Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum (CVA)

Meeting of the International Directors in Oxford
28 November 2009
Ioannou School, University of Oxford

Background

The meeting was convened to update directors on progress since the last meeting (2001). Because the International Director of CVA, Mme Juliette de La Genière, could not attend the morning session, these presentations focussed on the progress of the digital CVA and the scope for expanding it through interoperability with other electronic research projects, such as LASIMOS. The afternoon was dedicated to the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum.

With the welcome extension of the CVA group of nations, and more museums working on fascicules, it was a good time to restate and possibly review the common standards that should apply to its published material.

The meeting was hosted by the Beazley Archive (Professor Donna Kurtz) and chaired by M. Jean-Luc de Paepe (Deputy Secretary General of the Union Académique Internationale).

The proceedings

1. Sir John Boardman welcomed the participants.

2. Jean-Luc de Paepe opened the meeting with a reminder of the importance of the digitisation of the CVA to current scholarship and some suggestions for financing it:

  • one full-time researcher for one year at a cost of 40, 000 Euros to digitise the nearly 40 fascicules that have appeared since 2004 – that is, to bring cvaonline up to date;
  • the target sum of 40,000 Euros would be split into two allocations of 20,000 Euros spread over two years;
  • he would propose to the UAI that they should allocate 10,000 Euro to the project over 2 years i.e. 5000 Euros each year, starting as soon as possible after the middle of 2010: the next meeting of the UAI that could agree this takes place in Budapest in May, 2010;
  • at the same time, he would ask the major individual academies to contribute 5000 Euros each, similarly spread over two years, which together should achieve 30,000 Euros.

3. Donna Kurtz explained that Professor de la Geniere had been unable to attend the morning session; after the date had been agreed she had been asked to address the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres the night before. For that reason the digital CVA was the subject of the morning session.

4. Greg Parker (Beazley Archive) gave a presentation explaining the process of digitisation for the website (pdf).

In discussion the main points focussed on the desirability of authors and publishers following an agreed template and making electronic files available to the Beazley Archive for the web digitisation before publishing formats were imposed.

The template had already been established by Greg Parker who had also put systems in place to allow participating museums to update the records on-line.

5. Martine Denoyelle, from the Institut National d'Histoire de L'Art in Paris and Emilia Masci, from the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, gave a presentation on the LASIMOS project (pdf) to digitize information on the history of collections of ancient vases.

6. Brigitte Bourgeois, also from the Institut National d'Histoire de L'Art, explained the importance of new techniques of conservation to the history of ancient vases (pdf).

7. Greg Parker explained how CLAROS – the Beazley Archive's most recent research initiative - could link LASIMOS and other scholarly electronic information sources virtually using CIDOC CRM. In addition to explaining the benefits of interoperability he showed how image (pdf) and voice recognition (.mov) was being employed in CLAROS to assist scholarship and broaden access.

8. The group supported the proposal to make LASIMOS a Special Interest Group of the Digital CVA.

In discussion of the wider issues emerging from the presentations, it was emphasised that there was a need to develop new ways of exciting interest in the study of classical antiquity. New electronic information sources potentially changed scholarship: the years spent in the past searching for material now readily accessible on-line could be spent on interpretation and analysis.

It was noted that linked sites/search tools work best where there is agreement among scholars about terminology; agreed ontologies are fundamental to CIDOC CRM.

9. In the afternoon, Mme. Juliette de La Genière welcomed new countries and new volumes. She emphasised the importance of common standards across CVA, particularly as the number of participating museums and nations grew. She reminded the group of Sir John Boardman's Guidelines, which were circulated.

She also invited Directors' views on difficulties with the preparation of new CVA volumes.

In discussion, the importance of the four-language rule was reaffirmed. It was in the interest of countries whose language was not so widely known by scholars working in the field to publish information in the most accessible languages - English, French, German and Italian. If funding was needed for a translation, it was suggested local educational or charitable foundations might be approached. It was not generally felt that it was a proper use of CVA limited resources to fund translation services.

There was some concern about delays in publishing completed work. The Naples volume had been ready for publication for 3 years. The Italian CVA Committee have delayed publication until it is translated into Italian. Another problem was the funding of publication in other countries, for example in Brazil.

A number of Directors raised as an issue the variation in standards between different CVA volumes. Some variation was unavoidable, given different national traditions, levels of funding etc. An international 'reading' Committee of the CVA was suggested to vet all volumes before publication, but some thought it might be impracticable and delay publication unnecessarily.

The CVA Guidelines were an important element in assuring common standards, but they were only guidelines and should remain so; some smaller museums, for example, might find it difficult to fund the same level of research as the larger ones. The key elements were: good illustrations and an accurate description and measurements; commentary was a desirable but optional extra.

On the content of the Guidelines, there was a consensus that the instruction on cleaning should be reviewed to take proper account where possible of the role of conservators – particularly in any decisions to remove earlier restoration work, which could often be of historical significance. Brigitte Bourgeois agreed to draft a brief statement on conservation guidelines.

The position of the CVA on publishing vases from illicit excavations was also discussed. The consensus was that everything should be published, irrespective of provenance, to advance scholarship.

It was stated that that no Library was designated to hold all published volumes of the CVA. Mme de La Genière offered on behalf of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres to purchase new CVA volumes. M.de Paepe suggested publishers might lodge copies with the UAI free of charge.

Mme de la Geniere suggested that a two-day conference might be held in Paris in 2011, hosted by the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres.

Conclusion

M de Paepe offered the following comments:

  • the existing language requirement should be reaffirmed
  • the current guidelines should be posted on-line, and
  • there should be an on-line discussion and review to take account of, for example, modern conservation
  • an international 'reading' Committee should be considered further
  • the establishment of a common standard for national editors should be explored, to support read-across where possible between on-line and publication requirements
  • short-term funding for the current CVA digitisation project would be led by M.de Paepe and the UAI
  • in the longer term, expansion of the market for the CVA should be explored to draw in new sources of funding
  • there might be a meeting of CVA in 2011, hosted by the Paris Academy.

M. de Paepe concluded the meeting with thanks to the participants for their contributions and to all concerned in the organisation of the day.