UBC Library and Archives

From stone to screen : digitizing epigraphic squeezes Tweten, Lisa


Graduate students in the Classics, Near Eastern and Religious Studies Department at the University of British Columbia have begun to digitize the department’s epigraphic squeeze collection. Very briefly, a “squeeze” is a copy of an inscription made using damp filter paper that is pounded over the inscription, allowed to dry and peeled off; the result is a perfect – if backwards – copy of the inscription that allows for future study apart from the physical inscription. Our collection had previously been kept in a locked storage room, accessible to few, unused and unknown to the majority of the department. Malcolm McGregor, once the head of the Classics department at UBC, co-authored the definitive volumes on the Athenian Tribute List based on his epigraphic collection of the stone fragments of said list. Similar digitization projects have been undertaken by other institutions; what sets our project apart is the quality of our images. Where other projects use a flatbed scanner, we have partnered with the UBC Library’s Digital Initiatives team to create high-resolution photographs. By using raking light to highlight the raised inscription of the squeeze, we are able to provide an extremely detailed image that allows minute study of letter formation which is a key feature in dating inscriptions, and the text is now easier to read than on the squeeze itself. Moreover, once the squeeze has been digitized, it can be flipped and read from left to right, which means epigraphists no longer have to read ancient Greek backwards. Our aim in digitizing the collection is to revitalize epigraphic study at UBC and allow scholars from around the world access to documents which would otherwise sit unused in storage. Presented at Open Access Week, October 28-29, 2014

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