Messina, UniMe “reveals” its book heritage to the city


By John

On the occasion of National University Dayestablished at the request of the CRUI, the University of Messina has opened its doors to the city by sharing its most precious book heritage and the initiatives that have contributed to enhancing it. The event took place in the context of “Unveiled Universities” – with the patronage of the MUR – a leitmotif that ideally united all the universities of the country who celebrated this anniversary with enthusiasm, so that it becomes an annual opportunity for connection between higher education and their respective territories.

Starting from 2015, the Peloritana University has undertaken an in-house digitization activity of its carefully surveyed volumes while, during 2023, an important outsourcing digitization project was started and concluded, coordinated by the University Library System which led to the acquisition of approximately 420,000 images relating to the most precious book heritage, for a total of approximately a thousand editions; most of them are already made freely available and accompanied by metadata drawn up according to the main international standards. The very high quality images (master files in TIFF format) were acquired using a latest generation planetary scanner, their conservation is guaranteed through the duplication method on external archive storage stored in different physical locations and on the cloud. Specifically, for the 2023 project, collections were selected which include rare and valuable specimens currently kept in various University libraries, but also numerous volumes from the ancient collection of the Reading Cabinet of Messina, whose entire book heritage was acquired by 'University during 2022. The work just completed is configured as a first stage of a more complex path, since it is hoped to digitize and make accessible further documents in the possession of the University, such as manuscripts, notices, leaflets, treasures from rediscover and disseminate.

The “Universities revealed” program kicked off in the Rectorate's Aula Magna with a video message from the Minister of University and Research, Hon. Anna Maria Bernini and with institutional greetings from the Rector, Prof. Giovanna Spatari which was followed by the interventions of the prof. Vincenzo Fera (formerly Professor of Medieval and Humanistic Philology at the Department of Ancient and Modern Civilisations), by prof. Caterina Malta (Teacher of Italian Literature belonging to the Department of Ancient and Modern Civilisations) and by Dr. Orazio Giubrone (Responsible for the ancient book heritage of the University Library System). Furthermore, a workshop entitled “From Gutenberg's invention to digital exhibition and illustration of ancient texts and documents” was held by the SBA UniMe.

“The University of Messina – said the Rector – enthusiastically welcomed this day strongly desired by the Conference of Rectors of Italian Universities and I would like to thank everyone present, in particular our students and the pupils of the fifth classes of the Maurolico and Flour. Unveiled Universities is an initiative open to the territory, during which each University chooses to reveal something about itself to its citizens and UniMe is very proud to reveal its book heritage. In various display cases you can find sixteenth-century books, incunabula, rare collections, Maurolico's volumes and also some letters by Pascoli which, together with many other books and manuscripts, have been the subject of painstaking in-house digitization work, with UniMe's own resources , by the University Library System. The objective of this important activity was to preserve the specimens, avoid manipulation and at the same time disseminate them to the public on digital platforms. We will continue to implement the project to make more and more valuable volumes, letters and texts accessible digitally, to become an even more integral and vital part of the territory and to tell our story to an increasingly wider audience.”

During subsequent interventions, Dr. Orazio Giubrone (Responsible for the ancient book heritage of the University Library System) described the various phases of the project for the digitization of the university book heritage – from the census to the dissemination of the specimens, also passing through their degree of conservation and the selection of suitable volumes to digitalization – while prof. Vincenzo Fera (former Professor of Medieval and Humanistic Philology, Department of Ancient and Modern Civilizations) and Prof. Caterina Malta (Teacher of Italian Literature belonging to the Department of Ancient and Modern Civilizations) have – respectively – undertaken a journey into manuscripts and ancient funds in the possession of the University of Messina and created a focus on some of the events and voices printed in black and white on some valuable letters, from Pascoli to Virgilio La Scola, also passing through the testimonies on the earthquake that violently struck the City of the Strait.

National University Day coincided with the International Day of Happiness, within Minerva Week in a period dedicated to the celebration of knowledge and education.