ISAW's Digital Antiquity Research Showcase 2017

The ISAW Library and Digital Programs hosted our latest installment of the Linked Ancient World Data Initiative New York (LAWDNY) series last month on Friday, April 14. The event, “Digital Antiquity Research Showcase 2017,” aimed to give the public a sense not only of the wide variety of digital work now going on at ISAW, but also of the way in which this work is increasingly integrated and interconnected both within ISAW and with colleagues, projects, and systems in the wider scholarly world.

We selected seven speakers from the extended ISAW community, including faculty, students, staff, and affiliated scholars, to present new digital work on linked data in bibliography, libraries, numismatics, and archaeology; imaging and modeling techniques for artifacts and exhibitions; and text tagging and analysis in historical languages. (A review of the presentations follows and a full list of speakers appears at the end of this news item.) Though each project was impressive in its own right, what was on display that day was as much ISAW’s approach to data and collaboration in the twenty-first century—connecting data, scholars, and departments—as the individual projects themselves.

At ISAW we have recently added to our capacity to forge these connections in various ways, not least with the addition of scholars like Patrick J. Burns, who is the ISAW Library Assistant Research Scholar for Special and Digital projects. Patrick not only works on a host of digital projects across ISAW, but he also helps us support teaching and training in digital approaches to research, teaching, and publishing. For example, Patrick was part of the team that taught ISAW’s first introductory graduate seminar in digital approaches to antiquity this year (Introduction to the Digital Humanities for the Ancient World), which introduced participants to basic methods in programming, text, mapping, modeling, and database design. Courses such as these aim to embed digital approaches into the working DNA of ISAW, creating a community that has a critical awareness of the role of machines and data in research, teaching, and communicating about the ancient world. (See, for example, recent workshops on Zotero, QGIS, and Pleiades.) Indeed, one of the aims of the ISAW approach is precisely to foster a digital “second nature,” or the habit of thinking beyond the immediate aims of any particular project towards an overarching scholarly culture of data, taking seriously our responsibility as scholars to curate and link the data we create, whether that is in the field, the lab, the classroom, the library, or the exhibition gallery, in a way that is both open and reusable.

Tom Elliott started the morning off with a discussion of the “scholarly graph” at ISAW, that is the way in which a collaborative research model and an investment in linked open data support a network of semantic relationships between us and the larger scholarly community. Sebastian Heath then presented his work on the use of this sort of semantic data in a specific research context, namely the site inventory of his dig at Kenchreai. Both presentations showed how integral digital resources and methods have become to the elaboration and communication of research at ISAW.

Two presentations during the afternoon session highlighted a different facet of integration. Gabriel Mckee talked his recent work in map-based discovery of new acquisitions at the ISAW Library and Rachel Herschman discussed the pedagogical and outreach value of digital sundial animations that ISAW Exhibitions designed for its recent show, “Time and Cosmos in Greco-Roman Antiquity.”

The remaining presentations at the “Showcase” focused on ongoing research within the ISAW community and our colleagues. Patrick reported on his computational and philological work for the Classical Language Toolkit as part of Google Summer of Code 2016. Emily Frank and Chantal Stein, graduate students at the Institute for Fine Arts Conservation program, demonstrated the impressive results of a project they undertook in an ISAW graduate seminar on modeling, showing how different scanning methods, such as multi-spectral imaging and reflectance transformation imaging, can be combined in a novel way to capture more robust visualizations of archaeological objects. Lastly, Peter van Alfen of the American Numismatic Society explored the challenges of present large amounts of open access numismatic data online, the result of a collaborative project with ISAW faculty and staff.

The Library and Digital Programs remain committed to supporting digital humanities research at ISAW. Presenting the works in progress of the faculty, staff, and students here is a priority, as our growing events schedule shows. So is bringing in colleagues who are doing innovative digital work that is of interest and value to the ISAW community. If you have questions about digital projects at ISAW or LAWDNY events, please email or .

The April 14 LAWDNY Digital Antiquity Research Showcase 2017 presentations:

  • Tom Elliott, "Extending the Scholarly Graph: Current Work in Linked Open Data and Digital Archiving for ISAW People, Places, Things, and Publications" 
  • Sebastian Heath, "Semantic Reasoning in an Archaeological Context"
  • Emily Frank & Chantal Stein, "Integrating Multi-Spectral Imaging, RTI, and Photogrammetry for Archaeological Objects"
  • Patrick J. Burns, "Backoff Tagging as a Philological Method"
  • Gabriel Mckee, "Mapping Library Metadata Using Pleiades"
  • Peter van Alfen, "Assembling Numismatic Data Online: Concepts, Collections, Hoards, and Statistics"
  • Rachel Herschman, "Animating Ancient Sundials for ISAW's Time and Cosmos Exhibition"
  • David M. Ratzan, Closing Remarks