Classics was one of the first disciplines in the humanities to embrace digitization and computational analysis, and Duke has long been one of the leading institutions in the field. In the 1980s, the late Duke professors of Classical Studies William H. Willis and John F. Oates launched the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri, which featured digital transcriptions of Greek and Latin texts written on ancient wooden tablets, papyri, and pottery.
In 1996, Duke was among the first universities to digitize its papyri collection and make it freely available online, and was the first to allow crowd-source editing of digitized text by anyone in the service of scholarly knowledge. The online collection is widely used today by ancient historians, archaeologists, biblical scholars, classicists, Egyptologists, and students of literature.
Now, Duke University Libraries are using new technologies to analyze some of the world's oldest documents and artifacts through Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing (DC3). Formed in 2013 thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the DC3 advances scholarship in both classical studies and the digital humanities. The unit is led by Joshua D. Sosin, Associate Professor of Classical Studies, who has assumed a joint appointment within the Libraries. This is the first time a tenured faculty member at Duke has an appointment in both the Libraries and an academic department.
"There is no precedent for what we're doing," says Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs. "Librarians have been 'embedded' in various departments on campus for years, but we've never had a faculty member embedded in our work like this. This hybrid appointment will be a major step forward in establishing new roles and relationships among faculty and libraries that are the foundation for advancing scholarship."
Sosin leads a team of two full-time programmers to enhance Duke's existing digital papyrology projects and design new technological experiments with broad applicability within and beyond the field of classics. The DC3 acts as an incubator for innovative humanities scholarship and complements Duke's other initiatives to reimagine the role of the humanities in higher education.
"The library is one of the few academic organizations with a core mandate to embrace both past and future," says Sosin. "That's heaven for an ancient historian, whose focus is ancient documents and the modern technologies we bring to bear on them."
Learn More: The Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing