The Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri (DDbDP) is an electronic corpus of published Greek and Latin documents written on papyrus, ostraca, or wooden tablets. The project began in in 1982 as a collaboration between Professors William H. Willis and John F. Oates, both of Duke University, and Dr. David R. Packard. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI) funded the project from its inception through 1996; the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) provided additional financial support. Duke University Libraries in general and the Special Collections Library (now David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library) in particular have offered invaluable material support since the project’s birth, and continue to do so.
In 1996/7 the DDbDP migrated its authoritative version from the PHI CD to the web-based Perseus Project (now Perseus Digital Library), from Beta Code to TEI SGML with Beta Code text. For the next decade the DDbDP was funded as part of the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS), supported by the NEH, with technical support generously provided by Perseus.
In 2004/5 the DDbDP and Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens (HGV) commenced mapping their two largely overlapping data-sets--Greek texts and descriptive metadata, respectively--to each other. Concurrent with these discussions, a collaboration between DDbDP leadership and the Duke University Libraries obtained a planning grant from the Scholarly Communications Division of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, "Planning the Future of the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri, 2005"). Papyrologists, information technology specialists, and librarians and administrators concerned with issues surrounding sustainability came together to map out a sustainable future for the DDbDP. The way forward was clear: open source, standards-based development, greater collaboration, increased vesting of data-control in the user community, greater interoperability with other projects. (Around this time, and for no particular reason, project leaders started referring to the resource as the DDbDP, with lower case 'b'; colleagues have occasionally wondered).
In the Summer of 2006 the founding leader of the DDbDP, John Oates, passed away and James Cowey, of the HGV, joined Joshua D. Sosin as Co-Director of the DDbDP.
With a clear set of objectives in mind, Duke University (again a collaboration between the DDbDP and Duke University Libraries) obtained generous funding from the the Mellon Foundation, for a project entitled “Integrating Digital Papyrology,” whose three phases spanned 2007-2012. Its goals were to migrate the DDbDP from SGML to EpiDoc XML, and from Beta Code to Unicode; to map DDbDP texts and HGV metadata to corresponding APIS images and catalog records; to enhance the Papyrological Navigator; to create a version controlled, transparent and auditable, multi-author, web-based, real-time, tag-lite, editing environment, which--in tandem with a new editorial infrastructure--would allow the entire community of papyrologists to take editorial control of core disciplinary data.
Work was conducted by teams at the Institut für Papyrologie, Universität Heidelberg [Rodney Ast, James Cowey, Carmen Lanz, and several hard-working students]; the Department of Digital Humanities (DDH, formerly Centre for Computing in the Humanities), King’s College London [Zaneta Au, Gabriel Bodard, Faith Lawrence, Tamara Lopez, Raffaele Vigilanti]; Columbia University Libraries [Benjamin Armintor, Rodney Ast, Stephen Davis]; Carolina Digital Library and Archives, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill [Hugh Cayless]; the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) and Digital Library Technology Services (DLTS), New York University [Tom Elliott, Hugh Cayless]: Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments (Vis Center), University of Kentucky [Ryan Baumann, Charles Carpenter, Jon Fox]. All data and code are released under CC BY and GNU GPL.
The DDbDP is co-directed by James Cowey and Joshua Sosin, who together set policy in close consultation with Rodney Ast, the Editorial Board, and other colleagues. Day-to-day editorial decisions are made democratically by the Editorial Board (Rodney Ast, Lajos Berkes, W. Graham Claytor, James Cowey, Jenny Cromwell, Hélène Cuvigny, Alain Delattre, Mark Depauw, Christian-Jürgen Gruber, Paul Heilporn, Cisca Hoogendijk, Thomas Kruse, Tonia Sarri, Joshua D. Sosin, Arthur Verhoogt), often in consultation with other colleagues. Editorial proposals of special difficulty or weight are referred to a board of Senior Editors, who advise the Editorial Board on the virtue of the submissions. Senior Editors are: Isabella Andorlini, Roger Bagnall, Willy Clarysse, Hélène Cuvigny, Nikolaos Gonis, Dieter Hagedorn, Ann Hanson, Andrea Joerdens, James Keenan, and Klaas Worp.
The current public version is available via papyri.info.
In July 2013 papyri.info, including the DDbDP, came under the stewardship of the Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing (DC3), a digital classics R&D unit within the Duke University Libraries which was merged into Digital Strategies and Technology in July 2020.
Please feel free to direct questions regarding the DDBDP to Rodney Ast (ast AT uni-heidelberg DOT de), James Cowey (james.cowey AT urz.uni-heidelberg DOT de), and Joshua Sosin (joshua.sosin AT duke DOT edu); best to email all three, since inevitably all three will discuss.