2007-2008 Report

The academic year 2007-2008 was a year of striking achievement along with painful change. At the end of January Dr. Tom Elliott left the Center in order to become Associate Director for Digital Programs in the prestigious new Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. With the Institute’s support, however, he continued to direct the Center’s NEH-funded Pleiades project, and Sean Gillies continued as its software developer, until the end of the grant period in mid-2008. Moreover, a proposal for a further phase initiated before Elliott left the Center was taken over by the Institute and has proven successful. This one-year initiative, entitled Concordia, is funded by a new NEH/JISC Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration Grant ($129,828). It calls for the Institute and the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College, London, to develop a set of tools and procedures to enable seamless textual searches and the dynamic mapping of a variety of humanities collections. The focus will be upon large holdings of papyrological and epigraphic texts from North Africa during the Greek and Roman periods. Along with Elliott, Gillies is to work on Concordia, and Richard Talbert is on its Advisory board.

Gratifying development though Concordia is, Elliott’s departure from UNC after thirteen years remains a serious loss. His creativity was instrumental in making the Center a world leader in the emerging innovative field of digital humanities as it relates to ancient geography and epigraphy in particular. His new appointment is a tribute to the importance and value of everything he has achieved. Moreover its unique range, security and visibility permit him to extend the foundation laid here.

Gillies and Talbert accepted an invitation to speak about the Center’s Pleiades Project at a conference entitled Using New Technologies to Explore Cultural Heritage held in Washington DC to mark the signing of a memorandum of understanding between NEH and Italy’s Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche. A full transcript of their contribution has been published electronically by NEH, and is also due to appear in book form. For more information on their presentation, including the transcript, please click here. Elliott and Talbert co-authored the chapter “New windows on the Peutinger map of the Roman world” in A. Knowles, Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS are Changing Historical Scholarship. To read this chapter, please click here.

The Center’s Acting Director Elizabeth Robinson has been responsible for significant progress on several projects, in particular the realization of the set of wall maps begun last year. Work done by Cartographic Assistant Cary Barber and UNC GIS Librarian Amanda Henley has made it possible to plot sites on five of these maps, and a draft template has so far been printed for one, Aegean World. Robinson has been especially preoccupied with the standardization of the format for the maps so that they will maintain their integrity as a set and be as accessible as possible for instructional purposes. She will continue as the Acting Director for the 2008-2009 academic year.

The maps freely available for downloading from the Center’s website continue to provide a unique resource and are in heavy demand worldwide. They have also been licensed for use in an even wider range of publications than usual this year, including the programme for the National Theatre’s presentation of Euripides’ Women of Troy in London. Commissions for custom-designed maps have also been fulfilled for a number of scholarly works, notably books by Richard Enos, Roman Rhetoric: Revolution and the Greek Influence, and Laura Miguelez-Cavero, Poems in Context: Greek Epic Poetry in the Egyptian Thebaid 200-600 AD. With scans supplied by the Harvard Map Collection, the immense mosaic of map sheets offered by Pierre Lapie’s Orbis Romanus ad Illustranda Itineraria (1845) was assembled and printed; Talbert gave a talk sponsored by the Classics department on this extraordinary, neglected cartographic achievement.

Brian Turner served as research assistant for the Pleiades Project during the fall semester. Two other students, Joshua Moffitt and Sarah Willis, assistedTalbert with various dimensions of his research on the Peutinger map and Roman itineraries.

The Center is pleased to welcome graduate student Ross Twele as a graduate research assistant for the fall 2008 semester. Twele has already begun working on the wall maps project and has made significant progress in plotting sites for the maps and helping to design their layout.

Elizabeth RobinsonRichard Talbert