The National Museum of Iran (NMI), in collaboration with the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI), is pleased to present the initial results of its efforts to digitize and disseminate all available documentation on NMI’s extensive cuneiform text artifact collection.
The NMI, designed by French architects André Godard and Maxime Siroux, and built by two Iranian masons, opened its doors in 1937, and houses today collections of 300,000 historical artifacts, including sculptures, inscriptions, seals, pottery, metal objects, coins, textiles, and rare books, representing the culture of Iran and neighboring regions.
The cuneiform collection, consisting of documents from the fourth millennium BC to the first century AD, is among the most comprehensive in the Middle East, containing clay tablets, bricks, and stone slabs bearing ancient texts written in proto-Elamite, Elamite, Sumerian, Akkadian, Urartian, and Old Persian.
The “Digitization Project of the Inscriptions of the National Museum of Iran” is a joint effort of the CDLI and the NMI. The project was first proposed by Jacob Dahl from the University of Oxford, and Jebrael Nokande, Director of the National Museum of Iran, during a two-day Tehran workshop in May 2016 dedicated to the digitization of cuneiform tablets, followed by a proto-Elamite reading seminar led by Professor Dahl. The project partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in in 2017, and the first group of proto-Elamite tablets were scanned and digitized in January 2018 by Oxford staff member Parsa Daneshmand, in cooperation with the Head of the Tablet Department, Simin Piran, and assisted by Yeganeh Sepideh.
The collection is of great importance for understanding the development and use of writing in Iran, and cuneiform culture in general. The earliest examples of writing in the collection, from the 4th and early 3rd millennia BC, some forerunners to writing such as tokens and bullae, and later texts in the so-called proto-Elamite writing system, are among the most important of their kind.
At a time when more and more resources for Humanities research are transferring to the Internet, and therefore serving both expert and informal learning communities worldwide, we are gratified to see the collections of the National Museum of Iran in their present form online, and hope to complete our collaborative capture of all NMI texts by the summer/fall of 2019. In this, the NMI collection proudly joins the growing network of ancient cuneiform text artifacts offered, via CDLI servers at UCLA and its pertner institutions in Canada, the UK and Germany, for individual study, and in a downloadable format making our data accessible for harvest, aggregation, and re-use by research initiatives of the future.
For the National Museum of Iran:
Jebrael Nokandeh, Director
For the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative:
Jacob L. Dahl, Professor of Assyriology, University of Oxford
Jürgen Renn, Director, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin