Vatican Unveils NFT Project with Access to Manuscripts

Yesterday, the Vatican announced its first non-fungible token project called the “Vatican Library Web3 Support Project.” The initiative will give Italians the opportunity to earn either “Silver” or “Gold” NFTs in exchange for sharing the project on social media or donating directly to the Vatican Apolistic Library. Holders of these soulbound NFTs can then use them to access digitized copies of manuscripts from a special collection.

Those who share the project on social media will earn a “Silver” NFT, which will give them access to 15 manuscripts. Italians who donate directly to the Library will earn the “Gold” NFT, which will grant them access to all 21 manuscripts included in the project. The deadline for either action is July 16th.

For the project, the Vatican has partnered with NTT Data Italia. NTT Data is a Japanese multinational company that has worked with the Holy See since 2014 to digitize the voluminous archives housed in the Vatican Apolistic Library. That Library, according to its website, holds 1.5 million printed books, 180,000 manuscripts, 9,000 incunabulum, 200,000 photographs, and at least 300,000 coins.

Mauro Mantovani, Salesian Father and prefect of the Vatican Apolistic Library, said in a statement that “our heritage requires special attention and dedication” focused on preservation and promotion. NTT Data, he added, has played an important role in fulfilling the Vatican’s mission to make its collections accessible to the public, while helping with scientific research and development.

The Vatican said this project is “experimental.” In the future, it is possible that certain rooms in the Library will be available through extended reality technology (XR). The initiative comes as the governing body for the Catholic Church has explored ways of preserving its catalog through digital means, and making the archives more available to the general public.

The Vatican Dips Toes into Web3

The Vatican Apolistic Library was officially founded in 1475 and remains one of the oldest libraries in the world. Therefore, it may come as no surprise that the Holy See is interested in digitizing the Library’s archives, mostly as a form of preservation. But the use of NFTs to share them with the public may seem, to some, very cutting-edge for a traditionally conservative institution.

This isn’t even the first time the Vatican has dipped its toes into Web3 as well. In 2022, various news outlets shared that the Holy See was planning a metaverse digital art gallery to showcase the bevy of different works, some dating back centuries, that the Vatican owns. The artwork was said to be in the form of NFTs, even though the institution had no plans on selling them.

Furthermore, the Vatican has reportedly contracted with a company, Darktrace, that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to defend the Library’s digital collections from attacks. Darktrace modeled the AI after the human immune system so it could detect abnormal activity within the Vatican’s digital systems.

When it comes to archiving the manuscripts, the company at the center seems to be NTT Data. It uses a digital solution called “AMLAD” to create electronic copies of works, employing technologies like 3D scanning, digital restoration, and metadata management. Some of NTT Data’s other clients are Yamaha Motors and Koyasan University, both based in Japan.

As these stories show, once conservative cultural institutions have taken to advanced technology for a variety of purposes. This includes Web3, with its NFTs, metaverse, and all. Rarity Sniper will keep an eye out for any developments in this story and update this article if needed.

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