ISAW hosts second annual digital antiquity research workshop

By Patrick J. Burns

On Friday, Dec. 2, ISAW Libraries and Digital Programs hosted the Digital Antiquity Research Workshop. Building on ISAW's contribution to the Linked Ancient World Data Institute (LAWDI) meetings in 2012 and 2013, the workshop, now under the umbrella Linked Ancient World Data New York (LAWDNY), brought together faculty, students, and scholars for an informal all-day exchange of ideas on current digital work in ancient-world studies. This year's workshop proved to be as successful as its predecessors with over thirty people attending and featuring nine papers as well as a gallery tour. (The full list of speakers appears at the end of this news item.)

Emphasizing the workshop's social, collaborative environment, ISAW's Sebastian Heath welcomed participants with a reminder of the ways that technology can serve as a hub that brings scholars together. His joke that "our data should have lunch together" drew laughs from the crowd, but participants would likely agree that one of workshop's true benefits was the free flow of conversation that took place throughout the day, including over lunch.

The morning started with a pair of presentations on topics in digital pedagogy. John Muccigrosso, professor at Drew University and LAWDI alumnus, presented on developing a database of Roman temples and the challenges of working on a digital projects at a small liberal arts college. Dickinson College professor, Chris Francese, described the development of Chinese-language learning materials for classical languages, including the digitization of a rare 19th-century Latin-Chinese lexicon, for his project, Dickinson Classics Online.

A highlight of this year's workshop was a tour of ISAW's "Time and Cosmos in Greco-Roman Antiquity" exhibition. Participants arrived at the main gallery to see the collection of sundials, calendars, and zodiacs, but for this group the digital displays were the main attraction. Heath, who programmed several of the displays, illustrated the motion of sunlight moving across a sundial and described the challenges of translating this phenomenon into the digital animations and simulations that are available on tablets throughout the exhibition. The tour followed immediately upon a talk by ISAW graduate student, Christine Roughan, on designing a 3D model of the Tower of the Winds, an excellent example of ISAW's support for graduate education in Digital Humanities. Roughan was able to show the product of her 3D-modeling research off to workshop participants—the model is currently on view in the glass cases on the second floor outside the Oak Library.

Three papers followed on various digital approaches to cultural heritage. Gaia Lembi, project manager of Brown University's Inscription of Israel/Palestine database, Drew Wilburn, Oberlin professor and principal investigator of the Karanis Housing Project, and K. Goze Akoglu, a conservation scientist from Yale's Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, each discussed the ways in which they were using technology for the collection, preservation, and analysis of material culture and archaeological data.

The afternoon turned to digital philology with a pair of papers from graduate students, Caitlin Diddams of the University at Buffalo's Tesserae Project and Laure Thompson of Cornell University. Both showed how quantitative approaches to philological research can make available fresh readings of well-studied texts. Diddams used text analysis to reveal the stylistic “fingerprints” of Latin epic poets such as Virgil and Lucan, while Thompson deployed a different variety of text classification to distinguish historical from legendary oracles.

Gabriel McKee, ISAW's Librarian for Collections and Services, delivered the workshop's final presentation, highlighting his innovative use of linked data in the library catalog and development of map-based discovery system for books in the ISAW collection. The library's Digital and Special Projects Associate, Patrick J. Burns, closed the proceedings with some reflections on the global reach of local events like this workshop. As befits such a gathering, the papers presented in the Lecture Hall became the seeds of larger conversations online in the world on social media.

The annual digital research workshops are becoming an important part of the ISAW Library and Digital Program's efforts to support ISAW's commitment to a digital humanities program focused on the study of the ancient world study and capable of "training a new generation of scholars who will enter the global academic community and become intellectual leaders." These efforts also include our Introduction to Digital Humanities for the Ancient World course and instruction in new digital tools, like Zotero. We plan to continue adding more events to support the ISAW faculty and students and lead the push to incorporate digital methods in ancient world research.

The Dec. 2 LAWDNY Digital Antiquity Research Workshop speakers included:
John Muccigrosso (Drew), "Developing a Database of Roman Temples at a Small Liberal Arts School"
Chris Francese (Dickinson), "A Digital Latin-Chinese Dictionary"
Christine Roughan (ISAW), "Ancient Sundials in a Digital Light: Modeling the Tower of the Winds"
Gaia Lembi (Brown), "Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine"
Drew Wilburn (Oberlin), "Rapid Legacy Data Update and Preservation: A Toolkit for Bringing Old Data into the Modern Age"
K. Goze Akoglu (Yale), "CHER-Ob an open source Software for the Integrated Shared Platform for Cultural Heritage Experts"
Caitlin Diddams (Buffalo), "Comparative Bigram Frequencies of Latin Authors and the Classical Latin Corpus"
Laure Thompson (Cornell), "Measuring Oracular Authenticity: Distinguishing the Historical from the Legendary in the Oracles of Delphi"
Gabriel Mckee (ISAW), "The Map as a Search Box: Using Pleiades Data to Create a Browsable Geographic Library Catalog"
Patrick J. Burns (ISAW), "Scope and Variables in Digital Ancient World Study"