Mellon renews partnership with Cuneiform Digital Library

Project "Creating a Sustainable Cuneiform Digital Library (CSCDL)" phase two funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The principals of a broad collaboration of Assyriologists, cultural heritage officials and information technology experts are pleased to announce their successful proposal to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (<>) for funding of the second phase of a project dedicated to the digital capture, persistent archiving and web dissemination of major cuneiform collections in the US, Europe and the Middle East. Work on this initiative began in April of 2009 and will continue under the current grant through June of 2013. The British Museum, the Ashmolean Museum and the Penn Museum will constitute the major centers of digital capture in phase two of CSCDL; in addition, the project foresees the initiation or continuation of scanning efforts at a number of substantial as well as more modest collections, and we welcome communications from collections officials or other interested colleagues concerning the use of our scanning teams to capture texts in Europe and North America.

Paraphrasing from the project executive summary:
In this phase of the initiative, efforts will move beyond the development of standardized methods in the electronic capture and permanent data archiving of cuneiform collections across a broad array of public institutions to include innovative imaging strategies as well as a new focus on text annotation. We will build on an international network of cuneiform researchers and curators to digitize and archive new cuneiform data content.

Major cuneiform collections will be digitally captured as a result of CSCDL. First, an electronic representation of the intellectual and political output of the Assyrian Empire will be achieved by completing the capture, supervised by Jon Taylor, of the Library of Ashurbanipal housed in the British Museum. Digitization of the full set of 31,500 Nineveh texts will be completed, followed up in the second year of phase two with the capture of 5,000 high-impact BM texts primarily from the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. The Nippur collection of the University of Pennsylvania will be completed and complemented with the capture of all remaining text artifacts in the Penn Museum, including a broad array of 3rd and 2nd millennium texts from Babylonia and ancient Iran. We expect to complete in this second phase the capture of the Semitic Museum at Harvard, to continue scanning the tablets in the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and will work closely with David I. Owen at Cornell to assist in imaging the recent acquisition there of the Rosen collection. Bertrand Lafont, CNRS-Paris, will continue to coordinate the capture of continental European collections, starting with those of Turin and Montserrat. Additional collections targeted for capture will include, among others, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, the Syracuse University Library (by UCLA staff), the University of Jena (Hilprecht collection) and the Musées d’art et d’histoire, Geneva (by Berlin staff).

The project will include a center of capture and research led by Jacob L. Dahl of Oxford University, who, beyond directing the digitization of the full Ashmolean and other UK collections outside of London, will supervise the implementation of advanced Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) with Ashmolean and BM artifacts. The project's RTI dome and high-resolution digital camera will, further, be used to image subtle seal impressions on administrative documents, and high-impact literary and lexical texts in the Penn Museum collection. The processing, archiving and web posting of these collections, together with a substantive cross-section of further American and European collections, will be managed by a team of researchers at UCLA.

Principal Investigators and postdoctoral-level associates:
At the University of California, Los Angeles:
Robert K. Englund, Professor of Assyriology; Director, Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative
Lance Allred, Postdoctoral Researcher
At the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia:
Stephen J. Tinney, Clark Research Associate Professor in Assyriology; Associate Curator,
Babylonian Section, Penn Museum; Director, Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary
Ilona Zsolnay, Postdoctoral Researcher and Project Manager
At the British Museum, London:
Jon Taylor, Curator of Cuneiform Collections at the Department of the Middle East
Sarah Logan, Assistant Curator
At Oxford University:
Jacob L. Dahl, University Lecturer in Assyriology
Klaus Wagensonner, Research Associate
At the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris:
Bertrand Lafont, Chercheur au CNRS
At the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin:
Jürgen Renn, Director, MPIWG; Professor, Humboldt University, Berlin
Ludek Vacin, Postdoctoral Researcher