Website Review: Perseus 4.0

Full Name: Perseus Digital Library (Perseus Hopper)
Content: Originally a repository of Greco-Roman texts, art and archaeology but now as much other material, i.e., 19th-century American sources, issues of the Richmond Times Dispatch, Renaissance materials, even some Arabic and ancient Germanic texts; current research centers on personalization: organizing what you see to meet your needs
Authorship: Gregory R. Crane, editor-in-chief, and 8 staff members; most information taken from publications
Host/Maintenance: Department of the Classics, Tufts University, Medford, MA; updated daily
Permanence/Archiving: they are looking to establish mirror sites
Licensing: Copyright and warranty web page explains that the overall copyright resides with Tufts University while individual items have varying copyright status (one has to contact the Project to find out details); any commercial use or publication without authorization is strictly prohibited; site source code is open source; no citation guidelines for individual items, only for the overall site

website entry page

Usefulness: one-stop destination for Greco-Roman materials, with plans to facilitate research; collection is representative; textual material is the most developed with translations, cross-references, some semantic tagging and the like; many textbooks and monographs included; still more college-student oriented
Ease of Use: Greco-Roman artifacts have their own separate search engine; 19th-century texts’ hyperlinks (esp. images) didn’t always load (4-27-09); hierarchical structure for some sections, list approach for others; no unified interface
Appeal: Esp. the textual materials are well presented and professional; artifact entries are less appealing while very basic
Accessibility: In Google, the search for “Greco-Roman database” yields Perseus as result no. 1 but other related search words or specific artifacts, writers, etc. aren’t as successful; well-linked from other related sites though
Credibility: the Tufts University imprimatur provides gravitas and backs up the quality of the content; texts are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike3.0 License; image reproduction approval is to be requested from the project staff or directly from the owner-museum directly on an individual basis
Reuse: Texts are open source and can be downloaded as XML files or as MySQL dumps; however, there are no easily apparent web services that enable retrieval of dynamically generated query results as XML; data dump doesn’t help if you just want to “mashup” a subset of the Perseus collection with another collection; no apparent easy way to reuse artifactual materials

example of an artifact web page

Perseus served as a trailblazer (first released 1992) and is to be lauded for its open source approach to its software and most of its materials. The ventures beyond the original Greco-Roman world still have a bit of an experimental feel but are nevertheless a courageous attempt to put the extensive experience gained to wider use in the Humanities.

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