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2008-2009 Annual Report

January 26, 2018 in Report


With Elizabeth Robinson continuing as Acting Director and the opportunity to secure Ross Twele as Cartographic Assistant for both semesters, the Center has been able to achieve considerably more this year than originally anticipated. A substantial number of commissions to create custom-designed maps were accepted, in particular a complex group spread over ten pages for a monograph on the Alexandrian geographer and polymath Eratosthenes by Duane Roller (Princeton University Press, forthcoming fall 2009). The year’s principal accomplishment, however, has been a fundamental rethinking of the long delayed ‘wall maps’ project and its advancement at an accelerated pace almost to completion. Former Director Tom Elliott had drafted a prototype map for this project as far back as 2005, and more recently Robinson had made some progress assisted by Cary Barber and UNC GIS Librarian Amanda Henley. Even so, certain major conceptual concerns had still to be resolved and related technical obstacles overcome. In both instances satisfying solutions have now been found and the results are outstanding. In particular, a set of seven maps has been settled upon, with the prospect of others to come left open. Two cover the ancient Near East and Egypt at successive periods, and one each the Aegean, Italy, Alexander the Great’s world, the eastern Mediterranean with special reference to the New Testament, and the Roman empire. All are designed as wall maps for instructors’ use in large survey courses. However, they are also to be offered as digital products for projection, and as such are extraordinarily attractive and versatile. Physical landscape has been painstakingly returned to its ancient appearance, and an effective color palette developed. The sheer quantity of data to be manipulated (the largest map covers 30 sq. ft.) presented a succession of daunting challenges, but these have all been met. No comparable set of large maps for use in ancient history classes exists; the latest published dates to 1989 (just prior to the development of digital cartography) and is no match for the Center’s seven.

The extensive digital map work commissioned by Richard Talbert for the electronic version of his book Rome’s World: the Peutinger Map Reconsidered was completed by Sarah Willis. The book has been delivered to Cambridge University Press and has gone into production. With Talbert as adviser, Gannon Hubbard exploited the unique collection of resources and materials at the Center to develop his History honors thesis “Engravers and mapmakers: two contrasting approaches to reproducing the Peutinger map.”

The Center was associated with the ‘Concordia’ project funded by a NEH/JISC Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration Grant; this has principally involved the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College, London, and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. At the latter, major roles were played by Tom Elliott together with AWMC’s former software developer Sean Gillies. Concordia’s goal has been to prepare approximately one thousand Roman inscribed texts from western Libya (Tripolitania) for publication in association with maps and other research tools, not least as a demonstration of digital interoperability.

At the year’s end Elizabeth Robinson is relinquishing the Acting Directorship in order to pursue dissertation research in Rome and Larino (Molise) with the support of the Archaeological Institute of America’s prestigious Olivia James Traveling Fellowship for 2009-10. Her initiative, efficiency and multiple talents will be much missed. Brian Turner takes her place; having previously worked for the ongoing Pleiades project, he is already familiar with many of the Center’s activities. Ross Twele is taking up a departmental teaching assistantship, but expects to continue some mapmaking work at the Center.

Elizabeth Robinson, Richard Talbert


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