Artificial Intelligence is Cracking Open the Vatican’s Secret Archives

The Vatican Secret Archives is one of the grandest historical collections in the world. Located within the Vatican’s walls, next door to the Apostolic Library and just north of the Sistine Chapel, the VSA houses 53 linear miles of shelving dating back more than 12 centuries. It’s also one of the most useless. If you want to peruse anything else, you have to apply for special access, schlep all the way to Rome, and go through every page by hand. It isn’t much use to modern scholars, because it’s so inaccessible. However, thanks to modern technology, access is changing.

Known as In Codice Ratio, a new project uses a combination of artificial intelligence and optical-character-recognition (OCR) software to scour these neglected texts and make their transcripts available online for the very first time. If successful, the technology could also open up untold numbers of other documents at historical archives around the world.

While I doubt if access to the Vatican Secret Archives will help many genealogists, I wonder if the technology being developed will eventually drop in price and become commonplace. If so, it could become a fantastic future tool for genealogists who wish to search through all sorts of archives of the past few centuries!

You can read more about In Codice Ratio in an article by Sam Kean in The Atlantic web site at https://theatln.tc/2wv2Syt.

My thanks to newsletter reader Kyrsten Bell for telling me about the In Codice Ratio project.

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