“Even when the coronavirus pandemic struck, and access to physical library resources came to a halt, Matt Miller and his research team didn’t have to hit pause on their project. Aided by the digital collections and research support available through the University of Maryland Libraries’s membership with Hathitrust, they could continue moving forward with their work detecting and transcribing Persian and Arabic texts.
Miller — a professor at the Roshan Institute for Persian Studies in the University of Maryland’s School of Languages, Literatures and Culture — leads a team of global scholars working to develop a user-friendly software that can create digital text using scans of Persian and Arabic books. Their enterprise is supported by an $800,000 grant Miller received from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation back in 2019. …”
“The written heritage of the “Islamicate” cultures that stretch from modern Bengal to Spain is as vast as it is understudied and underrepresented in the digital humanities. The sheer volume and diversity of the surviving works produced in Persian and Arabic by denizens of these lands in the premodern period makes this body of texts ideal for computational forms of analysis. Efforts to utilize these new digital forms of analysis, however, have been stymied by poor OCR technology for Arabic-script languages and the lack of a open-access, standards-compliant Islamicate corpus.
The Open Islamicate Texts Initiative (OpenITI) is a multi-institutional effort to construct the first machine-actionable scholarly corpus of premodern Islamicate texts. Led by researchers at the Aga Khan University (AKU), Universität Wien (UW), and the Roshan Institute for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland (College Park) and an interdisciplinary advisory board of leading digital humanists and Islamic, Persian, and Arabic studies scholars, OpenITI aims to develop the digital infrastructure necessary to achieve this goal, including improved Arabic-script OCR, Arabic-script standards for OCR output and text encoding, and platforms for collaborative corpus creation (e.g., CorpusBuilder). In the process, OpenITI will enable new synergies between Digital Humanities and the inter-related Islamicate fields of Islamic, Persian, and Arabic Studies….”
“For Nowruz, the Persian New Year, the Library of Congress has released a digital collection of its rare Persian-language manuscripts, an archive spanning 700 years. This free resource opens windows on diverse religious, national, linguistic, and cultural traditions, most, but not all, Islamic, yet all different from each other in complex and striking ways….”