Located in the UCF Library STARS Special Collections is “Open Educational Resources for the study of the Ancient Near East,” an open-source collection curated specifically for upper-level undergraduate and graduate studies. At the center of this project is Dr. Tiffany Earley-Spadoni, an associate professor with the Department of History and Lee Dotson, associate librarian at UCF’s John C. Hitt library.
The project began in 2020 as a response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Earley-Spadoni noticed that other resource lists were not curated for the specific needs of university instructors developing online courses or supplementary digital content. Many resources for online teaching and accessibility, though helpful, lacked the discipline-specific resources she desired as she navigated transitioning her classes from face-to-face to online.
Earley-Spadoni saw a need in the field and filled it: “I see it as a service to the profession.”
Public domain content can vary widely in quality. Easily one of the most assigned texts in introductory courses in history and anthropology, the most recent translation of the Laws of Hammurabi in the public domain dated to the early 1900s. Since then, scholars have made critical revisions to our understanding of these laws.
“We were having to choose between asking students to purchase additional books to have updated, high-quality translations or using poorer quality resources freely available online,” Earley-Spadoni said.
Dr. Charles E. Jones, Tombros Librarian for Classics and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University, suggested the solution may lie with Dr. Martha T. Roth, the esteemed translator of the Laws of Hammurabi. Roth is the Chauncey S. Boucher Distinguished Service Professor of Assyriology in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, and the Editor-in-Charge of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary at the University of Chicago. She researches and publishes on the legal and social history of the ancient Near East and her primary interests are family law, legal and social issues, and the compilation and transmission law norms.
Jones suggested that Roth might consider donating her translation to the public domain through Earley-Spadoni’s “Open Educational Resources for the Ancient Near East.” Roth generously agreed, and her translation is now available on this platform, making her important scholarship accessible to a broader audience.
“Scholarship and information are being consumed differently nowadays, and while books still have a place and an important role, access to online information, particularly that of a high quality, will become increasingly important.” Earley-Spadoni said.
Earley-Spadoni plans to include Roth’s scholarship on the translation of the Laws of Hammurabi in her own courses and now, through her “Open Educational Resources for the Ancient Near East,” educators worldwide will be able to do the same.