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Database of classical works now freely searchable

Students and scholars can now freely search a new database of Latin and Greek authors that provides links to online versions of their works.

The database, the Classical Works Knowledge Base (CWKB), contains metadata about 5,200 works by 1,500 ancient authors, allowing users with a limited knowledge of the classics’ canonical citation system to simply link to passages of digital texts.

“Let’s say you’re an undergraduate and in a page you’re reading is a reference to a passage of an ancient text, and you would like to read this passage but you don’t know how to find it,” said Eric Rebillard, professor of history and classics, who developed the tool in collaboration with Adam Chandler, a librarian at Cornell University Library. “With this new capability, you can go to this database and find it through very simple steps.”

Once a user types in search terms, the database offers links to the passage in digital versions of the text in the original Latin or Greek and in English translations.

The project began in 2009 with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the American Philological Association (now the Society for Classical Studies). Rebillard, Chandler and David Ruddy, director of scholarly communications services at Cornell University Library, developed a metadata format for canonical citations and resolution service that directs users of the database of classical bibliography, L’Année philologique, to citations available from full-text services. Now, the database used by the resolution service is searchable online.

The second major innovation is the publication of the database’s content as linked open data, which allows the metadata to be connected and enriched by other projects.

“It creates exciting possibilities for digital humanists,” Rebillard said. “There’s a strong community of linked open data for the ancient world, and the hope is that sharing our data in this format will allow others to connect related data that are not currently linked.”

The linked open data is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Melanie Lefkowitz is a staff writer and editor at Cornell University Library.

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