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.
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.
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.
Senior Lecturer at Leiden University
Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at University of Michigan
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
Manning Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, Brown University
Chair, Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature at Boston University
Associate Professor of Persianate and Comparative Literature
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.