Center for Digital Humanities Furthers Research and Cross-Cultural Collaboration at the Princeton Athens Center

Sept. 22, 2023

A&A’s Olek Musiał and Maria Alessia Rossi were among the group of scholars from Princeton and Greek universities brought together at the Princeton Athens Center for Research and Hellenic Studies for the Center for Digital Humanities’ (CDH) Hellenic Studies Summer Institute. 

“The Seeger Center was pleased to partner with the Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton and the Athens University of Economics and Business on this unique Summer Institute at the Princeton Athens Center,” said Dimitri Gondicas, director of the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies.

The week-long session aimed to collaboratively explore digital approaches to Hellenic culture. Together with the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB) MSc Program in Digital Methods for the Humanities and the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH), CDH Executive Director Natalia Ermolaev guided participants in launching or advancing their digital research initiatives.

"Hellenic culture is a treasure-trove for digital exploration," said Ermolaev. "While the early-career scholars in our workshop came from various disciplines and had vastly different research questions, each came away with a deep understanding about how digital interventions can transform their own work, Hellenic Studies, and the humanities overall.” 

Colored etching of a bathhouse interior predominantly with deep salmon shades

Plate from Vestigia delle Terme di Tito e loro pitture interne by Giuseppe Carletti and Ludovico Mirri, printed in Rome in 1776-8

Participants each investigated a question related to the Greek world involving humanistic inquiry and digital, data-driven, or computational approaches like data curation, geospatial analysis or mapping, data visualization, digital exhibits, information modeling, and machine learning, among others.

Musiał, who focuses on bath house architecture in the early modern period, aimed to digitally evaluate the images in the 18th-century volume Vestigia delle Terme di Tito e loro pitture interne, co-authored by Ludovico Mirri, Franciszek Smuglewicz, and Vincenzo BrennaWith the help of Professor Georgios Papaioannou of the AUEB, Musiał used image processing to uncover secrets of L. Mirri’s printing workshop.

Olek Musial explains his project as Dr. Papadioannous looks on

Olek Musiał explains his project with Professor Georgios Papaioannou in background (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

Musiał is grateful for the support of the Stanley J. Seeger Summer Fellowship.  “I consider my participation in the Digital Humanities Summer Institute hosted by the Princeton Athens Center one of the most inspiring experiences in exploring digital humanities so far,” he said. “It was a pleasure for me to both improve my understanding of the applicability of digital tools in furthering research in architectural history I work on and to immerse myself into the Greek community of scholars advancing the field. These invaluable experiences helped develop not only my general interest in digital humanities, but also further nuance the research questions I explore in my dissertation research."

Three participants in coversation

Vicky Dritsou in conversation with Danai Thomaidis, and Maria Alessia Rossi (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

Rossi is investigating the intersection of disability studies, medieval and early modern art and architecture, and environmental history depicted in the cult of the Virgin Zoodochos Pege (Ζωοδόχος Πηγή) in the late Byzantine and post-Byzantine period. The iconography shows the Virgin with Christ Child in a basin full of holy water surrounded by disabled figures, alluding to the healing powers of the spring. Rossi was in pursuit of two datasets to further her research: 1) a comprehensive dataset of all representations of the Virgin Zoodochos Pege, including information such as key dates, artistic media and techniques used, subjects/keywords related to the iconography and original/current location; and 2) a dataset of churches dedicated to the Zoodochos Pege, including geolocational data about these churches and nearby springs, and data regarding stories of miraculous healings associated with these springs. The objective is to connect the information from these two datasets and use both geospatial and temporal analysis to find patterns between the evolution of the Zoodochos Pege in art and the presence of churches and springs associated with miraculous healings.

Icon showing angels flanking Mary and Chris in a fountain

Icon of the Virgin Zoodochos Pege, eighteenth century, Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai. By permission of Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt. (Photograph courtesy of Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions to Mount Sinai)

“The workshop allowed me to learn in a very limited amount of time an incredible amount of information regarding digital humanities, from machine learning and AI to being a project manager, developing 3D models and information models.” Said Rossi.  “I received very useful suggestions through the program that will shape the content and structure of my project. I especially enjoyed the mix between U.S. and Greece-based speakers, allowing for bigger picture discussions and a better understanding of how different or similar trends are in Europe and the United States.”

Rossi is continuing her work throughout the academic year as a CDH Data Fellow.