Re-Imagining Nineteenth Century Nile Travel and Excavation for a Digital Age: The Emma B. Andrews Diary Project

Sarah Ketchley (University of Washington)

Digital Classicist London seminar 2017

Friday July 14th at 16:30, in room 234, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Livecast at Digital Classicist London YouTube channel.

For over two decades between 1889 and 1914, Mrs. Emma B. Andrews traveled the Nile with millionaire lawyer turned archaeologist, Theodore M. Davis, and was present when he discovered 18 of the 42 tombs now known in the Valley of the Kings. Her as yet unpublished diaries are a significant resource for the history of archaeology and Egyptology during this so-called ‘Golden Age’, as well as a detailed yet under-explored commentary on the social and political history of Egypt at the time. Computational work has focused on identifying and researching archaeological and social themes running through the diaries, using plaintext transcriptions of the texts as a starting point. These documents were encoded in XML/TEI, following an encoding schema designed to capture basic document structure, people’s names, and geographic locations. An XSLT script was developed to mine each diary volume for the tagged name and location information, returning an alphabetized index including spelling variants.

The index of people has formed the basis of the ‘Emmapedia’, a biographical database currently listing over 600 individuals. Recent work has included the creation of Dublin Core metadata related to many of these individuals, and the development of data visualizations of fin-de-siècle Egyptian social networks. Data captured in the Emmapedia is being used to identify related contemporary archival records, including correspondence and images, created by fellow Nile travellers and Egyptologists. The eventual goal of the project is to develop a digital archive of material dating to this important period in Egyptian archaeology.

The index of locations has been used in conjunction with the Emmapedia to create interactive digital maps of archaeological exploration in the Valley of the Kings. NYPL’s Mapwarper was used to georectify turn-of-the-century maps, which were imported as base image layers in the Neatline mapping tool. Many of Theodore Davis's excavations were poorly published, so the process of associating individual excavations with contemporary imagery and written archival material on a digital platform offers the user a multi-layered eye-witness synopsis of each excavation. Collections of archaeological finds, many now in museum collections, are linked to the map as digital exhibits with relevant detailed metadata.

Ultimately, the geographical and biographical databases will be incorporated in a digital edition of the diaries, offering readers the opportunity to interact with this historical text in various nontraditional ways.