It’s all about collaboration

The most frequently heard response to a description of the I.Sicily project, at least in Sicily, is ‘pazzesco!’ Anyone who sets out to develop full digital records of all the inscriptions of ancient Sicily (more than 4,000 texts on stone) is clearly mad. Assessments of sanity aside, the reality is that the project is only viable as a collaborative undertaking. One of the merits of a digital platform is that it makes it much easier to enable multiple and collaborative authorship (and we are continually exploring the options for ensuring that every contributor gets maximum credit for their contribution).

The vase majority of the island’s inscriptions are stored in museums, and the only way that we can fulfill our ambition of locating and undertaking autopsy on every inscription is by working closely with the museums and archaeological projects on the island who uncover and curate the inscribed objects in the first place. To make this possible, we have created a database of Archaeological Collections in Sicily (primarily the work of Dr Michael Metcalfe). This database enables the development of museum-based searching and cataloguing within the corpus, and in particular means that through I.Sicily it is possible to access a free online catalogue of each individual museum (e.g. that of Adrano). We very much hope that this work can in turn serve a valuable purpose for those who maintain these collections, not only in providing easy access to the information for the museums themselves, but also because it offers the possibility of making the material more visible and accessible to a wider audience of both researchers and the general public.

Lastly, much of this work can only be made possible through further technological developments, and we certainly do not want to reinvent the wheel (or a code library). Consequently we are always on the look out for similar (and different) projects where we have common aims and interests and can potentially share insights and techniques.

In some of the future blogs we will discuss some of these various collaborations in more detail. For now here is a list of all the collaborations we have begun (and occasionally even completed), and the principal collaborators:


  • Museo Archeologico Regionale “Paolo Orsi”, Siracusa. The Paolo Orsi museum, which hosts a huge collection of material from eastern Sicily, was the first major museum to begin collaborating with us (the project began in 2012, and has been warmly supported by the successive directors of the museum, dott.sse Ciurcina, Basile, Lamagna, and Musumeci, and throughout by dott.ssa Angela Maria Manenti) and we have the permission of the Assessorato per i Beni Culturali di Sicilia to place images of the material online. We are currently working to catalogue the epigraphic collection of the museum, which has never been the object of a systematic study in the past. The material will all be included online in Sicily, but we also aim to produce a traditional published catalogue. To date we have recorded 400 texts; the final number is likely to be at least 600. A key part of the work is the separation and detailing of the larger (1000+) collection of material from the nearby catacombs.
Museo Civico Castel Ursino, Catania
  • Museo Civico Castello Ursino, Catania. The civic museum of Catania (director dott.ssa Valentina Noto), which is housed in the city’s Norman castle, holds a substantial collection of c.500 inscriptions. It is an unusual collection, containing a large number of texts from Rome and also a significant number of 18th century fakes and copies, since a major part of the collection has its origins in the material collection by the Principe di Biscari in the later 18th century. With the additional support of the University of Oxford’s TORCH Knowledge Exchange programme, we are collaborating with a CNR project (Epigrafi di Castello Ursino Museo, directed by dott.ssa Daria Spampinato) to build a digital catalogue of the material in the museum, but also with the Comune di Catania and the Liceo Artistico Statale “M.M. Lazzaro” to involve local school children in the recording of the material and in the development of an exhibition during 2017, as part of the Italian state’s ‘alternanza scuola-lavoro’ scheme. We signed a formal accord with the museum and the Assessorato di Catania (Prof. Orazio Licandro) in May 2016. Preliminary records have already been drawn up for 325 texts and the exhibition is in the planning stage.
  • Museo Regionale di Adrano (CT). During 2015 we collaborated with dott.ssa Merendino at the museum at Adrano (also housed in the town’s Normal castle) to restudy and catalogue the various inscriptions in the museum and from the immediate vicinity. This work will be included in I.Sicily as well as being published within the forthcoming catalogue of the museum in collaboration with dott.ssa G. Lamagna.
The Hellenistic/Roman agora of Halaesa
  • Museo Archeologico “Giacomo Scibona”, Halaesa (Tusa, ME). Since 2014 (but associated work dates back to 2010) we have been collaborating with dott.ssa G. Tigano and dott. R. Burgio of the Messina Soprintendenza to develop a full catalogue of the c.60 inscriptions from this site on the north coast of the island. The work coincides with the redisplay of much of the epigraphic material and will result in an Italian catalogue of the material (in preparation) and the inclusion of the material in Sicily.
Agrigento Museum, seen from across the ekklesiasterion
  • Museo Archeologico Regionale “Pietro Griffo”, Agrigento. During summer 2016 we have reached a formal agreement with the Agrigento museum (under the direction of dott.ssa G. Lamagna, with dott.ssa Guzzone) to work on a project of restudying the epigraphic material in the museum jointly with prof. Giulio Vallarino, of the Politecnico di Bari.
  • Museo di Archeologia dell’Università di Catania. In May 2016 we undertook a rapid  autopsy of the valuable little collection of inscriptions held within the former Collezione Libertini, with the support of the director Prof. E. Tortorici and the assistance of Rodolfo Brancato.
  • Museo Archeologico Antonino Salinas di Palermo. In December 2016, the Museum, under the direction of dott.ssa Francesca Spatafora, granted us formal permission to include its epigraphic collection in I.Sicily and we very much look forward to developing the collaboration in the future.
  • Inscriptiones Christianae Italiae: Siracusa. We are currently discussing a collaboration with the project of prof.ssa M. Sgarlata to catalogue fully the 1000+ inscriptions of the catacomb of San Giovanni in Siracusa within the ICI The role of I.Sicily will be to develop digital records for all these texts.
  • CVAST: we are in discussion with Prof. H. Maschner and Prof. D. Tanasi of the University of South Florida, to collaborate in their major project to laser scan collections in Sicily. We hope to work with this much larger project to explore the potential for the incorporation and exploitation of high resolution image and photogrammetric data in the digital study and publication of epigraphic texts.
The Roman theatre of Catania
  • Soprintendenza per i beni culturali e archeologici di Catania: with the support of the Catania archaeological authorities (dott.ssa Branciforte; dott. Nicoletti) we have begun work to study epigraphic material recovered from the excavations of Roman Catania over the past decades, with a particular emphasis on the material from the Roman theatre.

We look forward to expanding this list steadily in the coming months and years! If you would like to collaborate on either an institutional or individual level, please do get in touch.

One response to “It’s all about collaboration”

  1. You are leaving me and my community speechless.


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