Classics, “Digital Classics” and Issues for Data Curation

Alison Babeu, Perseus Project, Tufts University

§ 1 Introduction

The field of classics encompasses a large number of related disciplines such as archaeology, epigraphy, manuscript studies, numismatics, philology and papyrology, each with their own unique set of research methods, objects of study (including various types of artifacts, ancient monuments, ancient documentary and literary texts, coins, inscriptions, papyri, etc.), and various ways of sharing and preserving data. Classical studies is thus an inherently interdisciplinary field that has also long made use of advanced digital technologies (e.g. advanced imaging and document recognition for classical languages such as Sumerian, Ancient Greek and Latin, the 3D reconstruction and visualization of ancient monuments, and the use of TEI-XML to create digital editions of classical texts). The relatively advanced digital nature of many classical disciplines has in turn shaped both the research practices of the field and increased the need for data curation strategies that address the complex needs both of specific disciplinary research methods and specific types of digital data that are created as part of the research process. While the field of classics has long faced the issue of preserving fragile physical artifacts such as damaged manuscripts and centuries old fragments of papyri, it now increasingly faces the challenges of preserving digital objects created to represent these artifacts as well.

Complicating matters is the fact that for many of the disciplines of classics, preserving the interpretative stages and individual decisions involved in creating a “final” scholarly argument can be as important as preserving the final result of such scholarship, such as a virtual reconstruction or digital edition of an inscription. For example, the digital reconstructions of archaeological monuments typically involve a large amount of uncertainty and individual scholarly interpretation, yet many visualizations are often viewed by students as complete and accurate representations of “reality.” Similarly, in creating a digital edition of a classical text (e.g. a play of Aeschylus with many manuscript sources), many individual scholarly decisions are made in terms of what text variants to include or what manuscript witnesses are considered more reliable, yet many digital editions lack the “apparatus criticus” that contains such decisions and can give the illusion of one text. These issues and projects/solutions that have been created to address them will receive further attention below.

For data curators, the key question to consider is how the research practices of “digital classics” are creating new challenges for data curation, and indeed a number of significant projects across the disciplines are currently working to address some of these challenges. Despite often seemingly huge differences between various disciplines in the field of classics, there are a number of common themes that will require further research and collaboration between classical scholars and those working in data curation.

To begin with, the difficulties of defining both the complex semantics and structure of classical data that needs to be preserved must be addressed. Data in classics is extensively multi-lingual and multi-script (with many different languages such as Ancient Greek, Latin, Sumerian, Sanskrit, etc.) The same data (e.g. data about the same classical place, person or other named entity, descriptions of the same archaeological object, multiple images of the same inscription) found across different projects is also often described using very different vocabularies. Similarly, more research will need to focus on how meaningful data integration might be used to create larger digital classical resources that could then possibly be more effectively curated. A variety of issues complicate this process, including the fact that multiple digital facsimiles of objects exist in various digital data collections (often with greatly varying levels of metadata). To solve this issue, many projects have chosen to create virtual data centers or utilized a federated approach allowing data to remain distributed and independent. In fact, complete interoperability or full data integration may be impossible to attain and is also not necessarily an ideal solution according to many practitioners.

As indicated by the projects that will be covered here, the process of data curation and of ensuring data sustainability has many components. Many consider the technical components of sustainability to be the easiest task for the long run and stress that long-term financial planning for the organization (or organizations) that will host and curate the data is far more essential. Similarly, political considerations of both the needs of data contributors/partners and users (both current and future) must be taken into consideration.

The issue of standards and digital preservation/curation is also of great importance, and many projects emphasized the potential use of XML as a preservation format for digital humanities data. Standard formats are required to ensure some level of data conformity for both interoperability and long-term curation, and tools were frequently developed by projects to help scholars and other contributors create data that conforms to standard formats or ontologies.

Regardless of the discipline, a number of basic requirements for a digital repository or data curation system have been clearly identified. To begin with, systems must provide for clear authorship of data contributors to ensure proper attribution and credit. Varying levels of editorial control and authorization will also typically be required, and many system developers also note that the ability to support at least temporary embargoing of data in both the short and long term is a frequently desired feature of users. While all data must be clearly versioned, it is clear that earlier versions of data must also be kept available in order to ensure persistent citation and a fully traceable scholarly record. To assist in this process, standard identifiers should thus be used whenever possible to encourage persistent citation and linking. Another important feature was providing for different levels of participation (e.g. supporting full service hosting of content vs. allowing users to act as digital curation partners).

Another significant issue is the challenge of curating humanities research as well as digital data. Many projects and resources have illustrated that the scholarly interpretations of digital objects need to be encoded and stored as one form of metadata along with other more traditional types of metadata (e.g. technical, administrative, etc.) Curators will need to understand how digital data is used by scholars in their research in order to best support both active curation and to help plan for future use of that data. One potential research topic is studying how to develop collaborative workspaces that save and curate data as it is being created: for instance, how does one effectively curate a distributed editing environment? Similarly, further research is needed in how best to curate algorithms and computational processes that are used in the creation of digital data and now often serve as a key part of creating humanities scholarship.

A final topic frequently raised is how active curation that supports data reuse might serve as one method of effective long-term preservation. To begin with, open licensing schemes are required (in order to make multiple copies of data for preservation and to support reuse). Additionally, at least some minimal metadata must be encoded with digital data to support greater reuse in the future. An essential role for curators in this task is to promote the development of “communities of use” around the digital objects they curate.

As illustrated above, a number of important issues for data curation exist across the classical disciplines, and a number of projects seeking to address these issues will be examined in greater detail here. The resources presented here have been grouped by important themes and drawn from across the related disciplines.

§ 2 Cyberinfrastructure for Digital Classics

In order to support data curation and digital preservation across the spectrum of classical disciplines, there have been increasing calls from within the discipline to build a sophisticated cyberinfrastructure that can support a wide variety of research needs. A recent issue of the
Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ) entitled Changing the Center of Gravity: Transforming Classical Studies Through Cyberinfrastructure included a series of articles that addressed different aspects of such a cyberinfrastructure. There have also been calls to create a comprehensive digital library or repository that can preserve a variety of digital classical scholarship, as addressed by the articles listed below.

Resources: Cyberinfrastructure for Digital Classics

Blackwell, Christopher and Gregory Crane. “Conclusion: Cyberinfrastructure, the Scaife Digital Library and Classics in a Digital Age.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3(1) (2009).

This article summarizes the requirements for a cyberinfrastructure in classics including the need for open access data, comprehensive collections, “curated knowledge sources” and “advanced, domain optimized services” such as advanced OCR, morphological analysis, citation identification and text alignment. It also introduces the Scaife Digital Library (currently in development) that will serve as a long term digital repository for classics and will require that all of the digital objects deposited in it meet four basic criteria: 1) the content must be of wide-ranging interest to those other than its creators 2) it must be in a format that can be both preserved and used over the long-term 3) it must have at least one other long-term home 4) it must be able to circulate freely.

Crane, Gregory, Brent Seales, and Melissa Terras. “Cyberinfrastructure for Classical Philology.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3(1) (2009).

An overview is provided here of the digital resources and cyberinfrastructure required to support a new level of “digital philology.”

Crane, Gregory et al.“Tools for Thinking: ePhilology and Cyberinfrastructure.” Working Together or Apart: Promoting the Next Generation of Digital Scholarship: Report of a Workshop Cosponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources and The National Endowment for the Humanities (2009), 16-26.

Crane et al. present an overview of the types of primary and secondary source data that will be required for a cyberinfrastructure for classical philology, including “digital representations of the human record” —page images of manuscripts and printed books; “labeled information about the human record”—annotations (e.g. named entities); and finally, “access to automatically generated knowledge”—or the processes of algorithms.

Harley, Daine et al. “Archaeology Case Study.” eScholarship: Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication. Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California-Berkeley (2010), 29-135.

This subsection of a far larger report provides detailed analysis of scholarly communication in the field of archaeology, including traditional and digital publishing, types of archaeological data, data sharing and long-term preservation issues.

Jones, Chuck. “Going AWOL ( Thoughts on Developing a Tool for the Organization and Discovery of Open Access Scholarly Resources for the Study of the Ancient World.” CSA Newsletter XXII (3) (2010).

Chuck Jones, director of the library at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), describes in this article both his work in creating the online Abzu bibliography and on finding open access resources for his blog the Ancient World Online. He also provides some initial detail on plans by ISAW to develop an “Ancient World Digital Library” (AWDL), a sample book viewer of which has just been announced.

§ 3 Virtual Research Environments and Research Portals/Projects

Another major challenge for data curation in classics and across the humanities will be determining how to curate data that is created through increasing scholarly use of virtual research environments (VREs) or disciplinary research portals that are currently being created in a number of humanities disciplines. Data is broadly construed here not just as the structured or unstructured data sources that are made available through such environments, but also the algorithms and computational processes that are often used in the creation of digital scholarship. There are many projects across the classical disciplines that have sought to develop VREs or portals that have already and will continue to create large amounts of digital data, and this list of resources has been grouped by larger discipline.

Resources: General Classics portals

eAQUA—Extraction of Structured Knowledge from Ancient Sources. Department of Ancient History, Leipzig U. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

The German research project eAQUA is currently developing a research portal that will provide access to corpora from a number of research partners through a standardized data interface as well as access to a number of text mining algorithms. A large part of their research has involved exploring how traditional research questions in classics (e.g. the study of text reuse in ancient sources) can be served by different natural language processing (NLP) algorithms by having classicists work together with computer scientists on actual research tasks. This model of having domain specialists and technical staff work together to inform infrastructure development is an important model for both cyberinfrastructure and curation efforts, as defining both humanities data and research processes will require the active involvement of both curators and scholars. The website provides further information about the general architecture of eAQUA and specific information on the various research sub-projects.

Büchler, M., G. Heyer, and S. Grunder.“eAQUA—Bringing Modern Text Mining Approaches to Two Thousand Years Old Ancient Texts.” e-Humanities—an emerging discipline: Workshop in the 4th IEEE International Conference on e-Science 2008.

This article provides an overview of the German research project eAQUA, which is currently developing a research portal to provide access to corpora from a number of research partners through a standardized data interface as well as access to a number of text mining algorithms. It also situates the project in relation to the current state of the art, and offers an analysis of the challenges involved in applying natural language processing to data in classics.

Resources: Ancient Near Eastern Studies portals

Digital Hammurabi. Johns Hopkins U. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

The Digital Hammurabi project was founded in 1999 at Johns Hopkins University with a focus on solving three technological problems:

  • the creation of a standard computer encoding for Cuneiform text
  • the creation of comprehensive online Cuneiform collections
  • solutions for 3d scanning and visualization of the tablets

By 2011, the project had successfully invented a 3d surface scanner for Cuneiform tablets, overseen a Unicode adoption of the first international standard representation for Cuneiform, and the creation of iClay, a “a cross-platform, Internet-deployable, Java applet that allows for the viewing and manipulation of 2D+ images of cuneiform tablets” (see Cohen et al. 2004).

Kumar, S., D. Snyder, D. Duncan, J. Cohen, and J. Cooper. “Digital Preservation of Ancient Cuneiform Tablets Using 3D-Scanning.” Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on 3-D Digital Imaging and Modeling 2003, 326-333.

Kumar et al. discuss the importance of using 3D scanning as one method of preserving cuneiform tablets. As cuneiform tablets frequently exhibit three-dimensional writing on three-dimensional surfaces, high-resolution 3D models of tablets provide far greater visual access of the text to scholars, will help limit physical contact with fragile tablets, and can also provide redundant archival copies.

Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus (ORACC). University of Pennsylvania. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

The ORACC project has grown out of the CDLI and also makes use of technology developed by the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary (PSD). The project website explains that ORACC has been designed as a “workspace and toolkit for the development of a complete corpus of cuneiform whose rich annotation and open licensing support the next generation of scholarly research”. The CDLI, PSD, and a number of other digital cuneiform projects are collaborating on the ORACC project, which is intended to function as a “corpus building cooperative” that will provide both technical assistance and a long-term infrastructure for building freely available editions of cuneiform texts. The ORACC project wishes to promote both open and reusable data so they plan to recommend that all participating projects use Creative Commons licenses for their materials. The ORACC project has outlined six major roles for potential contributors with specific documentation for each role:

  • users or scholars who will use the ORACC corpora,
  • builders or individuals who are working on texts to build up the corpus such as through data entry or transcription,
  • managers or someone who is actively managing a ORACC sub-project,
  • developers or individuals who wish to contribute code,
  • system administrators, and
  • steerers (senior ORACC users).

As ORACC is a growing project, they are also actively encouraging researchers to contribute texts through either a donation or curation model. Through the donation model, text editions and metadata are sent to ORACC and they handle all installation, conversion and maintenance (proper identification and credit for all data will be given with all revisers identified). In the curation model, the ORACC team helps a user set up their texts as a separate research project on the ORACC servers and that user/curator is then responsible for maintaining their own texts (this model provides greater control over one’s texts). ORACC provides an excellent model of data curation and reuse through the use of CC licenses, common standards, and documentation on data storage, creation and maintenance. In addition, by encouraging two different data contribution models, they recognize that there may be many scholars who wish to share their data but who lack the desire, time or skills to maintain it online.

Resources: Archaeology portals

Dunn, Stuart. “Dealing with the Complexity Deluge: VREs in the Arts and Humanities.” Library Hi Tech 27.2 (2009), 205-216.

Dunn describes the development of a VRE in archaeology, the importance of depositing archaeological data into digital repositories or VREs, the challenges of preserving copyright and intellectual property rights for such data, and the importance of both peer review and authentication of data.

Baker, M et al. “VERA: A Virtual Environment for Research in Archaeology.” Fourth International Conference on e-Social Science, University of Manchester, June 18-20, 2008. 2008.

This article gives an overview of the VERA project, which explored how the use of digital technology (e.g. direct entry into a database through PDAs, or the use of digital pens to take notes) in the field might lead to more effective and accurate entry of archaeological data. One major goal was to explore if digital data entry in the field led to improved data quality in the long run. The VERA project team had archaeologists keep diaries, conducted interviews and a workshop, and implemented user testing with the Integrated Archaeological Database (IADB). They discovered that higher data quality was actually obtained by maintaining paper recording of contexts and continuing the role of an individual supervisor in collating the reports and entering them into the database. This project illustrates the importance of observing actual research practices before determining long-term data entry and curation strategies, and warns against assuming that disciplinary practices will be automatically improved through the addition of technology.

Virtual Environment for Research in Archaeology (VERA). Web. BROKEN LINK

This website provides access to the results of this research project, the project blog, and other useful information about what they learned.

Integrated Archaeological Database (IADB). Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

This database for managing and archiving archaeological information was first developed in the 1980s, and is currently available as a web-based application that makes use of Ajax, MySQL and PHP. It has been used in a number of archaeological research projects including VERA and the Silchester Roman Town Project.

Resources: Manuscript Resources and Philology portals

TextGrid. TextGrid Consortium. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

The TextGrid project first began in 2006 with a primary focus on philology but has grown over the last five years into a cyberinfrastructure in the humanities project with over 10 partners. TextGrid is working to create a VRE for the humanities that includes two key components:

    • a repository that will serve as a long term data archive for humanities research embedded in a grid environment that will ensure both the availability and interoperability of data.
    • a downloadable “TextGrid laboratory” that will serve as the entry point to the VRE and provide access to both existing and new tools as they develop.

The website provides extensive technical documentation for both the repository design and the TextGrid laboratory, a full list of reports and publications (many available in full text), and a downloadable beta version of TextGridLab.

Aschenbrenner, A., M.W. Kuster, C. Ludwig, and T. Vitt.“Open eHumanities Digital Ecosystems and the Role of Resource Registries.”DEST ’09-3rd IEEE International Conference on Digital Ecosystems and Technologies. (2009), 745-750.

While this article offers many details about the TextGrid architecture and project, it also posits larger thoughts on developing what Aschenbrenner et al. describe as “eHumanities digital ecosystems”. Aschenbrenner et al. argue that data, “knowledge about data” and services that can be used with that data are all key resources in the humanities, and consequently state that the greatest challenge is to find efficient and meaningful ways to connect these resources. While intellectual content (textual and image resources contributed from a variety of partners) is key to TextGrid, they also note that the community that uses it is just as important. The model of TextGrid’s development is as an open infrastructure with fairly generic services being developed in the beginning, while also promoting community creation of specialized applications and workflows that can then be made available through the TextGrid system. Aschenbrenner et al. explain that active community building has been one of their most important tasks, with documentation designed and outreach conducted for three specific user groups (visitors/users, data providers, tool developers). TextGrid has thus been designed as a service oriented architecture (SOA) with multiple layers:

  • an Eclipse-based application environment (the user interface or TextGridLab),
  • generic services for textual analysis and processing (with a platform that can be customized for new services),
  • TextGrid middleware, and
  • stable data archives.

Teuchos. University of Hamburg and Aristotle Archive. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

The Teuchos project is based at the University of Hamburg and is working in partnership with the Aristotle Archive at the free university of Berlin. They are focused on building a research infrastructure for philology that includes the digitization, encoding and description of manuscripts, the development of an XML encoding for manuscript watermarks, the creation of a web-based environment for philological research that includes a Fedora repository, the management of heterogeneous data, and the support of multi-lingual research. The website (in German) provides further details on all of these aspects.

Deckers, D., L. Koll, and C. Vertan.“Representation and Encoding of Heterogeneous Data in a Web Based Research Environment for Manuscript and Textual Studies.” Kodikologie und Paläographie im digitalen Zeitalter-Codicology and Palaeography in the Digital Age, (2009).

Deckers et al. give a detailed examination of the data encoding and representation being developed for manuscripts (with a focus on the importance of encoding both structural and intellectual content), as well as a thorough technical overview of the open-source Teuchos platform. The major goal of their “web based research environment” is to provide access to both primary (e.g. images of multiple manuscripts, transcriptions of manuscripts) and secondary source data (reference works, scholarly papers) and to tools that philologists working in manuscript and textual studies can use to capture, exchange and collaboratively edit philological data. Teuchos hopes to make all of the data created by their project available as “primary or raw data in order to be reusable as source material for various individual or collaborative research projects” and will use Creative Commons licenses whenever possible (though the authors acknowledge that access to digitized manuscript images will depend on the policy of the contributing institution). The Teuchos platform will also support three kinds of users who can interact with the repository:

    • system administrators
    • registered users that can contribute resources, and
    • public users who can view resources

In addition, the Teuchos Fedora repository has also been designed to accommodate a variety of heterogeneous digital objects including manuscript watermarks (digital images and custom XML documents), digitized manuscripts and manuscript information (digital images of pages, aggregated image files, codicological descriptions, transcription files in TEI-XML), digitized works (full critical editions of classical texts, translations, commentaries), reference works, and published research papers. The Teuchos project illustrates the need for digital repositories to accommodate vastly different types of data even within a limited area of humanities study.

Virtual Manuscript Room (VMR). University of Birmingham. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

The VMR, based at the University of Birmingham, seeks to provide advanced access to an important collection of manuscripts, namely the Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern Manuscripts. While high-resolution images and extensive manuscript descriptions will be provided, the next phase of VMR work seeks to develop a comprehensive framework for digital manuscripts that will “bring together digital resources related to manuscript materials (digital images, descriptions and other metadata, transcripts) in an environment which will permit libraries to add images, scholars to add and edit metadata and transcripts online, and users to access material” (About). In this next phase they will join with a parallel VMR being built at the University of Munster, Germany. Some key features that distinguish the VMR are that it is designed around highly granular metadata, for example records are presented for each manuscript page with varying levels of data, such as if there is a text transcription for that page. All VMR materials are also stored in the UB institutional repository and made available through the online catalog, and the VMR is also supporting full reuse of its materials, not just basic web access to them. All metadata created will be made available through a syndicated RSS feed, and users will be able to create their own interfaces to VMR data. Users will also be able to add material to the VMR by creating metadata records using VMR protocols.

Robinson, Peter. “Editing Without Walls.” Literature Compass 7 (2010), 57-61.

In this piece, Robinson discusses the need for new collaborative editing models, such as the VMR, in order to invigorate the field of creating digital critical edition (e.g. of classical authors, medieval manuscripts, etc.). He suggests that the digital world has made a new collaborative model possible where libraries could put up images of manuscripts, multiple scholars/students could make transcriptions that link to these images, other scholars could collate these transcriptions and publish editions online linking to both the transcriptions and images, and yet more scholars could analyze these collations and create an apparatus or commentaries, and other scholars could then link to these commentaries. All of these activities could occur independently or together. He also encourages humanists to actively participate in the development of any infrastructure that is targeted at them.

Resources: Papyrology portals

eScience and Ancient Documents (eSAD). University of Oxford. Web. BROKEN LINK

The eSAD project, a research collaboration between the e-Research Centre and the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents and Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, has examined how to develop e-Science tools that will assist scholars in interpreting damaged texts and also developed a number of image analysis algorithms that can be used with digitized images of ancient texts. This website provides access to their results, as well as to a myriad of publications that are all available for download, two of which are described in greater detail below, with a focus on the lessons they provide for data curation.

Tarte, S.M., D. Wallow, P. Hu, K. Tang, and T. Ma. “An Image Processing Portal and Web-service for the Study of Ancient Documents.” 5th IEEE conference on e-Science 2009 . 2009), 14-19.

This article examines the development of the Virtual Research Environment for the Study of Documents and Manuscripts (VRE-SDM) that was expanded by the eSAD project to provide a collaborative environment where scholars could work on images of ancient texts stored on the grid and make use of a variety of advanced document processing algorithms.

de la Flor, G., P. Luff, M. Jirotka, J. Pybus, R. Kirkham, and A. Carusi. “The Case of the Disappearing Ox: Seeing Through Digital Images to an Analysis of Ancient Texts.” CHI ’10: Proceedings of the 28th international conference on Human factors in computing systems . New York: ACM, 2010). 473-482.

The work of de la Flor et al. (2010) documents (through videotaping and interviews) the collaborative work session of three domain experts working with an ancient tablet using their system prototype. They hoped to discover and document the scholarly practices and logical processes being used by the scholars in their work and determine how a VRE might emulate and support those methods. Observing scholars realistically work with actual objects in their prototype system helped identify key deductive processes (e.g. the iterative identification of shapes and letters by scholars and the importance of different types of background knowledge for textual analysis) that provided greater insights for the system designers. Useful information in particular was made available to the system designers in terms of what types of contextual data should be made available to scholars in such a prototype, what types of data that scholars created would be most useful to be preserved, what types of data should be made available to share between researchers, and what types of algorithms were most useful for working with different types of data (e.g. images, annotations, etc.). They conclude that relevant lessons for e-infrastructure and data curation include the importance of sharing specialized knowledge resources between systems and allowing scholars to record and support different interpretations of a text.

Integrating Digital Papyrology (IDP). Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri, Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens, and theAdvanced Papyrological Information System. Web. BROKEN LINK

This website provides an extensive overview of the IDP project and its participating partners, the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri (DDbDP), the Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens (HGV), and the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS). The IDP project is currently working to create a single research interface to these three collections of metadata, full text and papyrological information, a goal that has largely been realized through the creation of the Papryological Navigator (PN) (, a website where users can search across these three resources as well as find links to the Trismegistos Texts papyrological database. Another key component of the IDP work is the development of the “Son of Suda Online” (SoSOL) collaborative editing environment for developing digital editions of papyri. When the IDP project is “finished” both the HGV and DDbDP plan to release archival copies of their XML data using CC licenses.

Bagnall, Roger. “Integrating Digital Papyrology.” Online Humanities Scholarship: The Shape of Things to Come, 2010.

In this article, Roger Bagnall explains the larger goals of the IDP project and how it has changed over the last 20 years. He notes that two major shifts have occurred simultaneously, one towards openness and one towards dynamism. Rather than conceptualizing the IDP as a static project-based and centrally controlled “digital-silo”, they view it as a dynamic community-maintained resource, where both data and participation will be open to all scholars who wish to participate. To promote openness, the IDP plans to expose both their data and the code used to create their system. All data in the IDP is encoded using the EpiDoc standard, which although initially created for the encoding of inscriptions is now being used for papyri and coins as well. Bagnall also lists some of the solutions developed by the IDP to not only promote openness but also to encourage scholarly contribution (e.g. the SoSOL editing environment) through assuring proper vetting, credit and maintenance of data. Nonetheless, he notes that many scholars are still worried about the visibility of their work disappearing within a larger system. While acknowledging the legitimacy of scholarly and digital partner concerns in terms of branding and proper attribution (due to the ever present issues of funding, credit and tenure), Bagnall also concludes that creating closed collections is not a viable solution to these concerns. Another major concern of many potential contributing scholars is quality control, and Bagnall points out that the editorial structure of the IDP in some ways offers stronger quality control measures in that changes can be made online far more quickly than in print, and there are often far more editors involved in online projects and available to detect errors than there are for printed volumes. One other useful insight for data curation Bagnall offers is that disciplines within classics need to become far less concerned with preserving individual projects and instead seek larger sustainability in the form of “sharing in an organizational and technological infrastructure maintained to serve a much wider range of resources for the ancient world (and perhaps not necessarily limited to antiquity, either).”

§ 4 Digital Repositories

While many VREs and research portals listed above also include some basic data preservation functions, most have likely not been designed with the long-term curation of the digital research data that has been created within them in mind. To address issues of longer term sustainability and curation of both digitally created research data and digitized copies of analog data, digital repositories have been developed for a number of disciplines within the field of classics, with the largest number by far within the discipline of archaeology.

Primary Sources and Research Data

Much research within the classical disciplines as well as within the humanities involves the use of primary sources and data, from manuscripts and early printed editions of classical texts, to ancient inscriptions, scraps of papyri, excavated artifacts, ancient coins, images of classical art objects (as well as the analog objects themselves), and virtual reconstructions, among many other types of sources. Although research in the humanities is often not considered to produce much in the way of “research data,” increasingly digital research across many classics disciplines (as well as “traditional” research in many fields such as archaeology) in fact has produced a wealth of data that now needs active curation. In addition to curating already existing legacy and born digital data, curators will also need to explore new ways to encourage researchers to contribute the data that they are actively creating as well.

Resources: Archaeology research data

Archaeology Data Service (ADS).University of York. Web. BROKEN LINK

The Archaeology Data Service, or ADS, is based at the University of York in the United Kingdom. The ADS provides digital archiving services for projects within the UK, a public searchable catalog of archived projects and their data, and provides access to a number of best practices standards and documents in terms of digitization of materials, database management, and digital preservation.

W. Kilbride. “Past, Present and Future: XML, Archaeology and Digital Preservation.” CSA Newsletter XVII 3 (2005).

Kilbride reviews the insights gained during the first 10 years of the existence of the ADS, and urges creators of archaeological data to consider how their data might be used in the future and also promotes active curation of archaeological data.

Mitcham J., K. Niven, and J. Richards. “Archiving Archaeology: Introducing the Guides to Good Practice.” Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Preservation of Digital Objects. iPRES 2010. Vienna, Austria, September 19-24, 2010. Ed. A. Rauber, M. Kaiser, R. Guenther, and P. Constantopoulos, 2010).

This article details current work between the ADS and Digital Antiquity to define best practices in terms of the digital preservation of archaeological data that will also help to increase is potential re-use.

Digital Antiquity. Digital Antiquity. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

Digital Antiquity is a “collaborative organization devoted to enhancing preservation and access to digital records of archaeological investigation.” Through funding from both the Mellon Foundation and the National Science Foundation (NSF), they have built a digital repository named tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record, which provides preservation, access and discovery for archaeological data and documents that are deposited by registered projects. All information resources that are deposited into tDAR include a variety of metadata (technical, descriptive, administrative, etc.) that is provided by the user. While general users can access the tDAR archive through the website, the uploading of resources requires registration and approval. The tDAR repository also requires detailed authorship information for all contributed resources and allows varying levels of access control and embargoing of data. In order to encourage proper citation and credit, the developers of tDAR also plan to ensure that individual repository data sets and documents will have persistent URLs and make sure that all content is automatically versioned whenever changes are made. The tDAR repository supports the uploading of a variety of data formats, and while all original formats are preserved at the bit level, tDAR also stores all resources in a preservation format to support long-term migration of all content.

McManamon, F.P., K.W. Kintigh, and A. Brin. “Digital Antiquity and the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR): Broadening Access and Ensuring Long-Term Preservation for Digital Archaeological Data.” CSA Newsletter XXIII 2 (2010).

This article outlines the two major goals of Digital Antiquity and tDAR: to provide greater access to archaeological data and to provide a preservation repository for that data. It also provides extensive technical details on the tDAR repository architecture, and precise information on data migration and preservation procedures.

McManamon, F.P. and K.W. Kintigh. “Digital Antiquity: Transforming Archaeological Data into Knowledge.” SAA Archaeological Record (2010): 37-40.

As with the above article, this report provides an overview of tDAR, but also documents the development and long-term sustainability plans of the Digital Antiquity organization. It describes their plans to utilize a data curation model, where archaeologists and other stakeholders will pay fees for the deposit and maintenance of data, which will then be provided freely over the Internet. They also noted that in order to encourage more large-scale deposit of data that archaeological practice would need to be transformed so that archiving of data and metadata became a “standard part of all archaeological project workflows.” This is indeed a great challenge for most repository and curation projects, or how to make the practice of archiving a standard part of humanities research practice.

Online Cultural Heritage Research Environment (OCHRE). University of Chicago. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

OCHRE is an Internet database system that has been designed to manage archaeological and cultural heritage research information. The project is based at the University of Chicago and uses ArchaeoML, an XML schema for archaeological information as the basis for its XML database. OCHRE also implements a core ontology for cultural heritage information and uses this as a global schema with which to map the schemas of various projects in order to facilitate data integration. At this website, users can access a number of archaeological research projects that make use of OCHRE. The website also offers a useful comparison of how their data integration system compares to the use of the CIDOC-CRM and tDAR of Digital Antiquity.

OpenContext. Alexandria Archive Institute. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

OpenContext has been created by the Alexandria Archive Institute as an “open access data publication service for archaeology,” with a focus on data sharing between archaeologists, open access publication and making data dissemination easier within the discipline of archaeology. Its basic architecture is a flexible database that allows researchers to publish structured data, textual documents, and other media on the web using only open source technologies, and it utilizes a subset of ArchaeoML for its data structure. The use of this ArchaeoML subset allows for integrated searching across diverse archaeological data sets. OpenContext contributors retain copyright to their content and are also encouraged to publish their data in other locations as well. In addition to encourage proper citation and reuse of data, all collections that are entered are time stamped, authorship of all data is clearly attributed, and permanent citable URLs are provided for all data items.

Kansa, S.W., E.C. Kansa, and J.M. Schultz. “An Open Context for Near Eastern Archaeology.” Near Eastern Archaeology 70.4 (2007): 188-194.

A comparison of approaches to creating structured data in the form of descriptive markup and databases using examples from Digital Humanities research.

Saving and Archiving Virtual Environments (SAVE). Virtual World Heritage Library. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

This project website explains the plans and future architecture for SAVE, a project of the Virtual World Heritage Library at the University of Virginia. SAVE will be the “world’s first on-line, peer-reviewed journal in which scholars can publish 3D digital models of the world’s cultural heritage (CH) sites and monuments.” The SAVE project plans to develop a secure digital repository that will allow scholars to archive or “publish” their models, provide peer review mechanisms for these models, as well as to develop a system for updating models and preserving them.

Koller, D., B. Frischer, and G. Humphreys. “Research Challenges for Digital Archives of 3D Cultural Heritage Models.” Journal of Computing and Cultural Heritage 2.3 (2009): 1-17.

A full discussion of the technical, disciplinary and sustainability challenges of developing a digital archive for 3D models is included in this article, with an overview of research to date. Koller et al. recommend that such archives only accession “3D models that are clearly identified with authors with appropriate professional qualifications, and whose underlying design documents and metadata are published along with the model.”

CyArk. CyArk. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

CyArk is a non-profit organization with a stated mission to digitally preserve “cultural heritage sites through collecting, archiving and providing open access to data created by laser scanning, digital modeling, and other state-of-the-art technologies.” The website includes information about the organization as well as online access through a map interface to those projects that are virtually archived at the website (e.g. virtual models and digital photographs of Ancient Thebes.

Resources: Epigraphy research data

Cayless, H., C. Roueché, T. Elliott, and G. Bodard. “Epigraphy in 2017.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.1 (2009).

Cayless et al. offer an overview of the state-of-the-art in digital epigraphy and also define requirements for effective digital corpora of inscriptions. They heavily promote the use of EpiDoc, an XML standard for encoding inscriptions, since it serves not just as a data interchange format but also supports the creation of sophisticated digital editions and corpora of inscriptions that are “fully queryable and manipulable.” After highlighting a number of issues with current inscription databases, they conclude with a number of requirements for digital repositories of inscriptions, including the ability to export part or all of the data in standard formats (e.g. EpiDoc) and the need for persistent identifiers (e.g. DOIs) at the level of individual digital objects so that inscriptions can be cited independent of their physical location. They also suggest that EpiDoc could be potentially used as a way of storing, preserving and distributing epigraphic data in a digital format.

Resources: Manuscript Studies research data

Digital Scriptorium. University of California Berkeley Library. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

At this website, users can access an online image database of manuscripts from both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance from over 30 libraries. It includes records for over 5300 manuscripts and over 24,000 images. Each individual manuscript record contains an extensive bibliographic and physical description with links to individual page images and to the fully digitized manuscript at its home institution (when available).

Dutschke, C.W.. “Digital Scriptorium: Ten Years Young, and Working on Survival.” Storicamente (2008): 4.

This piece by Consuelo Dutschke includes a brief history of the Digital Scriptorium (DS, first established in 1997) and the plans it has made for long-term sustainability. The DS has established standards for bibliographic data collection and image capture of manuscripts that are regularly updated, and this level of documentation has provided a level of technical sustainability. Other important factors in both technical and financial sustainability that Dutschke lists are extensive documentation, technical transparency, simplicity, and sensible file naming. Although the DS currently uses Microsoft Access for data entry and collection, every DS partner is required on a regular basis to export their collection specific information into XML and forward that XML to the central DS organization. As XML is both non-proprietary and “platform independent” they have chosen to use it for “data transport, long-term storage and manipulation.” Another key component of sustainability that Dutschke identifies is “political” or whether DS partners are committed to sustaining it in the long-term, and if the larger user community values the project. She urges digital projects to consider both their current and future user demands, as “the will to sustainability lies not only within the project and its creators/partners; it also lies with its users.”

Manuscriptorium. Manuscriptorium Virtual Library. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

The Manuscriptorium Virtual Library provides access to more than 5 million digital manuscripts images from dozens of libraries across Europe as well as a number from Asia. According to the project website, their goal is to provide a VRE that supports “access to all existing digital documents in the sphere of historic book resources (manuscripts, incunabula, early printed books, maps, charters and other types of documents).” Each manuscript description includes full bibliographic information, physical description and links to partial or full digital facsimiles as available.

Mitcham, J., K. Niven, and J. Richards. “Creation of an International Digital Library of Manuscripts: Seamless Access to Data from Heterogeneous Resources (ENRICH Project).” ELPUB 2009: 13th International Conference on Electronic Publishing: Rethinking Electronic Publishing: Innovation in Communication Paradigms and Technologies, 2009). 335-347.

This recent article by Knoll et al. supplies a brief history of the Manuscriptorium and its technical design to ensure long-term sustainability. Institutions can make their data available through Manuscriptorium by either making their online collections OAI harvestable or by creating compliant data and making their collections available online through the Manuscriptorium Digital Library (a solution chosen by many smaller libraries). In order to provide more scalable and robust solutions for long-term data storage and exchange of manuscript information, the Manuscriptorium project worked with the Oxford University Computer Services to develop a TEI P5 compliant DTD that would accommodate manuscript descriptions of varying granularity (e.g. a MARC record vs. a TEI description). All existing documents in the digital library were migrated to this DTD and both harvested and uploaded documents must conform to it as well. Another data integration issue they faced was that many participating libraries provided access to manuscript images through PDFs or DjVu rather than through XML based structural mapping. Since this level of access does not support manipulation of manuscript pages as individual digital objects, all participating libraries thus must convert such files into individual JPEG images for each page. In order to assist libraries in creating compliant data, the Manuscriptorium Project has created two tools: M-Tool for metadata entry either to create new Manuscriptorium records or edit records for import and M-Can, for uploading and evaluating records.

Ludwig, C. and M.W. Küster. “Digital Ecosystems of eHumanities Resources and Services.” Digital Ecosystems and Technologies, 2008. DEST 2008. 2nd IEEE International Conference, 2008). 476-481.

This article by Ludwig and Küster explains the “virtual library” design of TextGrid, where the ultimate repository will use the Globus toolkit grid to provide seamless searching over federated archives, allowing data to remain distributed and also supporting the addition of new organizations and their data. One major point they highlight is the difficulty of creating digital content that will need to be both used and preserved for far longer than any system can be designed to provide access to it. They note that in philology and eHumanities projects in general, many resources that are created (e.g. historical dictionaries of word usage) can be in continuous development for decades. Further research into both content stability and portability are thus required according to Ludwig and Küster. Content that is created with either TextGridLab or imported from external data partners is saved unchanged to the TextGrid repository where metadata is extracted and normalized and then stored in central metadata storage. A full text index is extracted from the raw data repository and updated regularly.

Secondary Scholarship

As with most humanities disciplines, effective data curation strategies for classics will require preserving both the data used in creating scholarship as well as the final products of that scholarship, including publications such as journal articles and monographs. The preservation and curation of formally published scholarship in digital repositories (either institutionally based or disciplinary) is perhaps the most well-established and supported form of digital preservation, but classics has lagged somewhat behind in this area.

Resources: Working papers

Princeton-Stanford Working Papers in Classics (PSWPC). Princeton University and Stanford University. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

The PSWPC is an open access working papers repository (vs. the deposit of formal pre-prints or postprints) and has been created as one step towards promoting both open access to scholarship in the field of classics as well as to create new opportunities for collaboration between interested scholars. This website provides access to the PSWPC repository that was created in collaboration between the Classics departments of Stanford and Princeton Universities, and the papers can be browsed by author, date, department or subject. Two recent articles listed below have also explored the greater implications of the PSWPC in terms of classics, open access, scholarly publishing and long term archiving of research papers.

Ober, J., W. Scheidel, B.D. Shaw, and D. Sanclemente. “Toward Open Access in Ancient Studies: The Princeton-Stanford Working Papers in Classics.” Hesperia 76.1 (2007): 229-242.

This article explains the development of the PSWPC and presents a list of issues and solutions for supporting greater open access to classical scholarship.

Pritchard, David. “Working Papers, Open Access and Cyber-Infrastructure in Classical Studies.” Literary & Linguistic Computing 23.2 (2008): 149-162.

In this article, Pritchard provides a brief review of the PSWPC, outlines reasons for its success, and considers the future of open access publishing within classical studies.

§ 7Federated Collections and Research Databases

One long-term challenge for data curation in classics and indeed across the humanities is the large number of individual digital projects that have idiosyncratic or “fuzzy” data, and even when complementary projects have data regarding the same object (e.g. an image of a classical vase or a Latin inscription) it may have been described using very different metadata vocabularies or ontologies. The need to allow individual projects to maintain their autonomy while also providing a long-term infrastructure that can provide greater semantic interoperability and integration, more sophisticated levels of access, and ideally long term curation of federated data sets is currently being explored in greater detail by a number of projects.

Resources: Federated Collections and Research Databases

Classical Art Research Online Services (CLAROS). Oxford University. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

The CLAROS project, led by Oxford University and its e-Research center, is creating a “data web” that is integrating the collections of various partners with classical art and archaeological databases. The project is using the CIDOC-CRM ( cultural heritage ontology and various Semantic Web technologies (RDF, SPARQL) to integrate these different collections. CLAROS ultimately hopes to create an architecture that will allow them to integrate additional classical art collections by mapping them to their core ontology, while also allowing individual projects to maintain their own databases and independence. Access to the integrated collections will be made available through the project website sometime in 2011.

Kurtz, D., Parker, G., Shotton, D., Klyne, G., Schroff, F., Zisserman, A., and Wilks, Y. “CLAROS – Bringing Classical Art to a Global Public.” Fifth IEEE International Conference on e-Science ’09. 2009.

This article describes the data integration process for the CLAROS project as well as innovative research into a vase recognition algorithm.

Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI). Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Germany and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

The CDLI is a joint project of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Germany and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). This extensive digital library represents the efforts of an “international group of Assyriologists, museum curators and historians of science” to provide digital access to both images (digital images, hand sketches, etc.) and texts of Cuneiform tablets from collections scattered around the world. The CDLI research group estimates that there are about 500,000 documents in both private and public collections across the world, and the current digital library provides advanced access to more than 225,000 objects from dozens of collections. One important feature of this website is extensive documentation is provided regarding how data is entered, how the Cuneiform texts are transliterated, and how the online catalog was created, all important information for the long term preservation of the digital contents.

Supporting Productive Queries for Research (SPQR). King’s College London, University of Edinburgh, Humboldt University Berlin. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

The recently launched SPQR project, is seeking to make use of a “linked data” approach, Semantic Web technologies, and the Europeana Data Model (the recently proposed top level ontology for structuring the data delivered to the Europeana digital portal ( by contributing cultural heritage institutions) to provide sophisticated access to an integrated dataset of multiple digital classics resources. This project is driven by the research outcomes of an earlier project entitled LaQuAT (Linking and Querying of Ancient Texts) that sought to expose digital classics resources (typically stored in XML or relational databases) onto the grid using OGSA-DAI (an open source distributed data management software) with the ultimate purpose of providing integrated access to different databases (rather than integrating the 3 databases into a new database). Since each of the three databases had a different format, this project illustrated the challenges of linking up diverse data sets in the humanities. Similar to the CLAROS project, one insight of the LaQuAT project is that any larger infrastructure for digital humanities should consider providing virtual data centers that can integrate access to various resources while allowing individual resources to maintain unique formats. The current SPQR website provides technical documentation on their proposed architecture as well as progress and project updates.

Jackson, M., Antonioletti, M., Hume, A., Blanke, T., Bodard, G., Hedges, M., and Rajbhandari, S. “Building Bridges between Islands of Data – an Investigation into Distributed Data Management in the Humanities.” e-Science ’09: Fifth IEEE International Conference on e-Science. 2009.

This article describes in detail the technical solutions explored by the LaQuAT project to integrate three different digital classics resources, the problems it encountered, and future research directions.

§ 8 Standards

The existence of standards in well-understood formats can be one key component for the long-term curation of digital data, and various standards have been developed for different classical disciplines and the larger digital humanities including the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), EpiDoc, and ArchaeoML. TEI in particular has proved particularly important and adaptable across different classical disciplines, and is often used as the core standard to promote interoperability. Standards proved to be important not just for the integration of data from different projects, but also at times served as a tool that could be used to support the reuse of data created for an earlier project by later research.

Resources: Ancient Near Eastern Studies standards

Cohen, J., Duncan, D., Snyder, D., Cooper, J., Kumar, S., Hahn, D., Chen, Y., Purnomo, B., and Graettinger, J. “iClay: Digitizing Cuneiform.” Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology, and Cultural Heritage. 2004.

This article describes the algorithms developed by the Digital Hammurabi project for Cuneiform tablet reconstruction and visualization and the creation of an encoding standard for Cuneiform by the “Initiative for Cuneiform Encoding”-(ICE-

Resources: Archaeology standards

Schloen, J. “Archaeological Data Models and Web Publication using XML.” Computers and the Humanities 35.2 (2001): 123-152.

This article provides a through overview of the ArchaeoML standard, which was first proposed as a “standardized data model” based on XML to support both digital publication and data analysis for archaeological data on the web. ArchaeoML has been designed as a “hierarchical, item-based data model” to facilitate the description and integration of archaeological data, which can be described using very different standards in widely different formats. This standard has been utilized at least in part by both the OCHRE and the OpenContext projects.

Meckseper, C. and Warwick, C. “The Publication of Archaeological Excavation Reports Using XML.”Literary & Linguistic Computing 18.1 (2003): 63-75.

This article describes the development of a TEI encoding scheme for archaeological reports, the need to distinguish between data and scholarly interpretations of that data, and the potential of XML as a long-term preservation format for archaeological data and publications.

Resources: Epigraphy standards

Elliott, Tom, Gabriel Bodard, Hugh Cayless et al. EpiDoc: Epigraphic Documents in TEI XML. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

EpiDoc is a standard for encoding inscriptions in XML that is relatively mature and has been used by a large number of digital epigraphy projects, such as the Inscriptions of Aphrodisias (see Model Digital Resources, below). The EpiDoc standard was first developed by Tom Elliott in the early 1990s, and has been in active development since this time. At this website, a full explanation of the standard can be found, an introduction for epigraphers, a number of resources and tools for working with EpiDoc, as well as sample EpiDoc files.

Bauer, P., Hernáth, Z., Horváth, Z., Mayer, G., Parragi, Z., Porkoláb, Z., and Sztupák, Z. “HypereiDoc – an XML Based Framework Supporting Cooperative Text Editions.” Advances in Databases and Information Systems, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, chapter 3, pages 14-29. 2008.

This article offers a critique of the EpiDoc standard, particularly in terms of the development of philological editions, and proposes a modified encoding approach called Hypereidoc ( an “XML based framework supporting distributed, multi-layered, version-controlled processing of epigraphical, papyrological or similar texts in a modern critical edition.” At the project website listed above, scholars can download both the Hypereidoc XML schema and an XML editor developed to work with it.

Citation: Álvarez, F.-L., García-Barriocanal, E., and Gómez-Pantoja, J.-L. “Sharing Epigraphic Information as Linked Data.” Metadata and Semantic Research, volume 108 of Communications in Computer and Information Science, pages 222-234. 2008. Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

The research presented by Alvarez et al. in this article proposes the creation of an ontological schema based on EpiDoc, noting that the use of EpiDoc alone would not support the creation of “open linked data” since it provides no way to encode computational semantics and relies on “structured metadata with text fields.” They conclude that if epigraphic data could be encoded with computational semantics it could then be reused by various Semantic Web applications. Alvarez et al. consequently map the EpiDoc schema to an ontological representation in OWL and provide some sample inscriptions.

Resources: Manuscript Studies standards

Citation: Emery, D. and Toth, M. B. “Integrating Images and Text with Common Data and Metadata Standards in the Archimedes Palimpsest.” Digital Humanities Abstracts 2009, pages 281-283. 2009.

Emery and Toth describe the creation of the Archimedes Digital Palimpsest, which released over 1 terabyte of integrated image and transcription data. The authors explain that highly standardized metadata is required for image processing and enhancement, management of image transcription, and linking images with transcriptions. Another key insight they offer is that as many different types of scholars have worked with the palimpsest (philologists, historians of science, etc.), they needed to be able to capture data from a range of scholars in a standard digital format. This thus led them to develop a “Transcription Integration Plan” that made use of Unicode, Dublin Core, TEI, and the Federal Geographic Data Committee Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata. Emery and Toth argue that common standards were chosen and the integration of metadata and data were emphasized in order to ensure that the digital archive of the Archimedes Digital Palimpsest data that was created would be useful not just in the short term but also for future scholars and libraries. The data set that was finally released was also modeled on the principles of the Open Archival Information System (OAIS), so all images include relevant metadata in their headers and each image file or folio directory serves as a self-contained preservation unit that includes all the images of a given folio side, XMP metadata files, checksum data and the spatially mapped TEI-XML transcriptions.

Robinson, P. “Towards a Scholarly Editing System for the Next Decades.” Ed. Huet, G., Kulkarni, A., and Scharf, P. Sanskrit Computational Linguistics. Berlin: Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2009. 346-357.

Robinson’s article outlines requirements for a scholarly editing system in a digital world. He argues against “Grand Single Solutions” or massive single purpose infrastructure and instead encourages the creation of more projects like Interdiction and the Virtual Manuscript Room that have focused on creating more resources online (e.g. digital manuscript images) and more importantly are seeking to link disparate parts (images, tools and transcriptions) that are already online together. He also proposes that basic descriptive standards are required as well as standard naming conventions to support better linking.

Roued, H. “Textual Analysis Using XML: Understanding Ancient Textual Corpora.” 5th IEEE conference on e-Science. 2009.

This article examines how the TEI-XML encoded editions created for the Vindolanda Tablets Online ( project might be repurposed and reused by other digital classics projects, in particular as “a reusable word and character corpus for a networked e-Science system and other e-Science applications.” The TEI-XML corpus of Vindolanda has been used to create a knowledge based of Latin words to support an Interpretation Support System (ISS) being developed to assist scholars working with similar ancient texts. Roued observes that the use of EpiDoc by Vindolanda had allowed them to encode different scholarly opinions on the same text within the same XML file since content markup (EpiDoc XML) and presentation (a variety of XSLT sheets) have been clearly separated. The “beta” knowledge base that has been developed is being made available as a web service.

Resources: Philology

Blanke, T., Aschenbrenner, A., Küster, M., and Ludwig, C. “No Claims for Universal Solutions – Possible Lessons from Current e-Humanities Practices in Germany and the UK.” E-SCIENCE ’08: Proceedings of the IEEE e-Humanities Workshop. 2008.

This article provides an explanation of TextGrid’s data integration and interoperability strategies. While TEI was used as the basic form of markup, partner projects used TEI at varying levels of depth, so Blanke et al. describe how TextGrid defined a minimum “abstraction level” necessary or a “core” encoding approach to support a basic level of interoperability. While projects were encouraged to continue encoding their data to the level that was appropriate for their individual research questions, to participate in TextGrid they must also register a mapping from their “semantically deep data” to the “TextGrid-wide core encoding” that was described as a “reasonably expressive” subset of TEI.

§ 9 Collaborative and Communication Tools

While a great deal of research in the humanities is often conducted by individual scholars, one prominent feature of much digital scholarship is that it is often quite collaborative in nature, and requires resources that support both collaboration and scholarly communication. A number of important resources/projects exist within the digital classics community that promote greater collaboration and communication among interested scholars who hope to share their work, find new colleagues, identify best practices, among many other possibilities.

Resources: Collaborative and Communication Tools

Digital Classicist Wiki. Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

The Digital Classicist Wiki has been created to serve as a central hub to link together the diverse digital scholarship in the various areas of classical studies. The wiki includes a directory of over 90 digital classics projects, an extensive FAQ with over 45 articles that provide information on best practices, standards and technical documentation on various topics (e.g. Sanskrit, typing and display), as well as an annotated list of tools. In order to join the wiki, one has to apply to one of the contributing editors, but once a member, you can then use the wiki to post information about projects, create resource guides or communicate with scholars working in a similar area. This resource provides one venue where data curators could actively engage with digital classicists in terms of developing best practices to create preserveable data or to learn about projects that might be in need of digital archiving services. For further details on the development of this wiki, see the recent article by one of the Wiki creators, Simon Mahony, of King’s College London, described briefly below.

Mahony, S. “Research Communities and Open Collaboration: the Example of the Digital Classicist Wiki.” Digital Medievalist. 6 (2011). Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

This article provides an overview of the Digital Classicist Wiki and its potential role in community development, scholarship, and teaching.

Interedition. European Cooperation in Science and Technology. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

The Interedition Project (2008 to 2012) is focused on building a “supranational networked infrastructure for digital scholarly editing and analysis” with one major goal being to promote greater interoperability between tools and methodology. According to the project website, as many scholars have already created useful tools and other resources, they hope to support greater collaboration between scholars and to encourage resource creators to focus on greater tool interoperability and content openness. In order to promote this, Interedition is holding a series of workshops with interested researchers and by project end will release a “roadmap” for this infrastructure ( The website provides access to a project wiki that provides details about past and future workshops as well as a list of workgroups and a draft architecture.

Sosin, Joshua. “Digital Papyrology.” Congress of the International Association of Papyrologists. Geneva, Switzerland. 16 Aug. 2010.

he Integrating Digital Papyrology project makes use of an online editing system named SoSOL that allows authorized participants to enter texts into the DDbDP and metadata into the HGV or APIS. This presentation given by Joshua Sosin and posted on the Stoa website explains both the development and purpose of this system. The SoSOL system allows users to create editions that will only become publicly visible when they wish. Authorized participants may also contribute new texts, corrections to previously entered texts, variant readings, translations or metadata, but all suggestions have to be approved by the editorial board. An important component of this editing system is that it records every step of this process, from vetting to final rejection or acceptance, with prose justification required for all steps. Additionally, rejected proposals are not deleted but are instead retained in the digital record, in case new data or better arguments are made to support them. All accepted proposals are also attributed to their contributor so they can receive appropriate scholarly credit. Sosin explains that this level of transparency is important and promotes both collegiality and peer-review. For technical details on SoSOL, see ( and access to the prototype is available at (

Stoa Consortium for Electronic Publication in the Humanities. The Sota Consortium. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

The Stoa Consortium was founded by Ross Scaife in 1997 to support dissemination of news important to classics via the gateway blog, to promote the discussion and documentation of best practices (through discussion groups and white papers), and most importantly, to support “open access to networked scholarship.” Stoa is host to a number of digital classics publications including photographic archives, individual digital editions of classical texts, and a prominent and collaborative digital encyclopedia (the Suda Online- This project is an important model of the diversity of digital publications created in the field of classics, each of which present different curation challenges.

§ 10 Model Digital Resources

The following list of resources illustrates projects that model best practices for building digital resources that can be sustained and effectively curated for the long-term and is drawn from across the classical disciplines. These best practices include the use of standards, the provision of documentation, permanent and fully citable URLs, and open access to data that can be exported in a variety of formats.

Resources: Epigraphy best practices models

Reynolds, J., Roueché, C., Bodard, G. Inscriptions of Aphrodisias. IAph 2007. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

This website forms part of the Inscriptions of Aphrodisias corpus and provides access to the first edition of an online corpus of inscriptions from Aphrodisias that were recorded up to 1994. This website illustrates a number of exemplary practices for the long-term curation of the data it contains. All the inscriptions have been marked up in EpiDoc, and both individual inscriptions and the entire repository can be downloaded along with a DTD from the site, meaning that the entire corpus can be easily stored in another location. Each inscription also has a citable and permanent URL. In addition, in order to encourage scholars to cite this electronic publication, all versions of inscriptions (with their URLs) are maintained even when changes and corrections are made, in case a scholar has cited an earlier version of an inscription. The need to provide versioning in order to ensure that scholars have stable and citable data that can be traced will be an important feature of any data curation system.

Bodard, G. “The Inscriptions of Aphrodisias as Electronic Publication: A User’s Perspective and a Proposed Paradigm.” Digital Medievalist. 4 (2008). Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

In this article, Bodard outlines six opportunities presented for epigraphy and the humanities in general by electronic publication (accessibility, scale, media, hypertext, updates, and iterative research and transparency) and explains how the Inscriptions of Aphrodisias exemplifies these opportunities.

Resources: Manuscript Studies best practices models

The Archimedes Palimpsest. The Archimedes Palimpsest Project. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

The Archimedes Palimpsest is a 13th century prayer book that was discovered to contain a number of erased texts, including previously “lost” treatises by Archimedes and Hypereides. Over the last twenty years, dozens of scholars have worked with the palimpsest, the manuscript has been digitized, and the images created of the manuscript pages as well as transcriptions of the text pages are freely available for download online (

The Archimedes Palimpsest

Dué, C., M. Ebbott, C. Blackwell, N. Smith The Homer Multitext. The Homer Multitext Project. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

The The Homer Multitext (HMT) project is hosted by the Center for Hellenic Studies (CHS) and the website provides access to a library of text transcriptions and images of Homeric manuscripts, with the major content being digital images of a 10th century manuscript of the Iliad known as the Venetus A from the Marciana Library in Venice. This manuscript has served as the basis for most modern editions of the Iliad, and includes a large number of marginal commentaries known as scholia that provide a wealth of historical information about the text. The encoded transcription of this manuscript includes not just the text of the Iliad but also the text of all the scholia, an important source of data ignored by many digitization projects, it also encodes text variants as well, another important source of data frequently not included in printed editions.

Blackwell, C. and Smith, D. N. “Homer Multitext – Nine Year Update.” Digital Humanities Abstracts. 2009, pages 6-8.

In order to support a more sophisticated understanding of both the Venetus A manuscript and the Homeric tradition, the HMT project has created a digital library model that provides access to all of the original data needed to create critical editions, including manuscript images, diplomatic transcriptions that can be reused, and a related body of textual and reference material that helps to place the manuscript in its historical context. The major focus of the HMT, Blackwell and Smith explain, is not to build “ a single-purpose application to support a particular theoretical approach” but instead to define “a long-term generic digital library expressly intended to encourage reuse of its contents, services, and tools.”

Resources: Papyrology best practices models

Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS). New York U. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

The APIS is hosted by New York University and according to its website serves as a “collections-based repository” that hosts both information about and images of papyrological materials from dozens of collections based around the world. This database includes both previously published and unpublished material and records for papyri include physical descriptions, extensive bibliographic information, digital images (when available), and links back to the host databases for full information such as English or other language translations in some cases.

Advanced Papyrological Information System

Van Beek, B., B. Feucht, Y. Broux, S. Coussement, S. Waebens, M. Depauw, G. jennes, H. Verreth.Trismegistos. Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

The Trismegistos project based at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven serves both as a large “portal” for papyrological resources and as a major papyrological aggregator from various collections with a focus on Ancient Egypt. Its core component is the Trismegistos Texts Database ( that provides federated searching across the metadata of a series of epigraphical and papyrological databases from related projects. Two levels of project partners participate in Trismegistos, the first group updates their information directly into the FileMaker Database that supports the online XML version of Trismegistos Texts, while a second group of larger databases updates their information on an annual basis. All of the participating projects, similar to the APIS, also maintain individual web presences and databases online. Each papyri is given an individual Trismegistos Number (TM number) to facilitate the finding of records for the same papyri across all of the different databases.

§ 11 Digital Preservation Lessons from Classics

As the various disciplines of classics have long dealt with both utilizing fragmentary and fragile sources from antiquity as well as preserving them, those working in the discipline have some useful advice regarding larger data curation issues.

Resources: Digital Preservation Lessons from Classics

Cayless, H. A. “Ktêma es aiei: Digital Permanence from an Ancient Perspective.” Digital Research in the Study of Classical Antiquity. Ed. Bodard, G. and S. Mahony. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2010. 139-150.

Although unfortunately not available electronically, this chapter by Hugh Cayless provides an insightful example from antiquity in terms of the long-term sustainability of digital materials. His essential argument is that materials that can be freely used with only limited restrictions are most likely to survive in the long-term. He proposes that studying how ancient texts have survived provides a useful analogy for how digital objects may be preserved, and explains that in general texts have typically been transmitted through accident, reuse by being incorporated into other entities, republication or replication, and being composed on durable materials (e.g. stone inscriptions). Cayless also asserts that most current digital rights management schemes do not work well with data curation goals, in that successful preservation requires the ability to distribute and migrate copies. He suggests that Creative Commons licenses might be one way to address this issue. Cayless also criticizes what he views as a misguided focus by digital preservationists on preserving the “user experience” (or in many cases the appearance of text on the page) rather than on the intellectual content of a work. He concludes his chapter with some useful advice for digital archivists and preservationists: 1) since future views or uses of an object cannot be predicted, a wide variety of digital resources should be preserved (one method he suggests for implementing this is releasing more objects from archival control), 2) since works have varying cycles of interest—curators must plan for cycles of disinterest in an object and actively promote the use of entire collections, 3) as “self-sustaining communities of interest” may be the most important factor in the long term survival of objects, digital archivists should promote the growth of communities around the objects/data they curate, 4) as the more copies of an object that exist make it more likely to survive, curators should greatly increase efforts to obtain rights to reproduce digital resources without limitations.

Choudhury, G. S. and Stinson, T. L. “The Virtual Observatory and the Roman de la Rose: Unexpected Relationships and the Collaborative Imperative.” Academic Commons. (2007). BROKEN LINK

This article by Choudhury and Stinson describes manuscripts as one of the most data rich sources available for scholars (e.g. they integrate texts, images, annotations, intertextual allusions and references). They also note that in their creation of the Roman de La Rose Library ( they discovered that there were a surprising number of commonalties between creating an infrastructure for a manuscript digital library and for a massive dataset in physics, the Virtual Observatory (, demonstrating the “parallel need for data curation and preservation in the humanities and the sciences (for at the level of storage infrastructure, a byte is a byte and a terabyte a terabyte).”

While classical studies is an inherently interdisciplinary field with a number of related disciplines, a number of these disciplines have specific research practices that will require different strategies for data curators. At the same time, many of the disciplines of classics share the same or similar kinds of primary sources as well as a number of research techniques that might lend themselves to common solutions.


The field of classical archaeology has long made use of information technology and of perhaps all of the related disciplines of classics it has by far the most diverse and complicated types of data, both analog legacy data and newly digitized data, all of which needs to be actively curated. Since archaeological sites are typically destroyed during an excavation, the need to carefully document data as it is excavated is also very important. Archaeological research includes significant work in the field and while extensive information is typically recorded at the site, such as through the creation of context cards, much information about excavated objects is ultimately entered into a database after the site excavation is completed. This double entry is not without its problems and the VERA project tried to address this issue through the introduction of information technology into the field. They discovered nonetheless that the introduction of technology did not necessarily improve data quality, and illustrated the importance of documenting actual research practice and critically examining how technology may or may not assist in solving difficult issues.

While many archaeologists actively preserve the data that they have created, the creators of both Digital Antiquity and OpenContext noted that much of this data is not preserved in a systematic or sustainable fashion. Both projects are seeking to encourage archaeologists to not only deposit their legacy data, but also to actively deposit their current research data so that it is easier to access and can be shared with the larger scholarly archaeology community. Fears about copyright, intellectual property, and being “scooped” by another scholar before formally publishing research that makes use of data they have gathered and organized are all complicated issues that the Archaeological Data Service, Digital Antiquity and OpenContext are trying to address through a variety of solutions (e.g. indicating clear authorship of contributed data, supporting embargoing of data). Similar fears about the loss of recognition were also expressed by papyrologists in Roger Bagnall’s discussion of attempting to get papyrologists to contribute their data to the Integrating Digital Papyrology project. These issues will thus need to be considered by data curators seeking to actively work with archaeologists to preserve their data.

A related issue that was often cited by many working in the field of archaeological data preservation is the lack of common standards for describing, integrating and sharing archaeological data, despite the existence of standards such as ArchaeoML. While the existence of a single standard for recording and sharing archaeological data is both unlikely and impractical, the vastly varying nature of descriptive practices has made the development of larger digital repositories for archaeological data far more challenging, particularly in terms of efficiently sharing data of potential interest between related researchers. Nonetheless, there are growing calls within the field that argue that one of the major benefits of making data available digitally is that it allows for data to be more closely integrated and linked to published interpretations of that data in scholarly publications and archaeological site reports. Data curators will thus need to ensure that archaeological data within their care can easily be linked to and cited online in order to support the next level of digital scholarship. At the same time, while electronic publication in archaeology, according to a recent report by the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of Berkeley (Harley et al. 2010, above), is slowly growing in acceptance by senior scholars, the traditional and established format of publishing for tenure in archaeology remains the monograph.

The increasing availability of technologies to create 3d models or digital reconstructions of archaeological sites has also led to a huge growth in the creation of such models within the discipline of archaeology, with two of the best known sites being Digital Karnak ( and Rome Reborn ( The consequent growth in these models has also led to new challenges in archiving not just the models, but also in finding ways to record and preserve the levels of scholarly interpretation and uncertainty inherent in creating them and has been addressed by the SAVE project discussed above. Curators will need to actively work with scholars to develop metadata models and technical solutions to address these issues.

The need to actively curate not just digital data that scholars create but also to preserve or at least record or store the levels of interpretation, uncertainty and individual scholarly decision making involved in the creation of many digital objects, such as digital editions of Cuneiform text, inscriptions, papyrus fragments and manuscript transcriptions, illustrates one of the common data curation problems found across the classical disciplines including epigraphy, papyrology and manuscript studies.


Epigraphy is one of the largest related disciplines of classics and involves the study of ancient inscriptions or epigraphs that have been engraved into durable materials such as stone. The discipline of epigraphy is quite advanced digitally and numerous projects exist online including large digitized inscription collections such as the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum ( or the PHI Greek Epigraphy Project ( and federated databases that search various inscription collections such as EAGLE (Electronic Archive of Greek and Latin Epigraphy- Although a large number of inscription collections are still published only in print, Gabriel Bodard recently argued that digital publication provides a more sophisticated way of managing inscriptions in that it allows for inscriptions to be more fully treated both as texts (e.g. through markup and subject encoding) and as archaeological objects (see Bodard 2008, above). The digitization of large numbers of inscribed texts thus raises a number of issues for the long-term curation of these inscriptions and the research practices of epigraphy, the most important of which will be to effectively curate both the encoded text/s of an inscription and storing and linking them to the multiple images of an inscription that are digitized or potentially to visualizations that have been created of the archaeological object on which the inscription was found.

The standard practice in epigraphy has long been print publication of inscriptions that have been transcribed using a set of publishing protocols called the Leiden conventions, which according to Roued (2009, above) are “a type of semantic encoding” that uses brackets, underdots and other markings to indicate missing characters, uncertainty, addition or other corrections made by the editor of the inscription. Many digital epigraphy projects (largely in the form of relational databases) have consequently directly transferred Leiden encoded inscriptions to a digital form. Cayless et al. (2009, above) and others within the field of epigraphy have increasingly challenged this practice by advocating the use of the EpiDoc standard, because the use of EpiDoc allows not just the encoding of an inscription text, but the inclusion of information about the history of the inscription, scholarly commentary on and descriptions of the text, as well as links to photographs and translations. In addition, Cayless et al. argued that inscriptions that are encoded in EpiDoC XML could be far more easily exported both as individual inscriptions and as entire corpora, thus making it far easier to distribute copies of a digital epigraphic corpus and preserve it. Data curators will thus need to work with creators of digital epigraphy projects to encourage wider adoption of standards such as EpiDoc, encourage creators of projects to make them available for download, and then actively download copies of digital corpora of inscriptions so that they can be preserved in multiple locations.

One other significant issue identified by both Bodard (2008) and Cayless et al. (2009) in the design of digital corpora of inscriptions was the need to use persistent identifiers (such as DOIs) at the level of individual digital objects (e.g. an individual inscription) so that in a future where the same digital inscriptions may be published and even preserved in multiple location, individual inscriptions could still be cited independently of location. The need to support persistent citation and linking to all types of data stored within digital repositories will be an important feature that data curators will need to implement in order to support digital scholarship in the future.

Manuscript Studies and Related Classical Disciplines

Although manuscript studies is not a “discipline” of classics per-se, the first standard critical editions of classical texts upon which modern scholars frequently still rely were based off the study of large numbers of medieval manuscripts. Ancient and medieval manuscripts are an important data source for study across a number of classical and historical disciplines including codicology, philology and palaeography. Access to both the digitized images of manuscripts as well as various levels of transcriptions (e.g. a basic text transcription, a TEI-XML digital edition) has thus been cited as a key component of a cyberinfrastructure for classics (see Crane et al. 2009, above).

The large amount of data created by both libraries and scholars in the digitization and transcription of manuscripts raises a number of significant curation issues. Data curation and digital infrastructure for manuscripts will require providing both long-term management of and effective access to the wealth of data created in their digitization. This data includes digital images of individual manuscript pages as well as digital versions of entire manuscripts, diplomatic transcriptions of individual pages and entire manuscripts, possibly multiple TEI editions of the same manuscript by different scholars, and scholarly annotations (both historical ones such as scholia and modern ones such as philological commentaries on words).

Data curation will also need to consider the various ways in which different types of scholars use these data sources in order to provide varying levels of service. For example, the discipline of philology studies historical languages, particularly the grammar and history of words and their variant forms, and philological scholarship within Classics typically produces “shared primary and secondary sources about linguistic sources” (Crane, Seales and Terras 2009, see above) with a particular focus upon Greek and Latin. The research needs of philologists then, especially in terms of creating digital critical editions, are closely tied to the digitization of individual Greek and Latin manuscripts and annotated corpora of historical manuscripts, and typically they require access to all of the data used in their creation (e.g. multiple manuscripts of the same classical work, diplomatic transcriptions that include all textual variants). Teuchos and TextGrid are thus seeking to create comprehensive environments that not only support the creation of new philological data by scholars working with digitized manuscripts and other sources, but also the development of collaborative workspaces for sharing data and archives for maintaining such data in the long-term.


The discipline of papyrology studies documentary texts, ancient literature, personnel correspondence and many other types of texts that have been preserved in papyri. The publication of papyri online, such as with inscriptions and archaeological reconstructions, involves a large amount of scholarly editing and individual interpretation, and has been described by many within the field as akin to the act of creating a scholarly edition. Data curation for papyrology, as with many other disciplines within the larger field of classics (including both epigraphy and archaeology), will thus require preserving not just the digital objects and databases that have been created, but the scholarly interpretations involved in the creation of digital objects/editions of individual ancient texts.

There are numerous digital collections of papyri available online (two both well-known and large full-text collections are Oxyrhynchus ( and the Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri (DDbDP- as well as major papyri aggregators such as the APIS and important databases of papyrological metadata such as the Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens (HGV- These resources as well as several prominent research projects, namely e-Science and Ancient Documents (eSAD) and Integrating Digital Papyrology (IDP), have illustrated a number of important lessons about the practice of papyrology that will improve important to long-term for data curation.

To begin with, there is a significant amount of digital papyrological data and metadata currently available online, often with differing levels of data and metadata about the same papyri in different collections and databases. Effective curation of this data will involve meaningful integration and access to this data, and the Integrating Digital Papyrology (IDP) project is seeking to provide one possible model of data integration for papyrology. This project has also offered important lessons (see Bagnall 2010, above) in terms of what is required to actively solicit the participation of scholars in terms of sharing their research data (e.g. ensuring appropriate authorship and credit) within a long-term archive and how to build editorial models that reassure potential contributors/users of the data quality of such contributed data.

Similarly, eSAD’s research offers insights into the need to curate not just the research outputs of digital papyrology but also the research methods used by scholars in creating digital resources. The work on an interpretation support system by eSAD to model and store scholarly interpretations (Roued 2009, de la Flor et al. 2010, above) during the use of their prototype research environment for working with ancient texts illustrates one important type of data that is only created during the research process itself and would likely be hard to recreate later. Data curation processes will thus need to be created that can address the archiving of evidence and methodology of digital scholarly research not just the “final” scholarly output (e.g. a digital edition of a papyrus fragment).