Recent Pleiades Updates and Awards

By Tom Elliott

In a recent progress report submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities, I detailed a number of improvements that have been made since March 2016 to the Pleiades gazetteer of ancient places. These advances, summarized below, build on initial steps summarized in a preceding report. We have now completed the first of three years of work funded through the NEH grant announced in July 2015. I am also delighted to share, at the end of this article, news of an impending award.

The most obvious recent improvement to Pleiades is in the speed and stability of the web site itself. Software updates and refinements implemented by our subcontractor Jazkarta, Inc. have yielded a 400% speedup in page load timing. A number of long-standing site errors have also been eliminated, such that we can now boast a month-to-month site availability rate in excess of 99%. These performance improvements have been achieved while simultaneously reopening site access to the broad array of spiders, crawlers, bots, and other computational agents that update content in commercial search engines and for other scholarly projects around the world.

Pleiades contributors, reviewers, and editors are now also benefitting from user-driven refinements to submission and editorial interfaces and from better integration with external services. In particular, the point-and-click steps necessary to submit an update or new entry for review have been reduced and review lists and lookup forms have been tuned for more responsive performance. Contributors can now import complex spatial geometries (polylines and polygons) from OpenStreetMap where previously only single-point imports were supported. Contributors can also add bibliographic references simply by importing them from the Zotero citation management system where previously manual entry and formatting of references was required. Moreover, anyone who uses Zotero to manage their own bibliographies can now capture full citation data for any Pleiades page with a single mouse click.

Other improvements abound, to include user interface and search enhancements, as well as database modifications necessary to support the description of individual buildings and monuments and the creation of rich, documented relationships between places. Full details may be found in the September report.

Not long after submitting the report, I was contacted by staff at the Archaeological Institute of America with some delightful and unexpected news: Pleiades is to be named the 2017 recipient of the AIA's Award for Outstanding Work in Digital Archaeology. The Award is to be presented during the Joint AIA and Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting, which will be held in Toronto, Canada from January 5-8, 2017.  The citation of honor will be read at the Awards Ceremony on Friday, 6 January, and I have been asked to speak for several minutes at that occasion. I hope to see many Pleiades friends and participants at the Meetings and I look forward to sharing the dias with them all at the Awards ceremony.

All of the resources (placesnames, and locations, as well as help and other pages) in Pleiades are free and open to the public without login or other restriction. Publishing in Pleiades is open to all interested parties under terms of a Contributor's Agreement. More information is available on the "Participate in Pleiades" page