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NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World Among the First Recipients of NEH’s New Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration Grants

April 7, 2008
N-385, 2007-08

Nearly $130,000 to Support a Shared Project with Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College, London

The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) at New York University has announced it is among the first to receive a new Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration Grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), a British advisory body promoting information technology in higher education. ISAW was one of five U.S. institutions working on shared projects with scholars in the U.K. to receive grants. In collaboration with the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College, London, ISAW will use the $129,828 grant to develop a searching and mapping system for online Humanities collections.

ISAW and the Centre for Computing in the Humanities have established a pilot project named Concordia. The project is under the joint direction of Roger Bagnall, director of ISAW, and Charlotte Roueché, professor of classics at Kings College.

“We are delighted to be among the first to receive this important grant in digital humanities,” said Roger Bagnall, director of ISAW. “Concordia will span institutional and national boundaries using new mechanisms to bring together digitally three existing and respected humanities collections from North Africa during the Greek and Roman period. The result will be a blueprint that can be used by all as an affordable and public tool for assembling arbitrary collections of humanities content anywhere on the web.”

“We are very grateful to the funding bodies for their imaginative partnership,” said Charlotte Roueché. “This gives us a welcome opportunity to demonstrate how much can be achieved by international collaboration, with results which should benefit scholars, students, and the public in countries across the world.”

The Concordia pilot project unites an array of separately produced and hosted collections of historic documents with a unique geographic reference work to provide search and analysis presently available only in a few special-purpose, closed systems. The content of the participating collections (including 50,000 papyrological and 3,000 epigraphic texts) will be brought together with open-source software and newly digitized content (an additional 950 epigraphic texts plus complete topographic and toponymic records for over 3,000 historical geographic features) to create an unparalleled research resource for Greek and Roman Libya and Egypt, and beyond.

Concordia will employ the new Object Reuse and Exchange (ORE) specification, promulgated by the Open Archives Initiative, to underpin open-access web services across these collections. ORE links to the Pleiades project ( will facilitate automated geographic correlation and dynamic mapping, alongside more traditional search modes. When Concordia is complete, it will be possible to map the findspots of texts in the individual collections and to browse from one text to others found nearby. The other participating collections include:

Bruce Cole, chairman of NEH, in announcing the first grants, said, “The JISC/NEH grant program encourages international collaboration on humanities projects of value to scholars worldwide. Award recipients in the U.S. and U.K. are working together to create digital archives, centralize holdings, and develop tools to improve humanities research online. These projects embody the best of the digital humanities and advance the mission of the Endowment.”

The JISC/NEH Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration Grant program, inaugurated last year as part of the NEH’s Digital Humanities Initiative, is supported by both the NEH and the Higher Education Funding Council for England acting through JISC. The grants provide combined funding of up to $240,000 for one year of development in the following areas: new digitization projects and pilot projects, the addition of important materials to existing digitization projects, or the development of infrastructure (either technical “middleware,” tools, or knowledge-sharing) to support U.S.-England digitization work. Each project is sponsored by both an American and an English institution, whose activities will be funded by NEH and JISC respectively.

This project is supported jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Higher Education Funding Council for England of the United Kingdom acting through the Joint Information Systems Committee.

The Joint Information Systems Committee is an independent advisory body in the United Kingdom that works with further and higher education by providing strategic guidance, advice, and opportunities to use Information and Communication Technologies to support learning, teaching, research, and administration.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: Richard Pierce | (212) 998-6796

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