Berkeley Prosopography Services (BPS) successfully demonstrated the recently implemented end-to-end integration of a toolkit for prosopographical research last week. In a two-day workshop organized as part of a Social Science Matrix-sponsored Research Seminar for AY 2015-2016, the BPS team and research partners from across the United States had the opportunity to view and test drive digital tools that facilitate the disambiguation of namesakes in text corpora and visualization of associated social networks, regardless of language, script, chronological framework, or corpus contents.

BPS is an open-source prosopographical toolkit that leverages heuristics and workflows familiar to humanities researchers, computes social network metrics, and generates interactive visualizations of the biological and social connections that link documented individuals in text corpora. The tools provide a dynamic means of researching historical communities documented in legal, administrative, and literary texts and archives.

Cuneiformists, papyrologists, and classicists shared data sets and explored the outcomes as the results of the disambiguation process were presented in a dynamic SNA graph visualization. BPS particularly acknowledges the support of the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri, its director Todd Hickey, graduate student Caroline Cheung, and recent post-doc Micaela Langellotti. The accompanying image of an SNA visualization depicts the networks that BPS detected in a papyrus register that is a component of Langellotti’s study of the Grapheion archive. Partners from Tufts University and the Perseids Project explored potential integration with the SNA engine as a complement to the pedagogical workflow and goals of the Journey of the Hero project.

The participants’ exploration of the toolkit, which is still under development, led to the identification of features necessary and desirable for future development. Attendees agreed that BPS has the potential to support innovative research agendas.

Patrick Schmitz, Associate Director of Research IT and BPS technical lead said, "It was very satisfying to see this community of scholars using the tools we have been working on. The discussions and ideas for additional functionality were really exciting, and a real validation of our ongoing collaboration to build better tools for humanists."

Adam Anderson, BPS research partner and incoming DH Postdoctoral Fellow said, “Participating with the BPS project has been a transformative experience, and proof that building networks is the key to success.”

BPS will have a tutorial and demonstration corpus on its website in the near future. The team and research partners are committed to ongoing conversation, sharing of data, both as a scholarly best practice and as a means of providing a range of evidence against which to test implemented and planned features.

A collaboration between the Berkeley's Research IT group and the Department of Near Eastern Studies, the BPS team consists of:

Prof. Niek Veldhuis, Near Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley, PI; Dr. Laurie Pearce, Near Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley, co-PI and project manager; Patrick Schmitz, Associate Director, Research IT, technical lead; Davide Semenzin, core-developer; r. Terri-Lynn Tanaka, Near Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley, communication and project analyst; Caroline Cheung, Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology, UC Berkeley, GSR.

In addition to the support of the Social Science Matrix Research Seminar, BPS has received funding from an NEH Digital Humanities Implementation grant and a DH@Berkeley Mellon grant for Capacity Building.