High School Students Aiding in Centuries Old Archives

MARA Blog

Published: September 16, 2019 by Kenna Wulker

Deep within the Vatican is a highly secretive archive containing centuries of documents, decrees and correspondence. The archival collection has remained largely untouched and public access shut off. However, in a massive attempt at increasing accessibility, high school students are aiding artificial intelligence in digitizing these collections.

A Collaborative Project

A large majority of these archives are handwritten in ancient Latin, therefore providing a host of issues when utilizing artificial intelligence to digitize them. Marco Maiorino, a paleographer states that it’s even difficult for a human expert to distinguish between each letter and interpretation of handwriting. Enter 600 high school students…

Hundreds of high school students are working to “teach” the computer software how to distinguish between each letter for the handwritten Latin. When the document is scanned, students are able to highlight the letters and from there, the computer learns the distinction. Paolo Merialdo, a professor from Roma Tre University described the students’ work as a type of “Google Translate”. When completed, the archives will be digitized and searchable, allowing greater access beyond the Vatican.

To learn more about his ongoing project, click here.

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