Digital exhibitions for Museums and Heritage Sites
The New Alexandria Foundation
The idea of "classical" has to do with "classification" — how to "classify" things that are potentially universal in value. Although the word "classical", along with the word "classics", derives from Latin, the idea cannot be confined to the ancient civilization of Rome — or of Greece, for that matter. Even now, the word "classical" applies to the languages of other civilizations as well, such as Chinese or Sanskrit or Hebrew. The word extends in meaning to encompass a wide variety of premodern cultures, even if the claims of all these cultures to universality may not suit our mission perfectly.
Our aim is to take the best that we know and think about premodern civilizations and to make it available to anyone with access to the internet by way of a phone, a tablet, or a computer, at home, in a library, in 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, and 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 premodern world is a life-affirming and intellectually rewarding activity. The truth is within our grasp, not to be locked way by any individual or individuals who promote their own "party line."
We model and foster collegial interaction in our community, including criticism. Disagreement is welcome, but hostile rhetoric is not.
Emphasis on interaction with primary sources—including cultural products of visual as well as verbal art—is needed before any exhaustive reading of secondary literature. Such emphasis helps refresh and enhance understanding of the worlds that produced these sources in the first place.
Our perspectives on premodern cultures are relentlessly comparative, where the act of comparing can extend to any and all other cultures, from small-scale societies to nation-states, from east to west and north to south, striving to maintain awareness of our own cultural preconceptions; 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.
Research informs teaching and teaching research, and both are in the service of the bigger purpose, enlightenment from learning.
Commentaries are a time-honored way of communicating about the form and meaning of texts and artifacts. Sometimes the view communicated is restricted to the form and avoids a search for what that form might mean. A preferable mode of commenting is what can be called "annotation," where the aim is to expand the horizons of interpreting a primary source instead of unquestioningly accepting authoritative pronouncements that shut down or close off any alternative interpretation,
The study of premodern cultures is essentially multidisciplinary, since it involves learning across the conventional boundaries of "western" academic culture. We especially applaud the fading of boundaries that separate humanities and social sciences. Anthropological approaches are key, as are those of political economy, to give only two examples.
Our goal is collaborative, but even more importantly, collaborative across generations; when the older and more experienced only talk among themselves, their work risks becoming sterile; and when the younger do not work with their older colleagues, they can no longer 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 seek to avoid the ethnocentric perspective of a single culture, the one that happens to be our own, so we avoid the dominance of one language, whatever its currency may be. Access to many languages is enriching for individuals and builds community across language boundaries.
Instead of building technologies that isolate us in self-reinforcing bubbles, our intention is to create the projects that bring us closer to our shared traditions and cultures.