NELC Undergraduate Symposium Abstract 2010

The Svoboda Diary: A Journey through the Ottoman Empire and Europe

Under the direction of the Ottoman Text Archive Project (OTAP), the Svoboda Diary Project explores web-based technologies that will support and enhance the publication of a 19th century diary with interactive resources and visuals, including a map of the journey. The project aims to digitize and contextualize the experiences of nineteen-year-old Alexander Svoboda as he travels from his hometown of Baghdad to London in 1897.

It has been a privilege for OTAP to partner with Iraqi researcher Nowf Allawi and collaborate resources via the internet. Although the original documents remain in Baghdad, Ms. Allawi provides scanned copies of Alexander's multilingual account as well as her own extensive research. The end result of the project's collaborative work will be a digital manuscript accompanied by an English translation- including background information gathered on the family and the historical implications of the text. The demographics and languages of the Middle East changed dramatically in the events of the last century, thus requiring research beyond the typical scope of the modern Middle East.

Few travelogues of this period have been translated and even less are published. Alexander's diary provides the unique perspective of a European adolescent, writing in Arabic, passing through Damascus, Beirut and Cairo and the contrast of his journey through Rome, Paris and London. The journey includes encounters with bedouins, political figures and clergymen as he travels on mule litter, camel, boat and train. He records many landmarks and ruins that continue to attract travelers today as well as sights that have since disappeared. The Svoboda Diary Project exposes facets of a formative period of history and combines humanities scholarship with new opportunities within technological development.