Vatican Library embraces blockchain to preserve manuscripts, engage donors

The Vatican Library has partnered with NTT DATA Italia to use blockchain technology to preserve its vast collection of manuscripts.

Announced on June 17, the “Vatican Library Web3 Support Project” aims to expand the library’s online community and engage supporters through modern technology.

The Vatican Library, home to around 180,000 manuscripts and over 1.5 million printed books, will distribute non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to donors and social media users. Currently, this experimental project is limited to Italian residents. However, a trial phase was initially launched in Japan in February 2023.

Those who shared the NFT project on their social media accounts by July 16 received a “Silver NFT.” This NFT granted them access to a special collection of high-resolution images of 15 manuscripts.

Those who support the project financially receive a “Gold NFT,” which will give them access to high-resolution images of all 21 manuscripts in the collection.

To date, 419 users have received Polygon-based NFTs, according to an OpenSea proof-of-concept, showcasing the utility of blockchain technology in safeguarding cultural heritage. These NFTs are soulbound, meaning they are non-transferable and permanently linked to the recipient’s digital wallet.

Future applications

The Vatican Library, one of the oldest and most significant repositories of historical texts, dates back to the 14th century (the Catholic Church has maintained a library and archive since the 300s).

This web3 project is meant to further the library’s mission to make ancient documents more accessible to the public.

In 2020, the Vatican Library launched a new website featuring improved search functions and easier access to digital reproductions of manuscripts, inventories, and archival materials, among others. The campaign aims to preserve cultural heritage, with future plans potentially including immersive extended reality (XR) experiences, like augmented or virtual reality.

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NTT DATA Italia has collaborated with the Vatican Library since 2014, using its digital archive service AMLAD, which includes over 2 million assets, to preserve historic documents. The company has invested billions of dollars in web3 infrastructure and is also set to launch a crypto wallet later this year, reinforcing its commitment to the digital future.

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