Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Companion Website and Database for Speech Presentation in Homeric Epic

A Companion Website and Database for Speech Presentation in Homeric Epic
Book Cover
Digital humanities have rich and largely unexplored potential for philological research in Classics. I hope that making my database of all the speeches presented in the Homeric epics available online will offer a specific example of how new technological tools can enable Classicists to develop innovative and fruitful approaches to the enduring questions that are central to our discipline. My book, Speech Presentation in Homeric Epic (University of Texas Press, 2012), explores how various ways of depicting speech shape the narratives in the Homeric poems; similarly, this database and the kinds of questions it allowed me to ask has shaped the scholarly narrative in my book. I hope that making it directly available to all will shape future scholarly inquiries, and that users of the database will tell me how they have used it and what kinds of questions it has helped them to explore.
The origins of the database, as a personal research tool developed incrementally over a long period of time, led the design in somewhat different directions than it would have gone if broad user-friendliness had been a top priority from the beginning. I hope that this online database - unlike my personal FileMaker 9-generated version - is clear and straightforward to use, for which I owe warm thanks to the LAITS staff who prepared it for online use, especially Gavin Sellers and Lauren Moore. Moreover, some aspects of the data are formatted differently for the online interface than they were in my FileMaker version; this means that some searches that appear in my book cannot be exactly replicated with the online database. Some kinds of multi-field searches are not yet available at the time of release (July 2013), but we expect to make more kinds of functionality gradually available. If you have requests or suggestions about this, please email me at - we are eager to make the database as responsive as we can to users' needs. The database has been proofread to a high, but not a perfect, standard of accuracy.
The user notes are intended to complement the section of the book's introduction that explains how the database was constructed (introduction available here). A series of screen shots under examples illustrate a few sample searches as a way of explaining how the online interface works, and what kinds of searches it is most suited to explore.

News: Digital archivists from TACC collaborate with classicists from The University of Texas at Austin to improve database preservation methods

Digital archivists from TACC collaborate with classicists from The University of Texas at Austin to improve database preservation methods
When Deborah Beck was preparing her book, Speech Presentation in Homeric Epic, her publisher suggested she make the database she had started in 2008 — a searchable catalogue of features from every speech in the Homeric poems — available to the public as a web application and companion resource.
Since the application went live in 2013, more than 5,000 researchers have used it to parse the thousands of speeches found in the Iliad and the Odyssey and to explore different connections from those Beck investigated in her book.
"I get emails from people around the world expressing their appreciation for the database," said Beck, an associate professor of Classics at The University of Texas at Austin. "I heard in June from a student in Mexico who used the application to write his bachelor's thesis."
An overview of the preservation workflow.
However, as new web and database capabilities became available, Beck was finding it challenging to update the application, which was developed using the technologies from the 2000s.
Perhaps more worryingly, as browsers change and university web-servers retire, there was a chance that in the future the database might be lost to the sands of time.
"As a classicist, the very long-term accessibility of texts is a fundamental prerequisite of our entire discipline," Beck explained. "I can pick up a manuscript from 1,000 years ago and if I know how to read the handwriting, that resource is still available to me. However, I don't have the slightest idea what the availability of resources that are currently digital will look like in 100 years."
Papers she wrote as an undergraduate are inaccessible because the writing programs and file formats she used are now obsolete. "I don't want that to happen to projects that I'm connected to."
She asked for assistance from the University's General Libraries, who suggested she talk to researchers from the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) with expertise in digital archiving and preservation. Together, they set about developing a new way to preserve digital humanities databases.
At the 2017 ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL) in June, Beck along with Weijia Xu, a research scientist at TACC, Maria Esteva, a digital archivist at TACC, and Yi-Hsuan Hsieh, a Ph.D. computer science student at UT Austin supported by TACC's Science & Technology Affiliates for Research (STAR) Scholars Program, presented a solution that preserves Beck's database of Homeric speeches, including the multivariate connections among the texts and the insights Beck developed over years of study.
Deborah Beck, Associate Professor of Classics at The University of Texas at Austin
"The value of research data not only resides in its content but in how it is made available to users," said Esteva. "Research data is often presented interactively through a web application, the design of which is often the result of years of work by researchers. Therefore, preserving the data and the application's functionalities becomes equally important."
The preservation strategy they developed allows scholars to re-launch the database application in a variety of environments — from individual computers, to virtual machines, to future web servers — without compromising its interactive features. It preserves the data separately from the interactive application, so scholars can reuse it in other technical and functional contexts.
The process exploits aspects of emulation and virtualization – techniques applied in business and technology — but goes beyond these approaches.
It dissociates the web code from the data and re-deploys the entire application on different platforms, including virtual machines. The process has four stages:
  1. extracting the data and application code;
  2. identifying dependencies (where one object relies on a function of another object) and decoupling the application from the data;
  3. redeploying the application and validating its results; and
  4. distributing the application to end users.
Using this method, a researcher can reboot the application at a later date by starting up a virtual machine image that contains the fully functional application. This approach fits well with the evolving nature of digital preservation and with the requirements for data reuse, the researchers say.
For Beck, the project provided an avenue to preserve the research she had done over many years.
For Yi-Hsuan Hsieh, it presented an opportunity to apply the computer science principles she is learning in her graduate program to a mature project of value to the classics community.
Her main task on the project was to test a dependency detection algorithm that identifies the relations between the web code and the libraries required to redeploy and run the application.
"It was exciting to gather experts' ideas from different fields," Hsieh said. "Dr. Beck gave us the motivation to preserve humanity digital projects. Dr. Esteva provided the requirements and goals of digital preservation and Dr. Xu gave ideas about automating the process of identifying dependencies from the web code to significantly reduce human efforts in preserving a web application," she said.
The team is currently working on further automating the stages of dependency detection to make the strategy generalizable for other projects and hosting environments.
"The value of research data not only resides in its content but in how it is made available to users."
Maria Esteva, Digital Archivist, Texas Advanced Computing Center
As with any digital preservation method, one must still monitor and update the project occasionally. However, the risk of incompatibility is lower because updates to new web technologies or hosting services can be carried out at any point in a project's lifecycle from the application code and the data.
"I come at this project from the perspective of long-term preservation, but the main thing that I came to understand over the course of the work is that having an interactive, accessible digital component to your research means that it reaches more people and it reaches them in different ways," Beck said. "That to me is really important and having a preservation strategy in place that makes it achievable over a longer period of time and with a wider variety of users is critical."

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Views of Rome: Anteiquae Urbis Imago

Views of Rome: Anteiquae Urbis Imago


Views of Rome is the online home of the 1773 edition of Pirro Ligorio’s Anteiquae Urbis Imago (Image of the Ancient City) held at Emory University. Originally published in 1561, the Imago is a cartographic reconstruction of fourth-century AD Rome. A high-resolution scan of the map exists as an interactive digital tool for use by students in the classroom and by members of the general public.

The Map

Anteiquae Urbis Imago (Image of the Ancient City), Pirro Ligorio, 1561
Published by Michele Tramezzino, republished 1773 by Carlo Losi
132.1 x 152.4 cm (52 x 60 inches)
Michael C. Carlos Museum 2007.35.1
Available at MARBL, Emory Library Catalog Call No. G6714 .R7 L53 1773 FOLIO

The Anteiquae Urbis Imago represents the culmination of Ligorio’s considerable knowledge and skill as an antiquarian, architect, and artist. Like its immediate predecessors, most notably Leonard Bufalini’s 1551 map of modern Rome, the Imago is oriented such that north is to the left. Ligorio drew upon ancient literary testimony, coins, inscriptions, reliefs, and archaeological remains in order to locate and give form to the structural inhabitants of the ancient city. The map is a visual manifestation of his arguments concerning these matters of topography and original appearance, employing bird’s eye perspective as a means of illustration. The map is also a reflection of Ligorio’s antiquarian interest in exhibiting the city to his audience as a restored whole. That is to say that Ligorio extrapolated the evidence at his disposal in order to account for missing information, preferring to fill in the blank spaces rather than represent a city of fragmented parts.
Selected Bibliography:  D. Coffin, Pirro Ligorio: The Renaissance Artist, Architect and Antiquarian, with a Checkist of Drawings (University Park 2004); J. Connors, Piranesi and the Campus Martius: The Missing Corso. Topography and Archaeology in Eighteenth-Century Rome (Milan 2011) 57-60; R. Gaston, Pirro Ligorio: Artist and Antiquarian (Milan 1988); E. R. Varner (forthcoming 2013).

v-must: Virtual Museum Transnational Network is a Network of Excellence, funded by the European FP7 Network of Excellence (Grant Agreement 270404), focused on Virtual Museums. It aims to provide the heritage sector with the tools and support to develop Virtual Museums that are educational, enjoyable, long-lasting and easy to maintain. V-MUST.NET, coordinated by CNR, is participated by 18 partners, coming from 13 different Countries and more than 100 Associated Members. The project is developed in 4 years (1st of February 2011 - 31st of January 2015).
Virtual Museums
Livia web 3d interface
The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
The Pure Form museum
Sarajevo Survival Tools
Virtual Rome
Virtual Reconstruction of Isa-Bet Tekija
Virtual Myths
Virtual Museum of the Scrovegni Chapel
Virtual Museum of Daily Life
Virtual Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Virtual Museum of BH Traditional Objects
Virtual Arrigo the 7th
The workshop of Phidia in Olympia
Teramo Virtual City
Stymphalia Environment Museum
Global Egyptian Museum
The digital catalogue of Stecaks
The battle of Thermopylae
Athena in the Ancient Agora
A walk to ancient Miletus
Satricum AR
Appia Narrative VR Museum
Virtual Museum of Iraq