A note on digitalEPIGRAPHY’s first birthday

News November 01. 2019

Well, this year went by fast! I can’t believe that digitalEPIGRAPHY has already been around for a little over a year! Thinking back on the past 12 months, there are two conflicting feelings that come to mind: the constant excitement sharing the methods, tools and case studies that might be relevant for your work, and the pressure caused by the vicious cycle of producing material on a regular basis. Now I have a much stronger feeling added to this pool, which is satisfaction! Our original goal with starting our website was ambitious: we wanted to share our experience utilizing digital methods in The Epigraphic Survey’s documentation program by taking you along the road. I think that this goal was achieved in many ways. 

Built around the solid ground provided by the free eBook Digital Epigraphy (written in 2013), the new website quickly became what we always wanted it to be: a dynamic collection of current trends in digital documentation tools and methods, and a forefront for the Survey’s projects in general. This past year has proved that we made the right decision by abandoning the more static book format with its much slower update cycle. The added flexibility of a website not only allowed us to release material in an instant, but also to give you a glimpse of the process of designing our methods. This is unprecedented in the Survey’s history. We could share our knowledge about the latest software and hardware innovations by providing our own reviews of the tools we find useful for our epigraphic work. This was no small task, something none of us has ever done before!

Of course, all these efforts would have been without any impact if it weren’t for you, dear Reader. In its first year, digitalEPIGRAPHY had 46,469 visitors. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that so many of you would find material here that is worthy of your attention. Naturally, as documenting ancient Egyptian monuments is a complex task, we were very keen on delivering a variety of articles that would interest Egyptologists and artists alike. The leading topics in our most up-to-date section, News, were associated with Adobe’s planned invasion of the iPad. However, we reported about numerous new software and hardware releases and updates as well. We are particularly proud of the Reviews presented on the website. Introducing and analyzing our favorite tools from the epigrapher’s point of view proved to be a challenging task. Nonetheless, we’ve produced many reviews, enhanced with our own photographs and – occasionally – hands-on videos. There were already numerous Tutorials included with the original Manual; however, in the past years new techniques emerged, enhancing the Survey’s digital procedures. digitalEPIGRAPHY started many serialized articles to fill this space. Our Tidbits series was designed to provide the latest techniques related to the digital Chicago House method. The One-on-one series is arranged around a single feature of Photoshop, thoroughly explaining its use case scenarios in the epigraphic work. And the Let’s talk about… series is intended to help our colleagues who want to know more about or study the various visual representations of ancient Egyptian decorative elements. While the Manual had only basic step-by-step tutorials concerning a single piece of the puzzle, these new tutorials, presented exclusively on the web, became more complex articles generating a considerable amount of interest. Most of the hardware and software solutions used by the Survey were collected in the rapidly grooving Tools section. Although we use Wacom displays, we also provided budget-conscious alternatives offered by well-established companies in this section with links to additional reviews and buying options. Thanks to the many new digital epigraphic projects helmed by the Survey, we could kick-start our Projects section by first and foremost giving you a complete guide to our official digital documentation procedure through a sample scene taken from Luxor temple. Furthermore, thanks to our first contributors, we were able to present a few important case studies written by our colleagues with the hope of many more to come. And last, but not least, we ought to mention Reading, digitalEPIGRAPHY’s visual window to the countless relevant projects associated with documenting in the field. Reading quickly became one of the most visited sections on the website, largely thanks to the immense work done by Egyptologist Júlia Schmied, whose research and synthesis of written and visual data found in publications and around the web were distilled in these condensed descriptions. 

As some of you may know, digitalEPIGRAPHY was built from the ground up by a Hungarian firm called Groteszk Kreatív Társulat. When designing the website, I wanted to lay out a logical interface to accommodate the different types of information considered to be worthwhile to share. Thanks to my friends at Groteszk, we could create the perfect place to present this information (176 articles and counting), enriched by slideshows, videos, GIFs, tags, comment panels etc., that will hold up for years to come. Nonetheless, as informative as digitalEPIGRAPHY may be, I can’t stress enough the need for your contribution. Communicating about our concepts, commenting on what we do or just giving us feedback concerning the material published on the site is essential part of this project. With new technical tools becoming available all the time and technology taking over many areas of epigraphic work, it is more important than ever to take the time and share your ideas. On that note, I’d like to sincerely thank again all those colleagues who followed our Facebook page and/or expressed their opinion in the Forum section. 

And now I’d like to say a few words about the changes planned for the site’s near and long-term future. As was mentioned above, we have a lot of ongoing article series that we want to continue with. Naturally, you can expect us to present more tutorials, case studies and a lot more projects in our Reading section. Unfortunately, integrating this new material into the core Manual proved to be beyond our capabilities: we simply did not have enough time in the past year to rework these chapters in a satisfying way. However, we’re still aware of many of you wanting to have an up-to-date guidebook to the methods we use. Therefore, one of the most exciting plans we have for the near future is to create a collective publication, most probably a pdf, of the information that is added to the site on a yearly basis, implementing it as a single download. In order to find the time to synthesize this data, we might have to go on a “vacation” between May-September and take a short sabbatical from updating the site. Along these changes we’re also planning a small revision to the visual layout of the site, thinking about tying in some of our other documentation-related projects and databases that might be of your interest. 

Important gatherings, such as the extremely successful Twelfth International Congress of Egyptologists held recently in Cairo, proved that there is an extensive awareness of what we’re doing at digitalEPIGRAPHY and it is recognized as a reference point by many of our colleagues. Attending documentation-related lectures, I could see many changes in the technical practices and visual presentation which were influenced by new trends in computer development. Software solutions, such as Adobe Illustrator, Procreate, PhotoScan (MetaShape) or dStretch are used by many of you on your iPads, Wacom displays etc., bringing a plethora of fresh ideas to traditional epigraphic procedures. It is evident that most of you truly believe in technology finding its rightful place within this field, bringing unprecedented depth to epigraphic documentation. 

On that note, I’d like to thank all our readers and contributors once again for being so open about our ideas and tagging along in this journey. I sincerely hope that digitalEPIGRAPHY is going to stay around for many years to come to provide relevant information on documenting ancient Egyptian monuments.

 

Krisztián Vértes

Egyptologist, Senior Artist

at the Epigraphic Survey

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