LAS VEGAS: Open source file formats are the only reliable way for humanity to preserve its history in the digital age, according to Vatican Library CIO Luciano Ammenti.
Ammenti made the argument during a press session at EMC World attended by V3, citing his experience digitising the Vatican's 82,000 manuscripts as proof.
"The Vatican Library is a conservation library. We try to preserve our history. We tried to expand the number of reading rooms available for people that want to use our library," he said.
"But we realised that reading rooms will never be enough. We have 82,000 manuscripts in total, and at any one time only 20 percent of them can be read in the library.
"To get round this over the last few years we've had a focus on conservation of the manuscripts [in digital form].
"The main question at the start of our project was which format to save the texts. We needed to make sure [people] could still read the digital files in 50 years' time."
Ammenti explained that, in order for the manuscripts to be readable, the Vatican Library opted for open source tools that do not require proprietary platforms, such as Microsoft Office, to be read.
"We save it as a picture as it's longer life than a file. You don't rely on PowerPoint or Word. In 50 years they can still just look at it," he said.
"Normally people try to use the TIFF format [when archiving]. This has several problems. It's not open source and it doesn't update. The last time was in 1998.
"On top of this it's 32-bit and not ready for 3D imaging, which limits the information it can preserve - what the script's made of etc. So instead we use the FITS format. FITS is open source, 64-bit, 3D ready and updated regularly. It gives all the information you need on the image."
He added that the Vatican Library has taken the same approach with its analytics and distribution model and is using EMC's ViPR technology combined with Hadoop and Semantic Web.
Ammenti's comments come just after EMC announced plans to release the source code of its ViPR Controller to the open source community.
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