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Ancient Itineraries: The Digital Lives of Art History

Research project Ancient Itineraries: The Digital Lives of Art History is an eighteen month Institute programme supported by the Getty Foundation as part of its Digital Art History initiative.

The project will survey the array of activities in the Digital Humanities which are developing technological and data-driven approaches to art history, with a strong topical emphasis on the art of the ancient Mediterranean, and explore how their insights can contribute to more traditional approaches in art history, and vice versa.

Head of project

Anna Foka

Project overview

Project period:

2018-07-01 2021-06-30


The Getty Foundation (17 307 €)

Participating departments and units at Umeå University


Research area

Digital humanities

Project description

To do this, it will convene two international meetings, one at King's College London in September 2018, the other at the Swedish Institute in Athens in April 2019. These will bring together leading experts from both the digital domains of art history, and those rooted in more conventional methods of archives, museology, and discursive analysis of art, to construct a multi-vocal and interdisciplinary perspective on three areas which are currently of pressing concern to digital art history: provenance, the meta-information about ancient art objects; geographies, the paths those objects take through time and space; and visualization, the methods used to render art objects and collections in visual media.

During the course of the meetings, three research sub-teams in these areas will be produce detailed research specifications, detailing the most important next steps for that part of the field, how current methods can best be employed to take them, and what new research questions the participants see emerging. These specifications will be easily translatable into research project plans, with options for seeking funding to support them also explored. The teams will work collaboratively to construct a detailed set of requirements for a "Proof of Concept" (PoC), a digital resource or service which will address what the participants judge to the most significant problem or question facing digital art historians. This will be developed by the King's Digital Lab. The source code for this PoC will be made available online, and will form the basis for further discussions, development of research questions and project proposals after the end of the programme.

The first Institute will be based in London, to take advantage of the facilities offered by King's College London in the heart of the city's West End, with its vast array of major cultural institutes, technology hubs and centres of innovation and learning. The second Institute in Athens, will give participants the chance to engage with the rich cultural heritage relating to Mediterranean antiquity in that city. The content of the institutes will utilize what is available freely via online museum, library and archive catalogues, and that which can be accessed in collaboration with major institutions such as the National Archaeological Museum, the Acropolis Museum, and the Benaki. Here the research specifications will be fleshed out, and the PoC design finalized, in collaboration with KDL staff.

Participants will be encouraged and supported in developing their own publications, both individually and collaboratively. These "conventional" scholarly outputs, along with the PoC, will provide tangible foci for a robust, vibrant and sustainable research network, comprising the Institute participants and co-leads as a core, but extending across the emerging international and interdisciplinary landscape of digital art history.