Dedication of the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library

August 5, 2012

"The first time that my husband and I came to Israel, we saw the [scrolls] fragments and they were not in very good condition. I always was worried that these scrolls were hidden in drawers and the world wasn't seeing them, and now they can," said Shelby White, trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation and Chairman of the Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority, during a dedication ceremony of theLeon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library and the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digitization Laboratory in Jerusalem last month. Shelby White, who made the major, lead gift to this ambitious project, attended the afternoon celebration together with guests from overseas, supporters and friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority, archaeologists, Dead Sea Scrolls scholars and representatives from the IAA's board and management, as well as the President and CEO of Google Israel, our partner in this major undertaking. This project is also generously supported by the Arcadia Fund.

The dedication ceremony began at the Israel Antiquities Authority's wing at the Israel Museum and included a rare visit led by Pnina Shor, Head of the Dead Sea Scrolls Digitization Project, to the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digitization Laboratory where the sophisticated MegaVision imaging system was on full view.

A special video about the project was shown and an unveiling of a naming plaque at the entrance to the Digitization Laboratory took place. Following the unveiling, the ceremony continued in the construction site of the   National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel across the street from the Israel Museum, where guests were treated to a surprise appearance by Architect Moshe Safdie, who spoke about his vision for the National Campus and the excitement of seeing this ambitious undertaking finally being built.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Digitization Project

"The Dead Sea Scrolls Digitization project and the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library are a fascinating encounter between scientific and scholarly disciplines. Through the use of the most extant technology available, this project will enable us to share the Dead Sea Scrolls with all, as well as to preserve them for future generations," remarked Shuka Dorfman, Director of the IAA.

Shelby White said, "I knew this was the way that they could be seen by the entire world, and I thought it was extremely important." 

 The digitization project of the Dead Sea Scrolls was initiated by the Israel Antiquities Authority as part of our efforts to preserve the scrolls for future generations and to broaden access to them for the public and for scholars, in Israel and throughout the world. All this will be accomplished with a onetime exposure of the scrolls, using the best imaging technologies and methods known today, and without subjecting them to further damage.

After examining the best imaging technologies and databases available, the IAA recently selected a system that allows it to image each and every fragment in multiple wavelengths. This imaging system will monitor the conservation condition of the scrolls, in a precise and non-invasive manner. This innovative technology also allows for the recovery of traces of writing that have become invisible to the naked eye over time, by using wavelengths outside the visible spectrum.

The IAA will soon make the new images available online to the general public and to scholars, and will support research by means of interactive tools, allowing access to technical data, content, and bibliographical resources. The initial uploading of the images of the scrolls with identifications, transcriptions, and translations is being done together with Google Israel. The website will include search engines that will allow quick and available cross-referencing of all the information on the site.

The novel imaging technology used in the project was developed byMegaVision, a U.S. based company. The MegaVision system, now installed in the Leon Levy Digitization Laboratory,  enables the digital imaging of every Scroll fragment in various wavelengths in the highest resolution possible and allows long term monitoring for preservation purposes in a non-invasive and precise manner. The resulting images are 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 also helps researchers rediscover writing and letters that have "vanished" over the years, with the help of infra-red light and other wavelengths. These writings will be brought "back to life," facilitating new possibilities in Dead Sea Scrolls research.

All 5,320 scanned negatives together with the new images of the first 60 plates and circa 600 spectral images of the fragments will constitute the first version of an online digital library. The database that will accompany each image will consist of image number, original negative number, photographer's name, photo date, photo type (MS/IR), and recto/verso indication. Every image will be connected to its corresponding manuscript(s) and will be accompanied by data including site name, manuscript's scientific number, plate number, manuscript type, manuscript's material, language, script type, official publication, and synonyms for composition names; all of which will be searchable in a few hierarchies.

 The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library is another example of our efforts to make the archaeological treasures of the Land of Israel accessible and available to audiences around the world.

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