I was just at the British Epigraphy Society‘s annual meeting and AGM in Senate House today, and I spoke in a short panel on “Virtual Epigraphy”. The three presentations were designed as short reports on digital projects, and were squeezed in just before the afternoon coffee break.
Dr Karen Radner (UCL) spoke about the State Archives of Assyria online, one of the core datasets of the the Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus (ORACC) database which aggregates some 20 collections of Cuneiform language inscriptions. Karen talked about the scale of the project, the value of aggregating multiple datasets in a single interface, and the power of search tools for mastering a very large corpus, especially lemmatized text search which enables the comparison of words across texts in different forms, dialects, etc. She also stressed the importance of established standards and open source technologies for building a corpus of this scale.
Professor Silvia Orlandi (La Sapienza, Rome) began with a bit of history of the EAGLE (Electronic Archive of Greek and Latin Epigraphy) federation, and then illustrated the value of a database that gives detailed contextual and supporting information as well as searchable text, using her database of inscription from Italia, EDR. She finished by talking about the next phase of work on EDR, which will involve harnessing the power of the Internet to create a massively collaborative community of Roman epigraphers (on the model of the Papyri.info for papyri) to contribute bibliography, photographs, improved readings, or even new texts.
I then spoke pretty briefly (I didn’t want to be the man standing between a room full of epigraphers and their hot coffee) about the planned Inscriptions of Libya platform that I’m helping to put together (with Hafed Walda and Charlotte Roueché here at King’s, and other colleagues in Bologna, Macerata and Paris). InsLib will bring together IRT, the forthcoming IRCyr, an in-progress IGCyr, and the Ostraka from Bu Ngem (available in XML at Papyri.info), in a single search and browse interface that will address issues of authority, versioning, surfacing old readings and apparatus criticus and (hopefully one day) an implementation of the SoSOL software for collaborative editing and improvement of these texts.