Digital exhibitions for Museums and Heritage Sites
The New Alexandria Foundation
The underlying notion of the word “classics” has nothing to do with its current restriction to the civilizations of Greece and Rome. It means ‘representative of a class,’ and so of more than transient value. But even now the word ‘classical’ applies to Chinese and Sanskrit and Hebrew, so extending its meaning to encompass ancient cultures whether or not they pretend to universality suits our mission perfectly.
Crucial to our mission is access to the best that we know and think about the ancient world to anyone with access to the internet, with a phone or a computer, at home or in a library or a park or on a bus. As our data will be free and open for all to use and engage with, so also must our interpretations of it be free and open, so also the software that we create for accessing it and analyzing it must be free and open.
We believe that community-building around the study of the ancient world is life-affirming and the most intellectually rewarding activity. The truth lies among us, not in the hands of an individual or just a few individuals with a party line.
We model and foster collegial interaction in our community, not the kind of destructive rhetoric that is the norm for many academic disciplines. Disagreement is welcome, but hostile disagreement is not.
Annotations compiled into commentaries are a time-honored way of exposing and communicating about the form and meaning (sometimes only the form, avoiding the meaning) of the products of ancient civilization: we favor annotations that question and expand the horizons of the primary source rather than authoritatively those that shut down or close off its interpretation.
Our perspective on the ancient world is relentlessly comparative with any and all other cultures, from small-scale societies to nation states, from east to west and north to south, and always imbued with awareness of one’s own cultural prejudices; nothing is more illuminating for understanding than such a perspective, just as nothing is more dim than confining oneself to one’s own culture and its view of the world.
Primary sources -- to include cultural products of verbal as well as visual art -- and interacting with them before encountering secondary literature about them is the best way to refresh and enhance understanding of the worlds that produced them.
Our goal is collaborative, but even more importantly, collaborative across generations; when the older and more experienced only talk among themselves, their work becomes sterile; and when the younger do not work with their older colleagues, they cease to profit from what the generations before them have learned and can teach them. A refusal to learn cannot be justified in either direction.
Just as we eschew the ethnocentric perspective of one culture, the one that happens to be our own, so we eschew the dominance of one language, whatever its currency may be. Access to many languages is enriching for individuals and builds community across language boundaries.
Research informs teaching and teaching research, and both are in the service of the bigger purpose, the enlightenment from learning.
Instead of building technologies that isolate us in self-reinforcing bubbles, we want to intentionally create the projects that bring us closer to our shared traditions and cultures.
The study of ancient cultures is essentially multidisciplinary, since it involves learning across the conventional boundaries of western academic culture. We especially applaud the fading boundary between humanities and social sciences. Anthropological approaches are key, as are those of political economy, to give only two examples.