At a Mountain Monastery, Old Texts Gain Digital Life
Inside the sixth-century Monastery of St. Catherine, with its small stone church, its rickety buildings covered in centuries’ worth of white paint, where bearded monks wear black robes, the modern world seems terabytes away.
But here at St. Catherine’s, in the world’s oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastic community, a Greek Orthodox monk from Texas is working with some of the world’s highest-resolution digital technology to help preserve the monastery’s 3,300 priceless and impressively intact ancient manuscripts.
[...] As interest in access to the texts has grown, so has the impetus to take new measures to document and preserve them. Making digital copies for public use will help prevent regular handling of the originals while also providing insurance in case the originals are damaged or lost.
[...] The ultimate goal of St. Catherine’s digitization project is to photograph all 1.8 million pages in the monastery’s manuscript collection. But with Father Justin working alone, that will not be accomplished in his lifetime. “The product is good, but the rate of progress is glacial,” Mr. Cooper said. “The equipment could become outdated before it’s done very much.”
There are plans to finish digitizing St. Catherine’s manuscripts in 10 years, but those efforts will require money and high-tech experts willing to live at an isolated monastery, two things in short supply.