ISAW Library Participates in the Annual Conference of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations

By Patrick J. Burns

ISAW Librarian for Collections and Services, Gabriel Mckee, and I attended DH2017, the annual conference of the international Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations, held this year from August 7-12 at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. We participated in the Poster Session with a poster co-written with Head Librarian David Ratzan and Associate Director for Digital Programs Tom Elliott, entitled “Mapping Linked Data Subject Headings in the Library Catalog.” The poster presented ongoing development at the ISAW Library of a map-based browser of our holdings, a geographic representation of our catalog that serves as an alternative mode of discovery for our research community. Thanks to ISAW’s IT Support Administrator Kristen Soule, we also had working demonstrations of the browser available on iPads, which enabled us to show people how to get from the mapped collection to catalog entries and gazetteer references for ancient places. The poster was well received, with several conference attendees commenting on the immediate usefulness of the tool and remarking favorably on the development of a linked data application within the context of a library catalog. The demo is available here.

The poster brought together many threads of digital work at ISAW. Gabriel has been mapping our monthly New Titles for several months now and one of my recent projects has been figuring out how to scale this new approach to library catalog discovery to the entire collection. The project also makes extensive use of linked open data by embedding unique identifiers from the Pleiades ancient world gazetteer, a project for which Tom is a managing editor. As we reported in October, the Library of Congress recently approved the Pleiades gazetteer as a source for authoritative information about the names of ancient places because of Gabriel’s efforts. Lastly, the base map used in the browser was developed by our partners at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Ancient World Mapping Center.

An example from the browsable ISAW Library New Titles map

The DH2017 poster is an exciting development for the ISAW Library. Tom has presented on Pleiades and ancient world mapping at DH2009 and DH2011 and Sebastian Heath represented ISAW with a paper on digital materiality at DH2011, but this is ISAW Library’s first foray into the conference circuit. In fact, it is the Library’s first research presentation outside of ISAW and NYU Libraries. A key part of the ISAW Library's mission is to implement digital projects that improve access to and increase the discoverability of scholarship on the ancient world. We plan to present more of the work we do here to the larger scholarly world of academic librarians and related researchers, standing as representatives of the innovative digital work being done at ISAW.

Read more about Patrick's work and research on his profile page here.