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University of Washington Students Unlock New Historical Connections on King Tut’s Tomb Using Gale Digital Scholar Lab

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Digital Humanities Project Hosts Rare Collection of Previously Inaccessible Documents and Articles Surrounding the Discovery and Excavation of the Tomb

For the first time in nearly 100 years, scholars and the curious public can see one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century in a new light. 

The Tutankhamun Centenary: 1922–2022 is a website showcasing University of Washington students’ groundbreaking digital humanities (DH) research to mark a century since the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s (King Tut’s) tomb.

For the Tut Talks project, masters and undergraduate students used tools like Gale Digital Scholar Lab (The Lab) from Gale, part of Cengage Group, to create a publicly available resource from previously inaccessible collections.

It includes selected private papers of Howard Carter, the British archeologist who discovered the tomb, and articles from The Times of London, the primary disseminator of information about the discovery and excavation. 

Read Gale’s blog for more insight on the project.

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“There has long been a wealth of information on the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, but it was not aggregated, curated, or highly accessible until relatively recently, when archives such as the Griffith Institute in Oxford, U.K., started putting material online,” said Dr. Sarah Ketchley, project sponsor, affiliate instructor, University of Washington Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures. “The Tut Talks DH project is not only important due to its interesting subject matter; it also highlights the critical role DH plays in academia to connect our understanding of the past, present and future.”

Tut Talks marks 100 years since the tomb’s discovery in Luxor, Egypt, in November of 1922. It is a compilation of the work of University of Washington Master’s of Library and Information Science (MLIS) Capstone students and students in the NEAR E 485 course. Students studied the years between 1900–1939 to assess the broader influence of the tomb’s discovery. 

Five exhibits are part of The Tutankhamun Centenary: 1922–2022: 

  • Egyptomania: The project focuses on how King Tutankhamun’s tomb’s discovery may have influenced British newspapers’ advertisements during the renewed interest in Ancient Egypt’s culture.
  • The Howard Carter Collection: The exhibit contains a rare collection of personal letters and documents from Howard Carter’s career in Egypt dating from 1902–1932. The collection was made possible by a private collector who spent 40 years finding and preserving the materials. The exhibit is a curated selection of primary source material from Carter’s time in Egypt, including unpublished diary excerpts and personal letters written by fellow Nile travelers, artists and archaeologists. 

“Howard Carter was a meticulous and dedicated archaeologist who recognized the artifacts he unearthed not as a collection of mystifying antiquities—but as humanizing emblems of the innovation and resilience of ancient Egyptian civilization,”  said Erika Bojnowski, a member of the Tut Talks Capstone team. “Carter valued their stories’ place in history, just as we value his.”

  • The Pharaoh’s Curse and King Tutankhamun: The project investigates the representation of the so-called “Pharaoh’s Curse” in relation to the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in English-language newspapers from 1910-1949. 

“The Curse subset was anything but a curse, thanks to the DH tools at our fingertips,” said Hannah Burrows, University of Washington undergraduate student, pursuing a degree in Informatics. “From collecting articles and compiling content sets to cleaning up OCR text, Gale Digital Scholar Lab made it easy to export our information directly for the Tutankhamen project. The Lab’s analysis tools were extremely helpful with conceptualizing data and enabled us to use the tools throughout the entire project process.”

  • The Times of London: The website contains 140 articles from The Times of London, published between 1922 and 1927. Students used the Times Digital Archive from Gale Primary Sources to collect the articles. The Times Exclusive Agreement exhibit contains 26 articles of the Time’s coverage of the event, one of the first major exclusive news deals in history.

The Times articles are primary sources, so they can stand on their own, but they’re not absolute truth,” said Jane Kern, another member of the Tut Talks Capstone team. “That’s why they’re so interesting and why historians like to work with them, because you can actually see those different layers of interpretation. In some way, working with databases like this one is a great way of teaching and learning about analytical thinking… It’s a way of puzzling through why certain stories are told, and certain stories have not been carried on.”

  • Lindsley Foote Hall Diaries: A draftsman working in Egypt during eight seasons, he was ‘loaned’ to the Carter/Carnarvon team by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to help record the tomb when it was discovered in 1922.This exhibit showcases some of the diaries he kept and student observations about working with Trankscribus to automate the process of transcribing the handwritten diaries.

Gale Digital Scholar Lab’s analysis tools were used throughout the project. As a cloud-based research environment, The Lab integrates an unmatched depth and breadth of digital primary source material with some of today’s most popular digital humanities analysis and visualization tools. It provides a new lens to explore history and empowers researchers to deepen their understanding of the world and its representation in the written word. 

“The Tutankhamun Centenary project shows how digital humanities is breaking barriers in digital scholarship,” said Seth Cayley, Vice President, Global Academic, Gale. “Not very long ago, a project like this would have taken years; now, it is being streamlined to a semester. With DH tools, these students were able to spend more time identifying previously undiscovered data, analyzing results, and gaining new insights into the complicated history of the discovery and excavation of King Tut.”

To explore the Tutankhamen Centenary 1922–2022  website, click here. 

For more information on Gale Digital Scholar Lab, visit the Gale Primary Sources webpage.

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