The ISAW Library has made the metadata describing items in the Ancient World Digital Library (AWDL) available to other libraries and institutions, so that open access items in AWDL be made more discoverable and accessible to the wider scholarly public.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made everyone increasingly aware of access to digital research materials. Never has this been more important to own user community at ISAW or to other libraries and institutions that serve the wider academic and scholarly community. For this reason, the ISAW Library has worked during the pandemic to clean up the metadata describing items in the Ancient World Digital Library (AWDL), so that the bibliographic records can be shared and the items in AWDL be made more discoverable and accessible to the wider scholarly public.
Over the last year the ISAW Library has received several requests from various domestic and international libraries, asking that we share metadata for AWDL. Sharing this metadata with other libraries enables materials in AWDL to be searchable and findable in the catalogs of other institutions. Gabriel Mckee and Jasmine Smith of the ISAW Library have been working closely with colleagues in the NYU Division of Libraries, Metadata Librarian Alexandra Provo and Workflow Automation Analyst JooHwi Kim, to make the catalog records and title lists available. Our MARC records can be accessed via OCLC WorldShare by institutions who have a WorldShare account.
We are also committed to making metadata available to institutions not affiliated with OCLC: NISO KBART title lists are available to anyone or any institution upon request. These title lists include basic metadata and a stable link to the digital item. In the near future, we hope to make these records and metadata files available to the public on a Github repository — stay tuned!
For any inquiries related to acquiring records from the Ancient World Digital Library, please email ISAW-Library@nyu.edu. For questions about the records for other NYU digital collections, please email Alex Provo.
The Hieratic Search Tool will be a web-based digital version of Möller’s Hieratic Palaeography (Hieratische Paläographie ), enabling students and scholars to search for hieratic signs (a form of Egyptian hieroglyphic writing) according to various criteria, including sign shape.
The project, which will make the tool publicly available online, is also collaborating with theProjekt Altägyptische Kursivschriften (directed by Prof. Dr. Ursula Verhoeven-van Elsbergen, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz). For more information about study of hieratic and the tool, see this project description.
The successful candidate will collaborate with Dr. Christian Casey of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World to develop a web frontend for a larger (Python-Django) database application. Applicants have relevant experience in developing web-based user interfaces and data visualizations. Preference will be given to current undergraduate students with a background in Computer Science/Engineering. Candidates must reside, and be legally authorized to work, in the United States. All work will be done remotely.
Hours & Compensation
Work will begin as soon as an appropriate candidate is hired in the Spring 2021 term. The position may stretch into the summer of 2021 as necessary.
The application deadline is March 31, 2021, with review of applications to begin immediately.
How to Apply
Applicants should send a CV and a short (one-page) cover-letter describing your education/experience and interest in the position to email@example.com. In your letter, please include a list of web-accessible past projects with links to those projects.
By Christian Casey, CLIR postdoctoral fellow at the ISAW Library, which is publishing today a new interactive, map-based visualization of its collection based on a newly redesigned database of bibliographic items tagged with Pleiades IDs, linked open data URIs for ancient places. In addition to the new visualization, the ISAW Library is also publishing the underlying data set, which now comprises over 4,000 curated bibliographic records in ancient studies, as well as the machine-learning algorithm that programmatically performs the initial assignment of Pleiades IDs to raw bibliographic records.
Once upon a time (June 2009), researchers at Google created a tool called Fusion Tables. Fusion Tables represented an almost utopian use scenario for cloud resources. They allowed anyone with a dataset to upload it into a database for free, link it to other tables uploaded by other people, and generate visualizations directly from their data. This service eliminated millions of person-hours of redundant work. Nearly everyone with a dataset sophisticated enough to be worth looking at needs to visualize that data at some point. Fusion Tables made it possible to generate visualizations at the click of a button.
But what does this have to do with the ISAW Library?
Well, Fusion Tables made it easy for us to generate a map (built on the Google Maps framework) of all the items received every month using a single column of longitude and latitude data derived from Pleiades that we assigned to each book or journal. Because ISAW comprises researchers who study disparate parts of the ancient world, not everyone needs to know about every book in our library. What if you just wanted to see what we held about sites in Egypt or Central Asia or northern Germany? The ability to generate maps that provided an intuitive, visual grouping of newly-acquired books provided a simple solution to the problem of empowering our users to get the information they wanted in the richest and quickest way possible.
Our initial efforts with the New Titles mapping project were a success, and in 2019 Gabriel Mckee, ISAW’s Librarian for Collections and Services, published a paper on the project in the journal Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL). At a time when libraries are exploring practical methods of integrating semantic web technology into our systems, we intended this project as an early example of how libraries can leverage the work done by open linked data projects like Pleiades. Geospatial search is only one example of how linked data can enhance the user experience and encourage resource discovery, and over a dozen institutions, including NYU, are now participating in a pilot project to explore methods of integrating linked data URIs into their cataloging workflows.
Unfortunately, and as with all good things, Fusion Tables came to an end, going offline in December of 2020. This meant that, in order to continue to develop this project, we would need to “roll our own” database and map interface based on a loose collection of data that had previously been sufficient for Google’s large-scale, highly-robust data processing system. Our version does not need to be quite as sophisticated as Google’s, of course, but it does need to work reliably in order to be used by the communities interested in geographically linked bibliographic data, whether that is an ISAW researcher browsing our new titles or someone looking to reuse our entire data set (now over 4,000 items) for their own project (more on this below). Building such a system became a journey of discovery, in which this author learned many useful things about building web applications.
Making a map based on a database seems easy enough on paper, but it is not a simple operation in practice. Creating such a feature from scratch requires: a database; a backend app to query data from that database; and a front-end interface with a map package that displays the data. All parts must be connected to each other via the internet and be hosted and served by a third-party hosting service. Large-scale projects of this sort are generally created by teams of specialists, but at the ISAW Library, we have only ourselves, and the scale of the New Titles map project does not warrant hiring an expensive team of developers to build a full-scale web application. The silver lining is that this project not only fulfilled its original objective of providing a graphic, geographical access point and interface to search our books, but it also generated valuable datasets which will support further research into the geographic features of books in ancient studies more widely (or at least the areas in which ISAW collects). Also, and just as importantly, building it ourselves enables us to dive in and learn more than we could in any other way.
How does it work?
While cataloging new items for our collection, the ISAW Library’s staff adds geographic subject headings. Although this is a standard part of library resource cataloging, we take several extra steps: first, we provide greater specificity than many other libraries would, identifying specific sites rather than countries or provinces for minor archaeological sites. Second, we will apply general geographic headings on titles that other libraries may not treat geographically–for example, identifying Egypt as the geographic subject of general works on papyrology. Third, wherever possible, we include open linked data URIs for geographic places from Pleiades and the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN). Where necessary and appropriate, we will create new Pleiades headings for as-yet unlisted ancient places or sites to include in our cataloging.
At the end of the month, NYU’s Division of Libraries department of Data Analysis & Integration sends us a report of everything added to the collection that month, including URIs and other bibliographic data. From these reports, we generate HTML lists and a Zotero library (another open linked data project). These data also provide a convenient and straightforward training dataset for classifying each book’s subject area. That is, using the geographic data, a machine learning algorithm reliably groups books into general subjects that are useful to ISAW researchers. We then use the geographic URIs in the bibliographic report to assign coordinates for the subject of every title for which geographic representation makes sense. (Currently, this is done through retrieving coordinates from a separate, curated database of places from Pleaides, the TGN, and Wikidata– though we hope that a future version of the map may employ a true linked-data retrieval of coordinates from those data sources.)
First, we changed the location markers to a set of highly-accessible and colorful symbols (note the legend on the left of the map).
Second, coding our own interface allowed us to create a new feature in which entries in the list are linked to markers in the map and vice versa. Clicking a location on the map scrolls the list below the map to the proper entry. Clicking entries in the list zooms the map to that book’s specific location. This interaction between map and entry list allows for easier exploration by scholars seeking books related to their area of expertise.
The interface also groups entries in nearby geographic regions, allowing any visitor to see at a glance how much new material is available in their area of study. The regional grouping and expansion behavior was specifically designed to be as intuitive as easy to use as possible, while also addressing the risks of information overload when large quantities of materials pertain to similar geographic areas.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the database generated for this project represents a pioneering step forward—a link between books and the specifically ancient geographic areas they cover. This dataset, which now contains over 4,000 entries, can be used to train machine-learning algorithms to add helpful data about other books. For instance, we have already used these data to create an algorithm that assigns subject categories based on geographic information found in book titles. But there is no reason to use our map: you can make your own, or do whatever you want with the data and our machine-learning algorithm, since we are publishing both here on GitHub:
The Forum for Classics, Libraries, and Scholarly Communications (FCLSC) post the recording of a discussion (Jan. , 2021) with Barbara Rockenbach (Yale) and Simon Neame (UMass, Amherst) about “The New Normal for Academic Libraries in a Post-Pandemic World”
The meeting was the first to be held virtually for the FCLSC and was the one of the best attended on record, as many participants were able to attend who would not have made the trip to Chicago, the location for the meeting before the SCS and AIA made the decision in June 2020 not to hold a physical convention. Nearly 70 members attended the business meeting in the first hour and over 150 people attended the second hour, a discussion between Barbara Rockenbach, Stephen F. Gates ’68 University Librarian at Yale University, and Simon Neame, Dean of Libraries at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, about the future of academic and research libraries in the wake of the pandemic experience.
The FCLSC is now making a recording of this discussion, The New Normal for Academic Libraries in a Post-Pandemic World, available via NYU Stream (https://stream.nyu.edu/media/1_npqwq54w) and to the general public on Youtube (https://youtu.be/OkPuAhR3OgY). The recording has been captioned and is published with the express consent of all speakers and the FCLSC.
The meeting was the first to be held virtually for the FCLSC and was the one of the best attended on record, as many were able to attend who would not have made the trip to Chicago, the location for the meeting before the SCS and AIA made the decision in June 2020 not to hold a physical convention. Nearly 70 members attended the business meeting in the first hour and over 150 people attended the second hour, a discussion between Barbara Rockenbach, Stephen F. Gates ’68 University Librarian at Yale University, and Simon Neame, Dean of Libraries at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, about the future of academic and research libraries in the wake of the pandemic experience.
During the business meeting, the FCLSC held its officer elections, electing Jeremy Ott as Chair and Megan Daly as Secretary, both to two-year terms, starting January 2021.
Jeremy Ott is an Associate Librarian of Classics and Germanic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He studied Classics at Wabash College, and received his Ph.D. in Art History and Archaeology at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. Before coming to UC Berkeley in 2015, he worked in a variety of libraries and archives at institutions including the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, the American Research Center in Sofia, and NYU. He is active in the American Library Association and serves on the steering committee of the German-North American Resources Partnership (Center for Research Libraries). In his nomination statement he pledged to help the FCLSC build on its long-term strengths and to explore new ways to be of greater relevance to the large number of schools not currently reflected within FCLSC membership, and which may be facing particularly acute challenges at this time.
Megan Daly has been an Assistant Librarian of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion at the University of Florida for three and a half years. Before taking on this role she earned her Ph.D. in Classics from the University of Florida and taught at the University of North Florida while working on a grant-funded project focused on increasing access to Latin and Greek rare books. She looks forward to collaborating on the various projects of the FCLSC.
The FCLSC extends its congratulations to Jeremy and Megan on their election and its thanks to the outgoing Chair David M. Ratzan and Secretary Rebecca Stuhr for their service over the past two years.
The Forum for Classics, Libraries, and Scholarly Communications (FCLSC), an affiliated interest group of the Society for Classical Studies, is sponsoring Ancient MakerSpaces 2021 at the SCS/AIA Annual Meeting on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 from 9am to 3pm CST.
Ancient MakerSpaces is an all-day “workshop” meant to bring attention to projects working at the intersection of Digital Humanities and ancient world studies. Almost all research, scholarly communication, and teaching in ancient studies today bears the imprint of digital technology in some way, yet the growing number of projects and the rapid rate of technological development combine to present a distinct challenge for scholars who are interested in taking advantage of these advances. Since 2017 AMS has been a space at the SCS/AIA annual meeting for students and scholars to interact with experienced digital humanists presenting on and demonstrating a variety of digital techniques and digital projects of broad application for teaching, research and publication. AMS2021 runs from 9:00am until 3:00pm on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021.
AMS2021 organizers Aaron Hershkowitz (Institute for Advanced Study), Rachel Starry (UC Riverside), and Natalie Susmann (MIT) have done an incredible job in this challenging year to bring a full and varied line up to the 2021 Annual Meeting. AMS2021 is broken up into three thematic sessions: Interdisciplinary Digital Methodologies (9:00-10:35 CST), Pedagogy and Public Digital Scholarship (10:45-12:15 CST), and Digital Scholarship and the Ancient World: Current Challenges and Future Questions (1:15-2:10 CST). The full schedule appears at the end of this announcement.
This year the format will be slightly altered from that of past iterations of AMS, in order to accommodate the virtual setting of the meeting. Each of the morning sessions will start with presentations, which are made up of 5-minute lightning talks and 10-minute introductions to active demonstration projects. After a brief break there will be a Q&A and discussion period for all of the presentations in that session. The final portion of each morning session will be dedicated to project demonstrations. During this time breakout rooms dedicated to each of the demonstrations will be opened so that presenters can lead audience members through the use of their resource or project while answering questions.
The first afternoon session (Digital Scholarship and the Ancient World: Current Challenges and Future Questions: 1:15-2:10 CST)will begin with a recap of the morning session followed by three additional presentations and a Q&A period for those presentations. The programmed portion of AMS 2021 will conclude with a discussion of the themes that have emerged over the course of the day as well as of some pressing topics and questions in the digital scholarship of the ancient world, led by the AMS organizers.
The final afternoon session is designed to stand in for a coffee hour planned for the in-person meeting. The goal for the “digital coffee hour” is to provide a venue for small group discussion and networking. The format is designed to be flexible and respond to participant interest, and could consist of breakout rooms, a large group discussion, or some mix of the two.
If you have never been to AMS — and even if you have, everything is different this year! — here are a few answers to FAQ you may have:
You must be registered for the AIA/SCS meeting to attend AMS, but there is no separate registration required for AMS itself. You can join the AMS session at any time through the conference platform.
You do not need to stay for the whole event: please come and go as you please. Just bear in mind that the separation of presentations from Q&A and demonstrations may make it helpful to stay for the entirety of a particular session, even if your interest is mostly in one project or presentation.
No previous experience with Digital Humanities is necessary to participate—we welcome everyone who is interested in or curious about this fast-growing area.
Both morning sessions will have Breakouts to allow for more in-depth demonstration, discussion, and Q&A for showcased projects.
Participants are encouraged to use the AIA/SCS conference hashtag #AIASCS or the AMS hashtag #AncMakers on social media, and AMS organizers will be watching the #AncMakers tag for questions to bring into discussion sessions. However, please respect presenters’ wishes if they indicate that they do not want their talk tweeted.
The first AMS workshop was a collaboration of David M. Ratzan and Patrick Burns at the 2017 SCS/AIA meeting. At the 2020 SCS/AIA Annual Meeting the FCLSC voted to become the sponsoring body for the workshop and AMS2021 is the first organized under its aegis. Schedules and descriptions of previous AMS workshops may be found here: AMS 2017 / AMS 2018 / AMS 2019.
Morning Session 1: “Interdisciplinary Digital Methodologies” (9:00-10:35am CST)
(9:05am) AMS Welcome + “Digital Epigraphy for the Blind” (Aaron Hershkowitz, The Institute for Advanced Study)
(9:15am) “The Virtual Garden: Didactic Reconstruction and Extended Experientiality in the Villa of Livia Frescoes” (Nicholas Plank, Indiana University; David Massey, Indiana University; Matthew Brennan, Indiana University)
(9:20am) “Digital Survey and Mapping with Google Earth: Land Transport of Quarried Stone for Temple Construction at Selinunte, Sicily in the Archaic and Classical Periods” (Andrea Samz-Pustol, Bryn Mawr College)
(9:25am) “Mapping Victory Networks in the Ancient Mediterranean” (Molly Kuchler, Bryn Mawr College)
(9:30am) Demonstration: “Shedding Light and Spilling Oil: Forgery, Identification, and Provenance Determination of Ceramic Artifacts through the Case Study of the CLARC Collection Oil Lamps” (Savannah Bishop, Brandeis University)
(9:40am) Demonstration: “Reconstructing Cultural Transmission and Evolution through Genetic Models” (Anne-Catherine Schaaf, College of the Holy Cross; Augusta Holyfield, College of the Holy Cross; Natalie DiMattia, College of the Holy Cross; Luke Giuntoli, College of the Holy Cross; Sophia Sarro, College of the Holy Cross)
(9:50am) short break
(9:55am) Q&A and Breakout Project Demos for Morning Session #1
Morning Session 2: “Pedagogy and Public Digital Scholarship” (10:45am-12:15pm CST)
(10:45am) Recap of Morning Session #1 + “Hands-on Digital Archaeology in the Classroom” (Natalie Susmann, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
(11:00am) “From Digging to Digital: Preserving and Displaying the Past” (Ivo van der Graaff, University of New Hampshire; Otto Luna, University of New Hampshire)
(11:05am) “Printing the Past: A Hands-on Workshop for STEP Students Integrating Classical Studies with 3D-Printing Technology” (Angela Commito, Union College; Sean Tennant, Union College)
(11:10am) Demonstration: “Trapezites: An Ancient Currency Conversion Website” (Giuseppe Carlo Castellano, University of Texas at Austin)
(11:20am) Demonstration: “ToposText: Assembling a Public Digital Toolkit for Greco-Roman Antiquity” (Brady Kiesling, ToposText)
(11:30am) short break
(11:35am) Q&A and Breakout Project Demos for Morning Session #2
Midday Break (12:15-1:15pm CST)
Afternoon Session: “Digital Scholarship and the Ancient World: Current Challenges and Future Questions” (1:15-2:10pm CST)
(1:15pm) Recap of Morning Session #2 + “The Digital Archaeology Toolkit” (Rachel Starry, University of California, Riverside)
On Jan. 3, 2021 between 4-5pm CST Carolyn Laferrière will moderate a panel discussion about digital archaeology. Hear from team members from Peopling the Past, Digital Hammurabi, and Everyday Orientalism. You may register here: https://www.archaeological.org/event/society-sunday/
Digital Hammurabi is a public outreach/digital humanities project that aims to provide reliable, accurate information about the Ancient Near East and surrounding areas in an entertaining and engaging fashion. Resources about the Ancient Near East are few and far between, and often filled with misinformation. Digital Hammurabi tries to fill that need through interviews with researchers, and educational videos, as well as self-published books aimed at a non-specialist audience.
Panelists: Megan Lewis and Joshua Bowen.
Peopling the Pastis a Digital Humanities initiative that hosts free, open-access resources for teaching and learning about real people in the ancient world and the people who study them.
Panelist: Christine Johnston. Peopling the Past Team: Carolyn M. Laferriere, Chelsea A.M. Gardner, Christine Johnston, Megan Daniels, Melissa Funke and Sabrina C. Higgins.
Everyday Orientalism is a platform for discussing and challenging the ways in which western history and power have shaped people’s views of the Middle East and other non-western cultures.
Panelists: Katherine Blouin and Rachel Mairns. Everyday Orientalism team: Katherine Blouin, Usama Ali Gad, and Rachel Mairns
The Forum for Classics, Libraries, and Scholarly Communications will be holding its annual meeting on Jan. 5, 12-2pm CST, as part of the AIA/SCS Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL. As with the rest of the meeting, this will be a virtual session on Zoom. The meeting is open and free: you do not need to register with either the SCS or the AIA to attend. Please circulate the agenda to all interested colleagues. The zoom link and password are included in the agenda.
The second half of the meeting will be given over to a special presentation. All are invited to attend.
The New Normal for Academic Libraries in a Post-Pandemic World (1:00-2:00pm CST)
Presentation by Barbara Rockenbach, University Librarian, Yale University
Response by Simon Neame, Dean of Libraries, UMass Amherst
Barbara Rockenbach will present her view of what lasting changes to academic and research libraries will follow in the wake of the pandemic experience in higher education, with a special focus on the humanities and comparatively small fields, like classics and archaeology. Simon Neame will respond with comments and reflections as to the future of academic libraries at public institutions in a post-pandemic world. The presentations will be followed by Q & A with the presenters.
With the spread of Covid-19, institutions related to the study of antiquity are finding new and creative ways to continue to engage with their communities and wider audiences.
Most institutions are of course turning to technology to create virtual events and experiences that users can enjoy from wherever they are so long as they have an internet connection. These include virtual conferences, museum exhibits, and even virtual tours of ancient places. The ISAW Library staff have attended various virtual events. For instance, the annual meetings of the Association of Ancient Historians and the American Research Center in Egypt were both migrated to an online platform. We have assembled a brief list of free, open to the public, upcoming or current virtual events and experiences that have been brought to our attention:
Making the study of ancient papyri self-sustainable:we are on the right track
In the last six months, $162,523 have been raised towards making papyri.info self-sustainable! This is more than 6.5% of the 2.5 million dollars we need to secure the future of a tool used daily by scholars, students, and members of the general public from all over the world.
Papyrology is the science of deciphering and interpreting the books and documents—hundreds of thousands of them—preserved from the ancient world. The bulk of this material was written on papyrus and was found in Egypt; the main language of the texts is Greek, but Egyptian, Arabic, Latin, and other languages are also represented. It is no exaggeration to say that the our knowledge of the culture and history of the ancient Mediterranean would be staggeringly diminished without the contributions of papyrology.
Reconstructing time-worn texts, often in scripts that would make for challenging reading even if perfectly preserved and written in one’s own language, is slow and difficult work. The advent of powerful computer tools has transformed this work and accelerated discovery, even permitting research that was once considered impossible. The most important of these tools is papyri.info, a resource that runs largely on the good will and spare time of its users and lacks any sort of permanent support. This is hardly a sustainable model for a project that has become so crucial for our understanding of the ancient world.
Reading new papyri brings exciting discoveries on a daily basis, and it requires the involvement of scholars with very particular skills. Without the proper tools, however, papyrologists cannot go very far. In the age of digital resources, they rely on several important databases, of which papyri.info is indisputably the central element. Although individual papyrologists can help maintain the database, papyri.info must still be monitored on a daily basis, and for this we need a stable position.
Recognizing the risk to future scholarship, the Association Internationale de Papyrologues (AIP) and the American Association of Papyrologists (ASP) launched an endowment campaign in November 2019, with the aim of raising 2.5 million to create a permanent support position for papyri.info. Individual scholars and foundations have generously responded to this call: $162,523 (6.5% of our goal) have already been secured, and altogether $512,500 (20.50%) have been pledged. Several partners have also provided their support.
The current Covid-19 pandemic has only served to emphasize the importance of digital tools for scholarship. Within a matter of days, most of us lost all access to libraries and became almost totally dependent on the internet. The crisis should spur us to redouble our efforts to support those resources that are essential for humanities research and help us make sense of the present world by understanding past ones. papyri.info is one such tool, and we hope that we can count on your support to ensure its longevity.
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