A few decades ago, a chance discovery by a wandering Bedouin brought the Dead Sea Scrolls out of the caves near Khirbet Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea and eventually to the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to be viewed by a few lucky souls. Today, design brings several of the Scrolls to the internet and the world via the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls project and website.
Funded by George Blumenthal and the Center for Online Judaic Studies, the Israel Museum and Google R&D in Israel set out to develop a means for “people around the world [to] enhance their knowledge and understanding of key historical events by accessing documents and collections online.”(1) More information on the project and project partners is available at http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/project. The scrolls currently available for viewing are:
- 1. Great Isaiah Scroll
- 2. War Scroll
- 3. Temple Scroll
- 4. Community Rule Scroll
- 5. Commentary on the Habakkuk Scroll
Of course, the Scrolls have been meticulously digitized using tools and methods that provide the highest quality digital surrogates and minimize potential damage to these invaluable and fragile artifacts. In addition, the online display of the Scrolls provides pop-up English language translations of each section of text with references to the chapter and verse of the text. Viewers may also contribute their own translations in any language. The display tool also allows viewers to magnify the text for minute examination. Finally, and my favorite feature, the display has been built so the viewer can interactively unroll the scrolls.
All of the above give the viewers an extraordinary experience with the Scrolls, whether s/he is a biblical or historical scholar, a casual observer, or a digital humanities or user experience practitioner. This project is an example of how to do things right!
1.Professor Yossi Matias, Managing Director of Google’s R&D Center in Israel