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Film, Video From Decayed Parchment to 'Bit Rot' -- Challenges in Digitizing Archimedes

About this Item


  • From Decayed Parchment to 'Bit Rot' -- Challenges in Digitizing Archimedes


  • The Archimedes Palimpsest, written in Constantinople in the 10th century, contains seven of the Greek mathematician's treatises. It is the only surviving copy of "On Floating Bodies" in the original Greek and the unique source for the "Method of Mechanical Theorems and Stomachion." In the 13th century, the manuscript was taken apart, the Archimedes text scraped off, and the parchment reused. In 1906, the undertext was recognized as containing previously unknown works by Archimedes. Since 1999, intense efforts have been made to retrieve the original text using advanced imaging techniques. On October 29, 2008 all images and data from the Archimedes Palimpsest were released to the public. Archimedes Palimpsest Program Manager Michael Toth, and Data Manager Doug Emery will discuss the use of digital multi- and hyperspectral imaging, metadata, and data encoding and access to provide standardized data as effective tools for scientists, researchers, preservation experts and information managers. They will also discuss how the program sought to address the "bit rot" problem in ensuring the digital data will be available in useful form for years to come. This includes application of input and feedback from conservators, preservation specialists, scientists, IT professionals, NASA, and data encoding specialists. This approach to data management and associated issues addresses the challenges faced by libraries, archives and museums in the current IT environment. This presentation will discuss the full scope of requirements addressed in applying advanced spectral imaging techniques to this program. This includes integration of the imaging system and data acquisition process to collect high-resolution spectral images for advanced data processing, research and scientific studies. It will include details on the collection and management of the data, and the encoding of the metadata in a standardized format. The data is freely available under a Creative Commons license for the development of GUI's and applications linking the spatially aligned images and transcriptions.

Event Date

  • January 22, 2009


  • -  Doug Emery, Emery IT, is the data manager responsible for the image metadata collection, data storage and distribution for the Archimedes Palimpsest and other projects. His educational background is in ancient cultures and languages, but for the past several years he has worked as a programmer and database administrator in academics and private industry. Doug brings professional expertise in data management, as well as an understanding of the issues involved in working with ancient manuscripts as a freelance computer consultant.
  • -  Michael B. Toth, R.B. Toth Associates, has been the program manager and systems integrator for the Archimedes Palimpsest Program since 1999, with a range of experience in other cultural preservation and U.S. government technical programs. He provides management, systems integration and strategic planning for the study, preservation and display of cultural objects for museums and libraries.

Running Time

  • 55 minutes 19 seconds

Online Format

  • video
  • image

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Credit Line: Library of Congress

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Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

From Decayed Parchment to 'Bit Rot' -- Challenges in Digitizing Archimedes. 2009. Video.

APA citation style:

(2009) From Decayed Parchment to 'Bit Rot' -- Challenges in Digitizing Archimedes. [Video] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

From Decayed Parchment to 'Bit Rot' -- Challenges in Digitizing Archimedes. 2009. Video. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.