Thursday, July 12, 2012

St. Catherine's monastery seeks permanence through technology

Egypt Independent (James Purtill)

St. Catherine’s Monastery is going digital. The monastery that claims to be the oldest in the world ­— not destroyed, not abandoned in 17 centuries — has begun digitizing its ancient manuscripts for the use of scholars. A new library to facilitate the process is about five years away.

The librarian, Father Justin, says the monastery’s library will grow an internet database of first-millennium manuscripts, which up until now have been kept under lock and key. Should a scholar want a manuscript, they need only email Father Justin.

“And if I don’t have book but see a reference, I can email a friend in Oxford. They can scan and send it the next day,” he says.

Still, as natural and inevitable as it sounds, that’s quite the sea change. Just 10 years ago, bad phone lines made it hard to connect a call with the monastery. One hundred years ago, it took 10 days to travel from Suez with a caravan of camels. 

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