On Monday, Google and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem launched the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Project, a partnership that has made the oldest known biblical manuscripts available online for free. According to the project website, this joint undertaking gives users, "access to searchable, fast-loading, high-resolution images of the scrolls, as well as short explanatory videos and background information on the texts and their history. " As of Monday, the project had made five complete scrolls accessible: the Great Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule Scroll, the Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll, the Temple Scroll, and the War Scroll.
In addition to providing search and translation tools, the project gives users a superior visual experience as well. Through the use of high resolution digital photography, it allows users--who may be directed to the scrolls from Google searches--to magnify the images and gain details invisible to the naked eye. The 1200 mega pixel images were shot by photographer Ardon Bar-Hama, who used UV-protected flash tubes with an exposure of 1/4000th of a second in an effort to minimize damage to the documents.
James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum, said that by partnering with Google, his organization was able to bring their historical treasures to the "broadest possible public." The ongoing and collaborative project--which allows site visitors to submit their own translations--is yet another example of the reach and scope of the Internet.