Roshan Initiative in Persian Digital Humanities (PersDig@UMD) of the Roshan Institute for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland
  Artist: Rashin Kheiriyeh

About PersDig@UMD

The Roshan Institute for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park has embarked on an ambitious Persian digital humanities initiative, the Roshan Initiative in Persian Digital Humanities at the University of Maryland (PersDig@UMD). It is a collaborative effort involving Roshan Institute for Persian Studies, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), and UMD libraries. We currently are developing three projects: Persian Digital Library (PDL), Persian Manuscript Initiative (PMI), and Lalehzar Digital Project (LDP).

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Simurgh with book

Persian Digital Library (PDL)

Music courtesy of Ali Samadpour

In its final form, the Persian Digital Library (PDL) will be a revolutionary new educational and research resource that will provide free access to the most important works of Persian poetry and prose in a collaborative online environment. It will aggregate and align multiple manuscript, print, and artistic renditions of each text (including available translations) and provide the user with automatic (“clickable”) dictionary and morphological analysis of each word. Its uses will be manifold and it will serve the needs of all who are interested in Persian culture, from leading scholars to young children. Scholars will turn to the PDL for its text files, high-quality manuscript images, and new open-source, multi-text critical editions of Persian works. Students will use the PDL to improve their Persian language skills and master the art of reading medieval manuscripts. Scholars, students, and Persian literature aficionados from across the world will all collaborate through the platform’s wiki functionality to add annotations and undertake new translations of the Persian classics. But we have a lot of work to do still to reach this long-term goal.

With the help of start-up funds from a LaunchUMD campaign in the fall of 2015, we began this larger project during the 2015-2016 academic year by completing a PDL Pilot (more details on the PDL website). We are now preparing to launch the implementation stage of corpus building for the PDL, in collaboration with the KITAB Project of Aga Khan University (London) and the OpenArabic Project of Universität Leipzig. More details on this multi-institutional corpus-building initiative can be found at the Islamicate Texts Initiative (ITI) website—an umbrella organization that PersDig@UMD co-founded with our esteemed partners from KITAB/Aga Khan University and OpenArabic/Universität Leipzig.


Persian Manuscript Initiative (PMI)

PersDig@UMD is a co-founder of the Persian Manuscript Initiative (PMI)—a multi-institutional initiative that will partner with leading libraries and archives around the world to help expand the number of Persian manuscripts available online and improve the quality of metadata we have for them through "knowledge-sourcing." We are excited to announce that in the summer of 2016 we will launch our first pilot project with the Library of Congress (dedicated website with more details is coming soon). All manuscripts digitized in PMI projects will also be incorporated into the Persian Digital Library platform.

In partnership with the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (HMML), PMI will also focus in particular on preserving Persian manuscripts (both digitally and in their physical form) that may be at a risk of loss. PersDig@UMD, with the support of both the Roshan Institute for Persian Studies and The Islamic Manuscript Association, launched a pilot program in the National Archive of Afghanistan (Kabul), which included an initial curatorial assessment of the archive's manuscript collection and intensive training sessions for the archive staff. 


cat wearing google glasses

Lalehzar Digital Project (LDP)

Lalehzar Street

The Lalehzar Digital Project (LDP) is a groundbreaking initiative and the hub of an international effort aimed at creating a multimedia archive of Tehran’s historic entertainment district, Lalehzar Street. Frequently compared to New York’s Broadway and Paris’s Champs-Élysées, between 1900 and 1979, Lalehzar Street was the heart of Tehran’s cosmopolitan cultural production and development of modern Iranian urban practices and sites of sociability: it hosted dozens of hotels, restaurants, cafés, publishing houses, theatrical and cinematic venues, and dancing halls alongside several mosques and chapels. Within close proximity of several major embassies, it was also a site for shopping and socialization for foreign residents and therefore functioned as a microcosm of diplomatic relations between Iran and the respective countries. Lalehzar was not merely a street but a vital cultural milieu of modern Iran: it was the birthplace of many modern Iranian performance genres (including those of political, popular, and/or artistic nature), venues and educational institutions, as well as Iran’s nightlife and entertainment industry. The LDP is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and presenting a wide range of rare documents pertaining to the multiple urban, business, diplomatic, cultural and artistic aspects of Lalehzar. These include visual sources (such as maps, footage and photographs of the street, its venues, and performances), textual sources (including advertisements, brochures and theatrical scripts), and aural and oral sources including music pieces. This data then will ultimatley be augmented for further analysis, tracing, and visualization of the spatial and cultural transformations of the street and its venues between 1900 and 1979.

PersDig@UMD Team

Our Team at UMD

  • Fatemeh Keshavarz

    Director and Co-PI of PersDig@UMD

    Director, School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
    Director, Roshan Institute for Persian Studies
    Roshan Institute Chair in Persian Studies

  • Babak Hamidzadeh

    Director and Co-PI of PersDig@UMD

    Interim Dean of Libraries at University of Maryland, College Park

  • Ahmet T. Karamustafa

    Associate Director of PersDig@UMD

    Associate Director for Academic Affairs, Roshan Institute for Persian Studies Professor of History

  • Ali Reza Abasi

    Associate Director of PersDig@UMD

    Associate Professor of Persian University of Maryland, College Park

  • Matthew Thomas Miller

    Associate Director of PersDig@UMD

    Roshan Institute Research Fellow at University of Maryland, College Park

  • Ida Meftahi

    Director of Lalehzar Digital Project (LDP)

    Roshan Institute Visiting Assistant Professor

  • Elijah Cooke

    Elijah Cooke

    Persian Digital Humanities Programming Intern

    Senior undergraduate student in Persian studies and computer science, University of Maryland, College Park

Advisory Board Members

  • Wali Ahmadi

    Associate Professor of Persian Literature
    University of California, Berkeley

  • Devin Deweese

    Professor, Central Eurasian Studies
    Adjunct Professor, Religious Studies
    Indiana University, Bloomington

  • Asghar Seyed Gohrab

    Senior Lecturer at Leiden University

  • Christiane Gruber

    Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at University of Michigan

  • Matthew Kirschenbaum

    Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Maryland and Associate Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities

  • Paul Losensky

    Associate Professor, Central Eurasian Studies
    Associate Professor, Comparative Literature
    Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University Bloomington

  • Farzaneh Milani

    Raymond J. Nelson Professor and Chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures and former Director of Studies in Women and Gender at the University of Virginia

  • Elias Muhanna

    Manning Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, Brown University

  • Roopika Risam

    Assistant professor of English and Secondary English Education at Salem State University

  • Omid Safi

    Director, Duke Islamic Studies Center
    Professor, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University, Durham, NC

  • Sunil Sharma

    Chair, Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature at Boston University
    Associate Professor of Persianate and Comparative Literature

  • Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi

    Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto and the Chair of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto-Mississauga.

  • Carl W. Ernst

    William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill