“Yesterday, if you wanted to get a glimpse of the oldest known biblical manuscripts, your best bet was to travel to Jerusalem. Today, you can search Google.
Specialists began photographing the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls in 2008 with the intention of making them accessible online. More than three years later, The Israel Museum finally posted digital versions of five scrolls on its website Monday.
The scrolls — which include copies of all but one of the books in the Hebrew Bible — are among the most important significant religious and historical documents in existence. Although large fragments of the scrolls are displayed in The Israel Museum, Israel Antiquities Authority is the collection’s official custodian.
“The project began as a conservation necessity,” the head of the organization’s conservation department told The New York Times at the start of the effort.
“We wanted to monitor the deterioration of the scrolls and realized we needed to take precise photographs to watch the process. That’s when we decided to do a comprehensive set of photos, both in color and infrared, to monitor selectively what is happening. We realized then that we could make the entire set of pictures available online to everyone, meaning that anyone will be able to see the scrolls in the kind of detail that no one has until now.”
Google helped create the digital versions, and they can be searched both on the site and from search engines. Users can click on the Hebrew verses and get its English translation.
The search giant describes the partnership as “part of our larger effort to bring important cultural and historical collections online.”
In January, Google helped Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem-based center for remembering Holocaust victims and survivors, put its collection of photographs and documents on the web. It has also partnered with Spain’s Prado museum exhibits online.