Ancient Itineraries: The Digital Lives of Art History

I am very happy to announce that I have been chosen as a participant for Ancient Itineraries: The Digital Lives of Art History institute, which is supported by the Getty Foundation as part of their Digital Art History initiative.


A (VERY!) brief synopsis: The institute will focus on three areas of concern to digital art history: provenance, geographies, and visualization. We will create detailed specifications, assess different methodologies, and create a detailed proof of concept for each of these three areas. The results of this work will be translatable to different project plans and research opportunities at the close of the institute.


Given the detailed description of the institute (linked above) and the various specialties and strengths of the organizers, I think this will be a fascinating exploration of the intersection of art history, ancient history, linked data, geospatial research, material culture, and digital humanities. I expect that this institute will not only create outstanding scholarly output, but will serve as the core of a new, robust community of scholars interested in linked data, material culture, and art history.

SNA, Wikipedia, and the Hellenistic World

Part of my work on the Big Ancient Mediterranean project involves creating a general software framework that can display social networks produced with Gephi, either as “stand alone” displays or integrated with geographic and textual information.

I created this particular module, “Hellenistic” Royal Relationships, to highlight the “stand alone” social network analysis (SNA) capabilities of BAM, and to serve as the start of a more generalized Hellenistic prosopography. Some other, more specialized work has been done in this direction; notably Trismegistos Networks and the efforts of SNAP:DRGN to create data standards for describing prosopographies and linking to other projects. Eventually this module will take advantage of these efforts, and provide stable URIs for its own data.

I envision this module serving several purposes. First, it provides an interesting visual representation of data contained within Wikipedia articles, including textual data that is not “linked” to other entries  and therefore not discoverable by automated means. It serves as a quick reference for familial relationships, and provides an entry point for further exploration and study. This project has created a “core” of relationships that can be further expanded by different projects. It also can function as a check on Wikipedia data; some of the relationships here are highly controversial, or could even be wrong.

For future development, the next steps are to add more data on the subjects, including birth / death / reigning dates and a time-line browser based on those dates. As mentioned above, more work needs to be done to take advantage of linked data projects, including linkages to Pleiades locations where appropriate, linkages to Nomisma IDs if the monarch minted coins, and the presentation of the underlying data in a format that is compatible with SNAP:DRGN. Finally, I would like to develop a method for the automatic discovery and extraction of relationships described in Wikipedia articles, which is an interesting, but difficult, problem.