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.