Vatican Library Picks NTT Data to Digitize Valuable Cultural Heritage


NTT DATA, a global digital business and IT services enabler, in cooperation with the Vatican Library, has digitized the Vatican’s valuable cultural heritage in 3D format for the first time.

NTT DATA has been working on the 2D digitization and publication of the Vatican Library’s precious handwritten documents since 2014. We have now digitized the Gregorian Tower (or Tower of the Winds), a 16th-century astronomical observatory, using the latest 3D digitization technology developed in our business through the AMLAD® digital archiving solution.

By digitizing cultural heritage objects, which are at risk of damage from disasters, accidents, and/or aging, they can be preserved and utilized for restoration and research. The digitized “Gregorian Tower” will be unveiled at Expo 2020 Dubai in Dubai, UAE from October 2021.

NTT DATA will accelerate the conservation of the world’s valuable cultural heritage items and works of art by using 2D/3D digitization technology, and the further utilization of these contents through a combination of online publication and XR technology. And to support display activities, we are also developing a virtual museum enterprise that may utilize NTT’s “DOOR” VR space platform and others.

NTT DATA has been supporting the 2D digital archiving projects of public institutions and companies that hold many valuable historical collections, such as the Vatican Library, Akita Prefectural Library, and Koyasan University.

Furthermore, in 2020, the ASEAN Cultural Heritage Digital Archive (ACHDA) project, which is being promoted by the ASEAN Secretariat to digitize the valuable historical cultural heritage of ASEAN countries, established a digital archive system to consolidate the cultural heritage of the entire ASEAN region and made it available to the public. The ACHDA is the first project which NTT DATA used 3D digitization technology.

Since 2014, NTT DATA has been working on a long-term project with the Vatican Library to preserve and publish the library’s valuable handwritten documents using the AMLAD® digital archiving solution. In parallel with this project, the Vatican Library and NTT DATA have been considering the preservation of cultural heritage objects and buildings owned by the Vatican City State by digitizing them as 3D models.

As a concrete initiative, we successfully digitized the historical Gregorian Tower by scanning it in 3D format. This is the first 3D scanning and digitization of a building as a digital archive project with the Vatican Library.

The Gregorian Tower was built by Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century for the purpose of astronomical research and calendar reform. The research here led to the revision of the Julian calendar, which had been widely used until then, to the Gregorian calendar, which is widely used around the world today. The ceiling and walls of the hall are decorated with gorgeous frescoes.

Scanning and digitization work conducted by NTT DATA Italia
Scanning was carefully carried out over three days using two 3D laser scanners and a digital camera by NTT DATA Italia, which has broad expertise in XR technology. The total number of photos taken was about 600, and working in a very delicate space inside the tall building, the photography professionals gave great care and attention to how to light the objects to be scanned.

Processing for public viewing and long-term preservation
The scanned data was optimized for display at Expo 2020 Dubai, and also processed for long-term storage and use in various applications. In addition to preparing data that can be viewed on websites, virtual applications, and other platforms, the goal is to preserve valuable cultural heritage information for future use in academic research and repair and restoration work.

For the exhibition at Expo 2020 Dubai, because visitors will not be able to use wearable devices such as VR goggles or headsets due to COVID-19, NTT DATA has created an environment where visitors can freely walk around and view the inside of the 3D model using only visitor’s hand movements.

Comments from Monsignor Cesare Pasini, Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, said, “We are very pleased to see that the digitization of the cultural treasures kept in the Library continues apace, thanks to the cooperation of NTT DATA. We believe that this continued digitization effort is of great importance for the preservation and dissemination of the cultural memory of Humanity, and sincerely hopes that the constructive collaboration between the Vatican Library and NTT Data will continue for a long time into the future.”