Posts Tagged ‘Databases’


Resource Review: LIMCicon and LIMCbiblio

May 18, 2012

I have mentioned before that LIMC – Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae – is one of my favorite Classics reference resources, so I was excited to receive notice of an online version of LIMC through The Ancient World Online. Upon review it’s not quite what I was expecting, and it might not be a the best place to send undergraduates, but it’s a wonderful, free online resource for the serious study of classical myth and religion.

The first important thing to note is that LIMCicon, the main of the three databases at the site, is NOT a digital version of the print LIMC volumes, which was what I was expecting.  (It nicely tells you this on the landing page.) Instead, it contains “contains the iconographical documents kept both in France and elsewhere that have been catalogued and analysed by the French LIMC team.”  Thus, it is a searchable database of the visual sources used in compiling LIMC (although, as the site states clearly, it is not comprehensive of everything published in the print volumes, and adds material not in the print volumes.)

The “detailed search” interface for LIMCicon is complex. I found it simplest to choose the name of the mythical figure I wanted from the scroll-down list available under Iconography; I would guess this would be useful for many researchers, who want images of Apollo or Hera.  One can also choose an iconographic keyword – “drinking horn”, “abduction” – to find images with these elements.  The results display in a short list; clicking on the image will take one to a full digital “ID card” for the object, with the essential information about it, including bibliography, and close-up images.  Unfortunately for the majority of results, no images are available in LIMCicon; to actually see the images, one must search elsewhere, often in a print-only reference.  I would guess this had to do with copyright issues in an open digital resource.  The “expert search” allows the researcher to combine searches using Boolean operators; one is cautioned that it is not fully implemented.

LIMCbiblio, the second database, is an important source of bibliography on classical mythology and religion.  I couldn’t find an explicit statement of what is included, but I think it covers additions to the bibliographies published for each entry in the print LIMC volumes. As a result, the dates vary by topic, with the earliest citations about 1984, and with citations coming down to the late 2000s.  Bibliographic citations include books and articles, and are in multiple languages (I saw one in Polish, so they extend beyond the major European languages.) The database can be searched by the entry titles that have appeared in the print LIMC volumes (generally the names of important mythological and religious figures); these can also be chosen from a scrollable alphabetical list. Bibliographic citations about specific images included in the LIMCicon database are included, and can be searched for specifically, although they also show up when you search by entry/topic.

LIMCabrev is fairly straightforward searchable database of the bibliographical abbreviations used by LIMC.  It works in both directions: one can choose an abbreviation (available in a scrollable alphabetized list) and see what the full title is, or find a title and see the abbreviation LIMC uses.  This part of the site should be included, with the American Journal of Archaeology and Aristarchos, in the scholar’s free digital toolkit for deciphering obscure journal and series title abbreviations.

Overall, the site is stylistically similar to many serious scholarly websites in Classics; it is rather dense and the search interfaces are especially visually cluttered (although very detailed).  The entire site is available in French, English, German, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, and Arabic interfaces (I didn’t test all of them!)  Unicode is used for non-Roman characters.  Free registration is required, and somewhat detailed personal information is requested.  There is also a detailed statement about intellectual property.  I did not try to fill out the required fields with false data to see if I could be truly anonymous, but if you’d like to try, let me know if it works. Upon registering, I got a screen that seemed to imply my registration had not worked, but then when I tried to log in using the account I had just created, it worked, so don’t let that stop you.

Who is it for?

Although the interface is available in English, this isn’t a great site for undergraduates as a whole; it’s too complex, and doesn’t give a 100-level Mythology student what he really needs (the basics).  I would show it to honors or upper-level classes doing projects in classical mythology or classical art history/archaeology involving images of the gods and mythical figures; the LIMCbiblio section gives valuable references to complement and bring up to date the print volumes, and LIMBicon gives a nice listing of images.  For graduate students and faculty doing research in these fields, it is an excellent and useful resource, although it does not replace the print volumes.


Scholarly Journals in the News…

July 20, 2011

My Twitter feed broke out in a tizzy yesterday at the news that Aaron Swarz was charged with breaking into a wiring closet at MIT (with which he was not affiliated; during the incident he was employed as a Fellow at the Harvard Center for Ethics [!]) while wearing a bike helmet over his face, and using a personal laptop to download some 4 million articles from Jstor.  Jstor issued a statement about the case, emphasizing that they had not asked for the prosecution, and they do have a service to allow scholars to work with large corpora of articles, if they ask permission first. Demand Progress, an advocacy organization with which Swarz has been affiliated, also released a statement, describing the charges as “bizarre” and arguing that Swarz was being prosecuted for the equivalent of “checking too many books out of the library.”

Usually when my Twitter people are in a tizzy about something they agree with one another, but yesterday they were quite divided – some saw this as a case of advocacy for academic freedom on the internet, and some saw this as a straightforward illegal act (whether or not it should be a matter of criminal charges).  Comments on articles in the New York Times and Wired were similarly variable – and one thing that struck me was the level of ignorance about Jstor from many, especially those in the computing community.  The first 10 comments on the Wired article mostly simply ask, “What is Jstor, and why should we care about this?” Ah, the academic bubble we live in!

Some important questions are being brought forward, and I think it is healthy for the “information on the internet should be free” and the “in the real world, we agree to licensing agreements and violating them is bad” camps to engage with one another.  Jstor is a wonderful service, but it is an expensive one (prices are here); it’s a not-for-profit, but one commenter alleges that more than 10 of its employees have salaries over $250,000 (are they hiring? do they want me?!?).  Should Jstor do more to make its materials accessible to the public? What about the things in Jstor that are out of copyright due to age?

Barbara Fister manages to pull the Swarz incident into her current post, titled “Breaking News: Academic Journals Are Really Expensive!”  If you’re a librarian reading this, you probably know all about the crisis in scholarly publishing; if you’re a student or a faculty member and don’t know, you should find out, because this is a big issue that directly relates to your career.  Looking at article comments, and the current Twitter search for Jstor, can give you a fascinating glimpse at others’ worldviews (whatever yours might be.) As for mine, I find myself in agreement with the comments by Peter Suber in 2008, on an Open Access manifesto apparently written by Swarz.


Resource Reviews: Greek Dictionaries

July 12, 2010

Greek language dictionaries are less numerous and diverse than the Latin.  According to Jenkins, there is really only once choice for a basic Greek dictionary: Liddell, Scott, Jones (LSJ), available in three sizes, discussed by Jenkins as no. 511. 512, 513 (are undergraduates still taught to call them the Little Liddell, Middle Liddell, and Great Scott?).  It covers Greek from Homer to ca. 600 AD.  The UGA Libraries have multiple copies and multiple editions, and keep the 1996 reprint of the Greek-English Lexicon (Jenkins’ no. 511) in the Reference collection (Main Reference PA445 .E5 L6 1996).  The 1940 printing – the same basic edition, the 9th, as the 1996, but lacking the revised supplement – is available online through Perseus.  Most undergraduates and many graduate students will use the Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (Jenkins no. 513) for their day-to-day needs; it is widely available new in the $45 price range.  LSJ is not available digitally as part of the Premium Collection of Oxford Reference Online or  Oxford Language Dictionaries Online.

"middle Liddell" - by marmaduk at flickr, under a creative commons license

The only other general Greek-English dictionary discussed by Jenkins is the old print Thesaurus  Graecae Linguae (no. 505), which he describes as, “based on obsolete texts and methods” (with origins in the Renaissance) and of use now only to specialists; UGA’s copy remains in Main Reference at PA442 .E8 1954.

For examples of use, scholars are directed to the digital Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG, no. 519), a much-heralded and appreciated resource which is one of the pioneering works of digital humanities (begun in 1972!).  The TLG includes the digitized, searchable text of “virtually all Greek texts surviving from the period between Homer (8 c. B.C.) and the fall of Byzantium in A.D. 1453,” and includes “more than 105 million words from over 10,000 works associated with 4,000 authors” (source: their history pages). The UGA Libraries do not subscribe to the TLG, but the Classics Department does, and several of the computers in the Gantz Computer Lab in Park Hall have registered IP addresses.  Many of the most commonly used texts in TLG are part of the freely available Abridged Online version.

Etymological dictionaries and those that cover New Testament or Byzantine Greek will be discussed in future posts.


Dyabola Tutorials

July 2, 2010

Dyabola is the name we in Classics usually use to refer to the Archäologische Bibliographie (also sometimes called the Realkatalog) of the Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut, an excellent resource for bibliography in the art and archaeology of the Mediterranean world.  The Archäologische Bibliographie is actually only one of a number of resources available through Projekt Dyabola (see also their blog) on the web, but it is the main one, and the only one to which UGA subscribes.

Dyabola includes citations for books, chapters, journal articles, festschriften and book reviews, but does not contain the full text of these reources. As of this writing it includes citations from 1956- May 2010, and has ca. 566,535 items by ca. ca. 96,813 authors.  There is a free version of the database called Zenon DAI, which has a rather different interface.

I used Dyabola as a graduate student in the late 1990s, and found that once you got used to its unusual interface, it was a powerful tool for discovering citations on a topic.  I’m re-immersing myself in it right now to start teaching it to upper-level undergraduates and graduate students.  My first step has been to gather existing online descriptions of and tutorials for Dyabola.  These include:

  • Youtube videos created by Michael Hughes of NYU in late 2009.  This is where I recommend anyone new to Dyabola to start (at least until I can develop my own tutorial!).  There are two, beginning and advanced, and they are fairly short (less than 5 minutes) and clear.
  • A static web page at UC Berkeley gives an overview of searching for those who hate to learn by video; a similar page is provided by the American Academy in Rome, and another at Bryn Mawr.
  • Dyabola’s own directions are somewhat difficult to use, but for those wrestling with complex searches, or seeking to really understand the database’s power, they are useful.  They are available in English.
  • in 1995, the Bryn Mawr Classical Review published John Tamm’s discussion of Dyabola (which was then available on CD-Rom), which remains useful for its description of the scope and structure of the database.  Reading this detailed review will make younger scholars realize (and older scholars remember) how very blessed we are by the advances in technology that have taken place over the intervening 15 years.

Know of a resource for getting to know Dyabola that I’ve missed?  Please met me know in comments!


Tutorial for New L’Annee Philologique Interface

June 4, 2010
Here’s a link to a first draft of a tutorial for the new interface to L’Annee.  I’ll be teaching the interface to a class (UGA’s Summer Classics Institute students) for the first time on June 14th, so it may see some revision after that. I teach the interface “live” in the classroom, and ask the students to follow along on the computers in the teaching lab, but I give them a powerpoint tutorial to come back and refer to if they get stuck when they are on their own.
L annee philologique_online_new
If anyone would like to refer others to this tutorial, or embed it in your course pages (it does embed, but this blog style does not support embeds), feel free to do so, with proper attribution of course.

Tutorials for L’Annee Philologique

March 26, 2010

This is a write-up I did for a class in the fall of 2009, evaluating existing tutorials for a database and then creating one of my own.

L’Annee Philologique (, by subscription)

L’Annee (as it is commonly known) is a subject-specific database for Classical studies – languages, history, art, and archaeology.  It originated as a print index in the 1920s and has been published annually since then.  The index became available on CD-Rom in the 1990s, and a web version is now available.  Entries from the print indexes covering 1924-2007 are now searchable through the online L’Annee, and new volumes are added annually; 2008 is expected to be available online in September 2010.  The indexing work of L’Annee is supported by national research funds in France and the United States, as well as several academic institutions.  It has offices in France, the US, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain, generally attached to academic institutions.  Each office has a specific scope of materials to index, based on country of publication.  L’Annee’s goal is to provide a comprehensive index of the international research literature in Classical Studies, and to that end it indexes about 1500 journals as well as books, festschriften, dissertations, and book reviews.

L’Annee’s online user interface has long been a trial to researchers in Classics; the database is useful because of its content, and in spite of its interface (which is available in English).  One can search by Modern Author (there seems to be some authority control), Full Text (which is a keyword search of the citation; the database does not contain full text of articles), Ancient Author and Text (authority control is also in effect), Subjects and Disciplines (subject headings, which are nested although very broad – “archaeology” is one; also they were unfortunately changed with v. 67 (1997) so one can either search before-1997 headings or 1997-on headings, but not both), Date, and Other Criteria.  Generally, to conduct an effective search on a topic requires the building of a search: for example, if one were looking for articles about the treatment of guests in the works of Homer one could search for the ancient author Homer, search for “guest” in the Full Text (making sure to search for the word meaning “guest” in at least German and French in addition to English), and then combine the result sets using AND in the search builder.  L’Annee does allow citations to be emailed, downloaded, or exported to a bibliographic management software (directly to Refworks, through the use of a filter with EndNote.)

To develop my tutorial, I relied on my personal experiences searching L’Annee as a researcher, and on my experience demonstrating this database for graduate students and undergrads in library instruction sessions.  Even some faculty have remarked to me that they did not know about the possibility of combining searches using AND, OR, or NOT in L’Annee until I demonstrated this feature to a class.  I included some sections in the tutorial as a direct result of questions I have fielded from students about the use of L’Annee, especially the section on exporting citations to RefWorks.  While I was working on the tutorial I sent out a message on Facebook to my Classics contacts asking for specific tips or tricks about how to best use L’Annee.  I also emailed the list of first-year Classics graduate students at UGA asking for any suggestions they might have.  I was not entirely surprised to get no response from either; I suspect most researchers in Classics, even those who use L’Annee regularly, still feel uncomfortable using it and do not consider themselves experts.

I also looked for existing tutorials on library or Classics department web sites that provided instruction in using L’Annee.  An annotated list follows:

Davidson College Library (
This web page with screen shots was developed by Susannah Boylston.  It provides a basic overview of searching in L’Annee, presented in short, topical chunks of information.

University of New Brunswick Libraries ( )
This is a rather longer and more detailed web page with screen shots, created by Leanne Wells. It is simple but fairly comprehensive.

Temple University Library ( )
This is an animated web tutorial with audio of librarian Fred Rowland describing what is happening on the screen and giving additional information.  The tutorial begins somewhat abruptly, without an introduction.  The tutorial covers only “Full text” searching, and then finding the text of a desired article through the Temple Library web site; it is quite short.

University of Texas at El Paso Library (
This animated web tutorial was developed by Nancy Hill.  There is no audio, except clicks and the noise of typing.  Text boxes in red that appear on the screen explain the steps the user should take.  The video is several minutes long, but the viewer can advance the images by hand if she feels it is progressing too slowly.

Universitat Wurtzberg Universitatsbibliothek ( )
This video tutorial, with audio commentary (in German) by Christiane Maibach, is available in 12 sections, divided by topic.  Subtitles are available in case the user is on a computer without available sound.  Each section of the tutorial is quite long and rather slow, but the division into sections allows the user to concentrate on the topic desired.  It is extremely comprehensive, if unfortunately not very useful for most American students, since it is in German.

My tutorial: