NEH Grant Recipient: Dr. Daniel L. Schwartz
Dr. Daniel L. Schwartz has been awarded an NEH Grant for “Linking Texts and Data from the Medieval Middle East: Next-Generation Discovery and Access Tools for Syriac Cultural Heritage”.
Dr. Daniel L. Schwartz is an Associate Professor in the Department of History who specializes in the Late Antiquity/Early Middle Ages of the Middle East, and actively contributes to the field of Digital Humanities (DH). He is the Director of Syriaca.org: The Syriac Reference Portal, a collaborative project which aims to advance Syriac studies and preserve Syriac cultural heritage by offering new ways of conceptualizing historical evidence through digital approaches.
Over the last twelve years, Syriaca.org has led the way by creating high-quality digital reference tools and data standards related to the study of Syriac sources. Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, developed in the kingdom of Edessa (modern Turkey) beginning in the first century of the Common Era and flourished in both the Persian and Roman Empires. It served as the lingua franca for commerce and religious activity across political boundaries. From the fourteenth century to the present, Syriac-speaking communities in the Middle East began to suffer a violent decline. Although minority populations of contemporary speakers of Syriac persist in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Europe, North America, and elsewhere, the continued existence of their culture is threatened by genocides, civil wars, and conflicts in the modern Middle East.
Syriaca.org’s previous work means that scholars today have access to more materials than ever before. For students, the interested public, and members of the heritage communities, Syriaca.org already provides access to basic reference information about the Middle East’s historical, cultural, and religious diversity. However, there is more work to be done.
Grant funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will advance these endeavors for expanding the Syriac corpus through a new project, “Linking Texts and Data from the Medieval Middle East: Next-Generation Discovery and Access Tools for Syriac Cultural Heritage”, set to start in the Fall. Dr. Bryan Tarpley, Associate Research Scientist at the Center of Digital Humanities Research (CoDHR), is named a co-Principal Investigator on the grant. This project will publish a corpus of Syriac literature in English translation, supported by open-source tools for automating the digitization and markup of digital texts. Dr. Tarpley’s open-source software application Corpora will be a robust pipeline for this process. The text corpus will pair with a contextual research tool, integrating Linked Data from Syriaca.org’s online reference hub. The result will be next-generation digital reference tools enhancing discovery of and access to Syriac cultural heritage aimed at benefiting Syriac specialists, scholars in adjacent fields, students, members of the Syriac heritage communities, and the public.
Update 10/02/23: Read a full article, “Texas A&M-Led Digital Project Preserving Endangered Language Earns Third NEH Grant“, from the College of Arts and Sciences.