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Last updated: 12.04.12

Vatican and Oxford to make ancient texts open for online learning

People taking part in distance learning courses will soon be able to benefit from the collaboration between the Vatican's Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (BAV) and Oxford University's Bodleian libraries to digitise ancient books.

These scripts will be publically available for online learning and will be categorised under three different subjects - Hebrew manuscripts and early printed books, 15th-century writings and Greek texts.

A £2 million award from the Polonsky Foundation made this initiative possible.

Founder of this organisation Dr Leonard Polonsky had previously expressed his support for the digitisation efforts of the Bodleian library.

He said: "21st-century technology provides the opportunity for collaborations between cultural institutions in the way they manage, disseminate and make available for research the information, knowledge and expertise they hold."

The partnership between the Vatican and Oxford University was recently strengthened with assistance from the Bodleian's Centre for the Study of the Book and the initiative should build on the institutions' relationships with each other.

Approximately two-thirds of all the text will originate from the BAV, with the Bodleian providing the rest.

It has been forecast that the creation of the virtual learning environment will take four years and when it has been completed, an estimated 1.5 million pages will have been digitised.

Prefect of the Vatican Library Monsignor Cesare Pasini said the joint scheme will enable both institutions to provide a benefit to culture and science.

Participating represents a "great step forward in the Vatican Library's entry into the digital age", he argued.

Lord Patten of Barnes, chancellor of the University of Oxford, remarked: "By making these collections available online we give the wider public access to a small but significant part of the world's heritage."

The educational institution was also recently recognised by UK intelligence agency the Government Communication Headquarters as an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research, indicating its e-learning environment will be particularly secure.