Innovative methods on representing and accessing data and knowledge in the study of classics are crucial to its relevance in the modern digital era. Last year, the Wilson Center sponsored Shannon Riley ’17, a classics major, to attend the Information Fluency in Classics Program at Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC. The program is dedicated to introducing undergraduates to important sources of information for classics and growing their competency in accessing, analyzing and managing classics-related resources in different formats. This year, the Wilson Center helped Clare Nash ’18, a classics major, attend the same program.

Lessons from the Program

Nash toured and conducted research at sites, ranging from the Library of Congress to Dumbarton Oaks to the National Archives, that allowed her to conduct unique on-site observations and helped her to contextualize various institutional approaches in studying classics. “Though each institution is very different, they all have innovative approaches to studying history, and utilizing the digital humanities,” she explains. Nash examined research tools such as online databases and encyclopedias as well as interactive resources aimed at a broader audience of historians.

Perhaps one of the most memorable moments of the program for Nash was the learning experience she gained from the Homer Multitext Project, which aims to showcase the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey in a context that takes into consideration that these poems were created orally over hundreds, possibly thousands of years. The project seeks to facilitate comparisons between the known manuscripts of Homer’s works, and allows the public to view high-resolution images of the manuscripts. “This is a big deal because it used to be basically impossible to view a manuscript of an ancient text without getting special permission from the archive that stores it, not to mention traveling to the location of the manuscript,” she explains. Nash was exposed to the development, implementation and improvement of the project. In addition to the project, she examined how the Center utilized statistical investigations to analyze specific texts as well as how the Center used computer programs to create three-dimensional replicas of ancient sites.

The experiential-learning opportunities at the program allowed Nash to understand the importance of innovation in the modern digital age. “Learning about such a wide range of digital humanities projects helped me to see the breadth of this emergent field, especially in terms of the work that remains to be done,” she writes.

Bringing Back Research to Grinnell

Much like professional classicists, Nash used her platform from her learning experiences to make progress for the field and disseminate critical concepts in the field to the classics community. Back at Grinnell, she has helped to spread digital fluency in classics by mentoring and educating students and faculty about innovative methods in classics. For example, Nash developed a resource guide and presented to a small colloquium of Classics students. “I gave the students lots of new materials to work with and concepts to grapple with as they approach their senior research projects,” she writes. “It was also exciting to see that some of the faculty were fairly new to the idea of digital Classics!”

The Wilson Center seeks to inspire and prepare students as innovators and leaders through courses, professional development, and events that emphasize experiential learning.

 

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