Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How To Do Digitization?

Over at Parchment and Pen, Dan Wallace, recently home from his trip to Athens where he and his team photographed MSS (see our previous reports here) notes the recent article in Wall Street Journal on digitization of MSS by Alexandra Alter. One issue is the costs for expeditions, for the CSNTM about $10,000 a week, as compared to another undertaking led by Father Columba Stewart, executive director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John's Abbey and University in Minnesota, who says a digitization project costs roughly $20,000 a year, since they apparently use a different strategy: "Armed with 23-megapixel cameras and scanning cradles, he sets up imaging labs on site in monasteries and churches, and trains local people to scan the manuscripts." Wallace says "That’s a remarkably efficient model, but I don’t think it’s the best one for what CSNTM does." Then he goes on to explain the reasons:

The equipment we use requires a technician on-site. Things break down, especially the cameras—sometimes on a daily basis. And they need to be refurbished after about 30,000 pictures. If we had 23 sites where our equipment was being used (as this other organization does), the cost just for the equipment alone would exceed $400,000. This does not include the ongoing costs of paying locals to do the work. Also, CSNTM goes through multiple check-points to ensure the highest quality of images. We do all this on-site. We realize that we have only one shot at shooting (pardon the pun!) the manuscripts, and we must get it right.

Read more here.


  1. I'm just waiting for the day that every nestle-aland comes with a complimentary disc (or chip or some sort by then, I'm sure) with interactive images of every mss on it. New students could be given a copy on the first day of class.

  2. @Ryan

    A Nestle-Aland disc would probably just include Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. ;-)

  3. Now that we have Sinaiticus online, why should we go back to disks rather than keep bringing more mss online?

  4. Ulrich my friend, again, don't assume I'm opposing something that I'm not. I never said "rather than keep bringing more online." It was not an either-or choice. I just said a disc or chip would be nice. That doesn't mean I oppose online images. I have no problem with putting ms images online, and for that matter no problem with Parker's book being online either. In fact, I think both are great ideas. Good grief, it's not like I'm some technophobic troglodyte! But I don't think online access will replace personal ownership anytime soon.

    Digital cable means that any movie you want is available on demand at any time of the day or night, and yet people keep buying DVDs and now blu-rays? Why? I suspect they do it for the same reason that many NT critics would appreciate being able to get a complete disc as well as view all the mss online: When you own your own copy, you don't have to depend on paying someone else to see theirs. Internet access isn't free, and I can't see the prices going down anytime soon. In fact, in north america at least, there have been rumblings to change the pricing structure to resemble something more akin to the cable TV packages we currently buy.
    Who knows whether that will actually happen, but on the whole, I'd prefer being able to access it online *and* owning my own copy, if only for the independence and self-sufficiency that would afford me.