At the Start of a Digital Humanities Project:

Design and Early Implementation for the Pompeii Artistic Landscape Project (#PALP)

Sebastian Heath


The Pompeii Artistic Landscape Project (PALP) is a Getty Foundation funded effort jointly undertaken by the University of Massachusetts and ISAW to create a digital tool for exploring the art of Pompeii within its architectural and urban context. The project is at its very earliest stages so that this talk will both describe its goals along with the challenges we foresee and also describe the technical architecture that we intend to implement. Most broadly conceived, that architecture is known as a "graph database." This way of modeling data can emphasize relationships between entities. That capability is useful at Pompeii because the site very frequently preserves the context of the artworks that were displayed around the city prior to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Paintings are on walls, those walls define rooms, rooms combine together to form public and private buildings, those buildings not only have neighbors but are across streets from other buildings that in turn have rooms and walls that themselves bear art. PALP intends to make these relationships queryable and the talk will explore our progress to date. More generally, archaeologists and art historians who use and create databases of material culture are frequently interested in similar issues of grouping items and in hierarchically-organized vocabularies so that this talk will discuss the wider application of the graph data model and related technologies. While there is some risk that parts of this talk will seem technical, effort will be made to show how specific digital approaches can address scholarly research needs and so make complex datasets useable by wide audiences.

Sebastian Heath is Clinical Associate Professor of Computational Humanities and Roman Archaeology at ISAW. He has an A.B. from Brown University in Medieval Studies and received his Ph.D. in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. His research interests include Roman archaeology, Roman pottery, numismatics, and Digital Humanities with a focus on computational approaches to the study Mediterranean material culture. He is editor of ISAW Papers.

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