Israel’s Declaration of Independence was photographed Tuesday using special technology, in an effort to preserve it for future generations. The initiative, undertaken jointly by the Israel State Archives and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), is meant to restore and reproduce a replica of the original scroll so future generations can see it how it was the day it was signed.
The photographic technology employed was developed specifically for preserving another significant cultural treasure: the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Declaration of Independence was signed on Friday, May 14, 1948, in Tel Aviv, at which time it was also read publicly to indicate the establishment of the State. Its text was hotly debated by the various groups coming together to establish the Jewish State of Israel, reaching its final version only the day of the signing.
Twelve of the thirty-seven signatories were unable to attend the official ceremony due to a siege on Jerusalem, and had to add their signatures a month later, in spaces left for them.
Time has affected the document, fading it in places and leaving parts illegible. Using multi-spectral photography, which shoots different exposures at a number of wavelengths – from the visible region to the near infrared region of the spectrum – the original texture of the document, as well as the faded sections, can be reproduced.
The technology itself was developed specifically for the preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, an ancient archive of Biblical and extra-Biblical texts named after the region where it was discovered. The Declaration of Independence was photographed at the Lunder Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Laboratory of the IAA.
Pnina Shor, director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at the IAA, said in a statement about the preservation, “With the unique technology we developed at the Israel Antiquities Authority together with the best scientists in the world, and generous assistance of the Leon Levy and Arcadia Foundations, we are happy to help not only in preserving the material heritage from the distant past but the recent cultural heritage as well.”
“It is exciting and symbolic to document the Declaration of Independence today, one of the cornerstones of the State of Israel, with technology developed specifically for the Dead Sea scrolls – the earliest Hebrew texts, two thousand years old, which were first discovered on the eve of the establishment of the state, at the time when the Declaration of Independence was written.”
The preservation of the Declaration is particularly complicated because it was written on different media (both paper and animal parchment were used) and with a variety of inks from different pens, reports The Times of Israel. However, Shor told the news outlet, it was the parchment that suggested to the team that the Dead Sea Scroll photographic system would be suitable for preserving the Declaration, too.
Dr. Yaacov Lozowick, the state archivist, noted that “Today the scroll is stored in an environment with special lighting and temperature conditions, in a secure and guarded facility of the Israel State Archives. Until a decision is made regarding how the scroll is to be exhibited to the public, we will continue performing various operations aimed at documenting, revealing and preserving the scroll for future generations. Today’s photography is another step in this process after last year when the archive, with the assistance of the Israel National Heritage – Landmarks program, digitally photographed the scroll in collaboration with Google.”