world. A multinational, multidisciplinary team is addressing the technical challenges raised by that goal, including • Development of a multiserver system suitable for providing information to scholars worldwide. • Capture of images of the materials with faithful color and sufficient detail to support scholarly study. Protection of the on-line materials, especially images, from misappropriation. • Development of tools to enable scholars to locate desired materials. • Development of tools to enable scholars to scrutinize images of manuscripts. • In this paper, we provide an overview of the project, a description of the system being developed to satisfy its needs, and a discussion of how the technical challenges are being addressed.
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