Professor Ryan Shaw to co-direct IMLS-funded PeriodO project expansion

April 12, 2016

Ryan Shaw, UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) Assistant Professor, will co-direct an expansion of the PeriodO tool, which eases the task of documenting how scholars define historical, art-historical, and archaeological periods differently. The project, titled “Periods, Organized (PeriodO) 2: Linking, Discovering, and Reconciling Information about the Past,” has been awarded $237,744 in funding from the National Leadership Grants for Libraries program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

“The way humans categorize time can create problems for digital descriptions of historical information,” Shaw said. “Time periods like the Bronze Age or the Anthropocene Epoch may be defined in idiosyncratic ways across different systems, which means users searching for information about those periods will receive incomplete results. PeriodO seeks to solve this problem through the creation of an open-ended linked data gazetteer of period definitions that are authoritative and clearly modeled.”

Adam Rabinowitz, Associate Professor and Assistant Director of the Institute of Classical Archaeology at the University of Texas at Austin, will serve as the PeriodO 2 project director, with Shaw and Lorraine Haricombe, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries at UT Austin, as co-directors. Patrick Golden, a SILS doctoral candidate, will act as lead developer for the project.

The expansion will build on the success of the initial PeriodO project, funded from March 2014 to December 2015 by an NEH Level II Digital Humanities Start-up Grant. With that grant, co-PIs Rabinowitz and Shaw, together with Golden and Ph.D. student Sarah Buchanan, were able to build the PeriodO server and client, and to create an initial dataset that now stands at just over 3,500 entries.

The next two-year phase will significantly expand the usefulness of the PeriodO platform and dataset beyond archaeology to meet the needs of a broader audience of librarians, data managers, scholars, and students across the academic spectrum. The project will add a set of visualization tools for searching and filtering in the graphic user interface and hold workshops with partners from a wide range of disciplines such as modern history, literature, library science, and museum studies, to explore the role PeriodO might play in the management and discoverability of their data.

Shaw was one of two SILS faculty members to have a project selected for funding by IMLS this cycle. Professor Sandra Hughes-Hassell received a grant for “Project READY: Reimagining Equity and Access for Diverse Youth–A Professional Development Curriculum.”


The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Its grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow IMLS on Facebook  and Twitter .