In an effort to mitigate the physical dispersal of Dura-Europos’ artifacts and other archival materials, YDEA seeks to pave a pathway to digital reassembly. Yale is uniquely situated in this regard, as the university holds a considerable number of objects from the site due to its role in the early excavations.
The Yale artifacts happen to be spread across three different Yale-affiliated institutions: the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. As each institution follows field-specific best practices, metadata relevant to Dura objects has not been aligned in such a way that artifacts kept in these collections can easily “speak” across institutional borders. This is precisely the kind of divide that Linked Open Data (LOD) was envisioned to bridge. The YDEA team has developed and documented a process to join-up its own internal Dura-Europos artifacts, and is now adapting that blueprint to join-up objects from Dura in other institutions worldwide, including the Louvre, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Royal Ontario Museum, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Harvard Art Museums, and the Princeton University Art Museum.
To bring together objects and archival materials kept in various collections, one of YDEA’s first goals has been to model all Dura-Europos artifacts to which the team has access in an internationally accessible Linked Open Data (LOD) format. In order to encourage contributions from international (especially Middle Eastern) partners and pedagogical up-take, we have settled on the LOD venue of Wikidata, specifically because of its low barrier-to-entry and multi-linguistic capacity. YDEA’s Wikidata data-modeling decisions are documented by the YDEA WikiProject.
Core to YDEA’s process for digital reassmbly is the creation of an urban gazetteer for Dura-Europos that geo-spatially locates and disambiguates Dura-Europos’ major archaeological features. The resulting geo-spatial nodes serve as re-assembly points for objects excavated at the same site but removed to institutions worldwide. YDEA is creating Wikidata items for all the Dura-Europos archaeological features established with authoritative Pleiades IDs. Objects aligned with Pleiades IDs will allow for one-click visualization of an artifact’s findspot.
Number of Dura-Europos artifacts from various collections that YDEA has documented in Wikidata so far.
Sample query combining Wikidata Dura-Europos artifact records with findspot data aligned with the Durene urban gazetteer. (NB: toggle to ‘map’ view for this query on the left side of the results window)