Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic, developed in the kingdom of Mesopotamia in the first century A.D. It flourished in the Persian and Roman Empires, and Syriac texts comprise the third largest surviving corpus of literature from the Roman Empire, after Greek and Latin. The Syriac Reference Portal is a collaborative digital reference project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation involving partners at Vanderbilt University, Princeton University and other affiliate institutions.
This addition represents the first time we see Syriac scripts (there are variants) as both the “preferred form” and under “alternate name forms” in a VIAF record. The Syriac Reference Portal also contributes additional Arabic and other scripts as alternate names, but selects a Syriac script form as a preferred form for people who wrote or were written about in Syriac.
The Syriac names join the Roman and Greek personal names we loaded from the Perseus Catalog last November and blogged about here as part of our Scholars’ Contributions to VIAF activity. Together they demonstrate how scholarly contributions can enrich existing VIAF clusters—generally comprising contributions from national libraries and other library agencies— by adding script forms of names that previously lacked them, as well as adding new names. Scholars benefit from using VIAF URIs as persistent identifiers for the names in their own databases, linked data applications and scholarly discourse to disambiguate names in multinational collaborations and using VIAF as a means to disseminate scholarly research on names beyond scholars’ own communities.
Adding these scholarly files demonstrates the benefits of tapping scholarly expertise to enhance and add to name authorities represented in VIAF. We look forward to more such enhancements from other scholars’ contributions.
Karen Smith-Yoshimura, senior program officer, topics related to creating and managing metadata with a focus on large research libraries and multilingual requirements. Karen retired from OCLC November 2020.