DiGA before DiGA: a timeline

From a chat in a staircase to launching a three-year project, the trajectory of the “Digitization of Gandharan Artefacts” (DiGA) took a few detours. It all started in 2016 when Frederik Elwert talked Jessie Pons into applying for the BMBF (German Ministry for Education and Research) eHeritage funding line I “Concepts”. Uniting their expertise in Digital Humanities and Gandharan Buddhist art and with the help of the postdoctoral researcher Antonio Amato, they developed a concept for the digitization of Gandharan sculptures. Luca Maria Olivieri (Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan) and Abdul Samad (Directorate of Archaeology and Museum, Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) drew our attention to the unique collections of Chakdara and Saidu Sharif. The fortunate encounter with Nicole Merkel from the University Library Heidelberg and a grant from the Pelagios Network to establish a Working Group gave a fantastic impetus to refine a digital concept that complies with current standards in the field of cultural heritage.

The coordinators of the DiGA project are indebted to many colleagues in the field of Digital Humanities, Gandharan art and Gandharan Buddhism who have – through ever stimulating discussions – helped give shape to the follow-up application “DiGA: A project for the preservation and the study of the Buddhist art of Pakistan”. The project was submitted to the eHeritage funding line 2 “Digitization” in 2020 and granted funding early in 2021. This timeline revisits some of the important milestones and pays tributes to the many friends and colleagues who helped the project grow along the way.

What’s next? In the forthcoming months, the DiGA team will be developing the controlled vocabularies used in the description of the Gandharan sculptures. In the Fall, two researchers will travel to Pakistan to carry out the first photographic campaign. While our Pakistani partner photographer will be concentrating on 2D photography, we will be selecting a batch of sculptures for 3D scanning. This will be conducted in the Spring 2022 and 2023. In the meantime, we will catalogue the artefacts and develop the database that feeds into heidICON. We will also hold an online kick-off event upon return from our first fieldtrip as well two conferences during the last phase of the project in 2023. Fingers crossed, we hope to be able to organize these in Bochum and Saidu Sharif, in collaboration with our partners on site, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museum (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) and the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan.

From print to LOD, part II: Extracting structure

As explained in the previous post, we want to transform the Repertorio Terminologico per la Schedatura delle Sculture dell’Arte Gandharica from a printed book to a SKOS vocabulary that we can use in a linked data context. In this post, we’ll describe our efforts and experience with the first steps: OCR’ing the Repertorio and extracting its content in structured form.

Continue reading “From print to LOD, part II: Extracting structure”

From print to LOD: A vocabulary for Gandharan art

The core task of the DiGA project is the digitization of two collections of Gandharan sculptures. But in doing so, it aims at advancing the research of Gandharan art in the digital space. We start from established practices in the field of Gandharan studies and bridge them with best practices from digital cultural heritage studies. One central building block for this is the Repertory of Terms for Cataloguing Gandharan Sculptures, a central reference work, that we aim to bring into the Linked Open Data space.

Continue reading “From print to LOD: A vocabulary for Gandharan art”

Digitization of Gandharan Artefacts

DiGA, short for “Digitization of Gandharan Artefacts. A project for the preservation and the study of the Buddhist art of Pakistan” is a project that aims to digitize and catalogue a corpus of just under 2,000 Buddhist sculptures from the ancient region of Gandhara. Gandhara – or Greater Gandhara, as scholars are now more enclined to name it – is a historical region which covers present-day Northwest Pakistan and Eastern Afghanistan and which was a pivot between South and Central Asia. Produced during the first centuries of the Common Era, the objects which the project will digitize bear testimony to the rich cultural and religious heritage of this region that was once considered a Buddhist Holy Land. This blog will successively elaborate on the history, research questions, and design of the project, as well as provide status reports as the project progresses.