Badly damaged manuscripts sit on shelves in museum and library archives throughout the world, collecting dust while their potentially valuable contents remain locked away by their wrecked conditions. The Digital Restoration Initiative seeks to reveal the text hidden in these ancient treasures using “virtual unwrapping” software. This breakthrough technology takes a digital image of an unreadable manuscript and pushes it through a step-by-step computerized process that traces out the shape of the document, detects and overlays the writing on the document, and finally flattens the digitally recreated page so it can be read and analyzed. From the inner wraps of charred and carbonized scrolls to the fused and buckled pages of disintegrating books, the world’s vast invisible library can finally be made visible in a completely non-invasive, damage-free way.

A CT scan of the decayed 1st-century scroll fro En-Gedi. One can see all of the tightly wound rolls that lie within. The red outline identifies the particular “wrap” being rendered from the bottom up in the image on the right.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. IIS-0535003, IIS-1422039.