Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CDLI News: Digital capture of the Louvre cuneiform collection

Digital capture of the Louvre cuneiform collection

We are delighted to announce an ongoing collaboration between the Louvre Museum and the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI - Los Angeles/Berlin/Oxford). Signed in March of 2013, an Agreement of Scientific Cooperation between the Louvre and UCLA formalized the long-term efforts by both the Museum and CDLI to effect the digital capture, persistent archiving and free Internet dissemination of one of the most significant collections of cuneiform texts on earth, with its rich history of archaeological discovery in the ancient Middle East. The Louvre's Department of Near Eastern Antiquities combines epigraphic finds from famous French excavations in ancient Iranian Susa, in southern Mesopotamian Girsu and Larsa, among many other sites of cultural-historical significance.

In furtherance of this cooperation between members of the CDLI, primarily coordinated by Principal Investigator Jacob Dahl at Oxford, and of the Louvre Museum, led by Béatrice André-Salvini, Director of the Department of Oriental Antiquities, with her academic and technical staff, Dahl was able to commence scanning of the collection in 2011, and has since, together with Oxford research associate Klaus Wagensonner, undertaken several missions to Paris to continue this work. Assisted by staff at the Louvre Museum, the CDLI team have in this effort combined standard and highly efficient flatbed scanning (<http://cdli.ox.ac.uk/wiki/doku.php?id=submission_guidelines>) with high-resolution RTI imaging (see, for instance, <http://culturalheritageimaging.org/Technologies/RTI/>), utilizing domes created in the course of imaging collaborations between the CDLI members at the University of Oxford and members of the team of Kirk Martinez at the Department of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, to produce full photographic documentation of Louvre artifacts. Following cataloguing, and fatcross-processing and cleaning of raw files at Oxford, initial images were posted to the CDLI website in 2012, and more are going up incrementally; these can now be viewed at <http://cdli.ucla.edu/collections/louvre/louvre_en.html> or by searching the CDLI database at <http://cdli.ucla.edu/search/>. We are currently processing to browsable content our raw RTI files, and, using an online viewer developed at CNR-ISTI (<http://vcg.isti.cnr.it>), have posted to <http://cdli.ucla.edu/?q=rti-images> a selection of such  images of Louvre artifacts, as well as a few examples of our work on artifacts in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and the Oriental Institute Museum, Chicago, the latter done at our behest by Bruce Zuckerman’s WSRP team (<http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/wsrp/>). We are grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for making our Louvre initiative possible, as well as to the Humanities Divisions of the University of Oxford and UCLA for their continuing support of the CDLI.

From the beginning, the Louvre viewed this effort as an opportunity to make available its cuneiform collection to the world-wide community of online researchers and informal learners. The agreement between the Museum and UCLA laying out the Louvre/CDLI collaboration is designed to assist cuneiform specialists in the collation of existing text publications, while at the same time providing general access to catalogue data, annotated transliterations, and artifact images to lay the broadest possible foundation for networked collaboration by the scholarly community. We are confident that our adherence in this initiative to the principles of free and open access best serves all in the Humanities, but particularly in the fields of dead language research that are dependent on the availability of primary source materials for their work. In opening to world-wide inspection cuneiform collections such as that located at the Louvre, we believe, further, that humanists fulfill their curatorial responsibilities to digitally archive, and to make available to the public all such artifacts of shared world cultural heritage that are in their immediate or indirect care.

For the Louvre Museum:
Béatrice André-Salvini, Director, Department of Near Eastern Antiquities

For the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative and UCLA:
Robert K. Englund, Professor of Assyriology & Director, CDLI

For the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative and the University of Oxford:
Jacob L. Dahl, Associate Professor of Assyriology & co-PI, CDLI

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