Bye, Bye DiGA: Sarah leaves the Team

Before anyone assumes that the project is already over, I should be clear: the DiGA project still runs for a few months, until the beginning of 2024. Nevertheless, it’s already time for the first farewell. I have been a member of the team from the very beginning in the position of student research assistant and I will be leaving the project at the end of August. It is difficult for me to say goodbye, because I have grown very fond of DiGA.

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Documenting the Dir Museum collection: Mission Accomplished

When the team returned from Pakistan last May, they brought back – carefully packed in suitcases – five external hard drives containing several copies of photos of sculptures they had set to document in the Dir Museum. After three weeks of hard (and fun!) work, the last batch of 500 objects was digitized, almost 70 sculptures were 3D scanned and all the quality control boxes were checked. The last digitization campaign was a success and we have now documented the whole collection! This win did not come easily. Indeed, in September 2022, we had to cancel our fieldtrip (you can read about it here), and we had to activate our contingency plan – a remote digitization campaign monitored from Bochum – in order to keep the DiGA Project going and guarantee the completion of the digitization of the collection.

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About a cancelled fieldtrip and a troubled land

As you all know by now, the very core of the DiGA project is the digitization of the Gandharan artefacts stored in the Dir Museum (Chakdara, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan). Documenting this collection requires us to travel to the area, therefore the project plan includes three fieldtrips. The first digitization campaign took place in November 2021, when almost half of the collection was documented (you can read about it in this blogpost). In the last few months, most of the team’s efforts went to the organisation of the second fieldtrip that was supposed to take place from September 25th to October 15th, 2022.  

However, starting in late August, distressing news about a resurgence of Taliban operations in the area started to spread, and in the last couple of weeks it was clear that the situation was turning too dangerous and unstable, therefore, our fieldtrip was cancelled.

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The Story behind DiGA’s Logo(s)

By Jessie Pons

“Logo: A design or a symbol displayed on a company’s products, vehicles, signs, etc. that expresses the company’s character and purpose and makes it easy for customers to recognize and remember the company” (Cambridge Dictionary)

DiGA is not a company, but the team devoted some time to design an image that would best represent the project. We opted for an outline depiction of a Buddhist story carved on at least four reliefs from the Buddhist site of Chatpat (DMC-557, DMC-655, DM-747, DMC-762) preserved in the Dir Museum Chakdara: the taming of the elephant.

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What is it like to be a student assistant in the DiGA project?

When – more than a year ago – the DiGA project was launched, I also embarked on my journey as a student research assistant. At that time, I was still at the beginning of my Master programme in Religious Studies at CERES. An important side note to my involvement in the DiGA project is that I am not an archaeologist, an art historian, or a digital humanist. Indeed, I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Social Science and Religious Studies, cultivating a keen interest in South Asian religions that precedes and goes beyond the DiGA project. Therefore, this experience in the project offers me the possibility to get a practical taste of my chosen field: bridging historical topics with a contemporary context.

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Open for Contributions: the DiGA Thesaurus 1.0 is released!

Make some noise! The DiGA Thesaurus is now available in an updated version on SKOSMOS! We finally completed the long and painstaking task of digitizing the printed reference vocabulary for Gandharan art that is the Repertorio Terminologico per la schedatura delle sculture dell’arte gandharica, published in 2007 by Domenico Faccenna and Anna Filigenzi. The digital thesaurus that we now release was – as the name says – initially developed for the DiGA Project. During the first phase of DiGA, it was OCR’d, and converted into SKOS. A detailed description of the conversion process is available in this blog post.

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The DiGA Kickoff Workshop: a platform for interdisciplinary dialogue looking at the future

On the 7th and 8th of February 2022 the DiGA Team hosted on Zoom their DiGA Kickoff Workshop, an event aimed at establishing and consolidating dialogue among scholars variously engaged in South Asian studies and Digital Humanities. Drawing sharp borders between disciplines and fields of research, especially in such an interdisciplinary context, negatively affects the progress of knowledge, this is why we invited speakers from various fields, from Gandharan studies, Indology and philology, Buddhist studies, to Central Asian studies.

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DiGA in Pakistan

Jessie Pons and Cristiano Moscatelli look back at the first fieldtrip

Last November Jessie Pons and Cristiano Moscatelli completed the first photographic campaign in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Last night, the DiGA team presented a retrospective of their fieldtrip to their colleagues at CERES. This was an occasion to share our experience and look back on the exciting developments and the stimuli this fieldtrip led to. 

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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.

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