March Madness at the NEH: University of Florida

Throughout the rest of March, we will have a special series of blog posts following the NCAA Division I College Basketball tournament, highlighting grantees at institutions represented in the tournament.

The Digital Epigraphy and Archaeology project (DEA) is an interdisciplinary project initiated by scientists from the Digital Worlds Institute and the Department of Classics at the University of Florida. They created the Digital Epigraphy Toolbox, which is an open-source, cross-platform web application designed to facilitate the digital preservation, study, and electronic dissemination of ancient inscriptions. It allows epigraphists to digitize in 3D their epigraphic squeezes: that is, impressions of inscriptions made by placing a special thin piece of paper over an inscription, and then rubbing it with what’s called a squeeze brush. The toolbox’s cost-effective technique overcomes the limitations of other ways of digitizing ancient inscriptions. The toolbox provides several options for 3D visualization of inscriptions as well as a set of scientific tools for analyzing lettering techniques. Users are able to share their data or to search for other uploaded collections of 3D inscriptions.

The DEA received support from NEH’s Digital Humanities Start-up Grant program. Since its creation, the toolbox has been presented at national and international conferences, such as the 104th American Institute of Archaeology Annual Meeting and the 13th Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy hosted by Oxford University. In 2012 it placed second in an international competition for an eHumanities Digital Innovation Award; the competition was hosted by the University of Leipzig in Germany. The National Archives [UK] used the toolbox to digitize 13th-16th century artifacts in its collection. More recently, the DEA group teamed up with Cornell University and the Library of Congress to digitize historical documents written by President Lincoln, including the Gettysburg Address.