Vatican library and European Space Agency work together

The Vatican library and European Space Agency may not be obvious bedfellows, but they’re working together to look after the Vatican archives.

Over the past five years, the Vatican has been digitising its records. Many of these are very old.

The system being used – known as “FITS”, which is short for flexible image transport system format was developed in the 1970s.

The European Space Agency and NASA developed the program in the 1970s when they were working on radio astronomy projects.

Besides helping preserve original documents, the FITS system also provides information so the data can be decoded quickly.

This means future programs will still be able to decode the information even when the technology being used today becomes obsolescent.

A ceremony at the Vatican last Friday formally agreed the Vatican-ESA co-operation will continue for another year.

“Our collaboration is based on the common intention by our two institutions to promote the long-term preservation of images in electronic format,” Monsignor Cesare Pasini, Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library on the ESA website said.

“Thanks to our co-operation with ESA, the Vatican Library has found the courage to make an innovative choice to use the FITS format for long-term storage.”

Pasini noted how the recent seismic events in Italy have further highlighted the importance of the preservation of information and to accommodate changes in information storage technology.

“The Vatican Apostolic Library and ESA are two examples that attest to the approach of collaboration for global benefit,” said Josef Aschbacher, Director of Earth Observation Programmes at ESA.

“While ESA provides global information about the state of our planet through satellite observations, the Vatican Apostolic Library offers a unique source of wisdom that has contributed to the development of our society and culture,” he said.



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