Pleiades Receives Major Grant

By Tom Elliott

At the end of July, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced the award of a $322,615 grant for major upgrades and improvements to the Pleiades gazetteer of ancient places. Hosted and operated by ISAW in collaboration with the Ancient World Mapping Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Pleiades provides free and open access to the most comprehensive geospatial dataset for antiquity available today. It serves as an indispensable component of at least 40 other important digital humanities projects, ranging from online editions of primary sources for students to expert systems supporting advanced research in fields like archaeology, epigraphy, and numismatics. It also constitutes a core resource for classroom activities — at ISAW and beyond  focused on ancient geography.

Over the next three years, ISAW will use these funds to retool the software that now underpins Pleiades to provide consistently faster performance, to make it easy to use with tablet and mobile devices, and to accelerate  and enable support for the broader ancient and early medieval worlds. Additional enhancements will make it easier for us to expand Pleiades content in a manner consistent with ISAW's connective and comparative mission: extending cultural and geographic coverage to the Ancient Near East and Central Asia and temporal coverage through the Byzantine and Early Islamic Empires. The software upgrades will build on existing collaborations with the Pelagios network and the Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing. Data sharing agreements with The Syriac Gazetteeral-Thurayyā GazetteerThe Early Islamic Empire at Work project, and other partners will reinforce and multiply the content creation work of the volunteer community of scholars, students, and enthusiasts who publish their geographic scholarship through Pleiades.

We are grateful for the support of the NEH, its Office of Digital Humanities, and its scholarly reviewers. With this new grant, total NEH support since 2006 for Pleiades and closely allied projects at ISAW, AWMC, and other institutions totals $1.2 million.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.