Scriptorium - Ambitious project turned success

Scriptorium - Ambitious project turned success
Scriptorium in HTML5

This post was created on 12.3.2016.

More than four years ago, an ambition project started to materialize. Robotic scanners of 4DigitalBooks started to flip its way through massive amounts of pages. Archival disks started to spin and reading the archived scans made by Google and other other partners. The time has come to bring life to treasures safeguarded in Swiss Libraries.

Soon after, on 7th of December 2012, University Library of Lausanne (BCUL) publicly launched an ambitious project named Scriptorium. Its goal was straightforward: bring online centuries of all major newspapers and magazines that were published in canton of Vaud, which is home to city of Lausanne.

On that date, 250 years of printed history by a major newspaper 24Heures and its predecessors were published as a joint partnership project by Swiss National Library, Edipresse (Tamedia), Vaud Cantonal Archives and the City of Lausanne. At a time of launch, there were 1.319.204 pages and 2.4 billion words indexed.

Scriptorium in 2012

Scriptorium Flash interface launched in 2012

Launch date was an extreme success. Covered by media, it attracted thousands of visitors in first 24 hours, with peak usage being 1.973 simultaneous visitors. Visitors have searched 78.625 times and opened 15.343 issues during those first 24 hours.

All of that running on mere 2 servers ! Needless to say, launch was a tremendous success.

Scriptorium 2012 vs 2016

Over the years, Scriptorium project had a steady growth and today it holds 2.993.460 pages and over 5 billion words indexed. Scriptorium expanded its coverage and today covers 40 titles of serial publications, as well as some rare treasures of manuscripts. Today, we can search through periodicals starting in year 1732. This means we can search last 285 years of printed history, looking for any major event that happened in the world! From war between Turks and Persians in 1732, to Titanic sinking in 1912 and any other major event in history since or between.


Turks and Persians 1732    Titanic 1912

Statistically, we could say that Scriptorium is growing by an average of 1.410 pages per day.

During last year alone, there were 1,8 million searches done on the system, and over 760.000 objects opened.

Scriptorium's ambitions don't end here though. There are new materials imported regularly and the future looks bright.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors have been enjoying the benefits of this completely free-to-use project and it has served invaluable amount of precious information to them.

On 8th of March 2016, Scriptorium project switched to new version of MediaINFO Digital Library based on HTML5 technology. Starting this new era of enhanced experience, it will be able to cater visitors from smartphones and tablets, as well as serving new features and exiting options like social media integration.

Scriptorium in 2016

Scriptorium HTML5 interface in 2016

We often get questions about how big of a server farm is needed to run all of this. Our answer often astonishes once we reveal how effective the system is. Today, system resources are 30% smaller than during the launch, although the data has almost trippled. Today, new version of Scriptorium with HTML5 interface runs on a single virtual machine! This is how effective a talended group of developers can be if chasing the right dreams.

Special thanks to Mr. Silvio Corsini, a guardian of printed treasures at BCUL, whose vision and determination made this superlative project a success it is today and has pushed all of us involved in the project to improving and optimizing MediaINFO Digital Library platform and whole digitization process.

Saša Mutić