James H. Ottaway Jr. and ASCSA Publishing Program are Honored
May 21, 2009
On the invitations to a dinner held at the Yale Club on May 15, guests were invited to “honor the Publications program of the American School.” However, as the evening progressed, it became clear that some subterfuge was at work, and the real honoree was James H. Ottaway Jr, Trustee of the School from 1988 to 2008, Chair of the Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2000, and Chair of the Publications Committee of the Board from 1991 to 2008. The evening started with an interesting address by Trustee and intellectual property attorney Andrew P. Bridges, in which he drew comparisons between the accessibility of written texts (especially laws) in the ancient world and the accessibility of literature through the internet today. This was followed by a presentation by Charles Watkinson, Director of Publications at the ASCSA, in which he described the work being done by the Publications Office in moving from print to online publication; a move both prophesied and catalyzed by Mr. Ottaway’s strong support.
After studying Greek at Yale University, Jim Ottaway first came face-to-face with the archaeology of ancient Greece on his honeymoon in 1960. With his wife Mary, he traveled all around the country visiting, among other places, Lerna in the Argolid, still under excavation by Professor Jack Caskey of the University of Cincinnati. In the following years, as Mr. Ottaway grew his family’s newspaper empire, he also kept an interested eye on the discoveries at Lerna. Like many archaeological excavations, Lerna was slow to be published by scholars whose time was spread too thinly between the demands of teaching, writing, and archaeological fieldwork. Mr. Ottaway’s concern over the dissemination of work at a single site soon grew to become a wider interest in the problems of archaeological publication. As he wrote in 2001, “all excavators of ancient sites and objects have a moral and professional obligation to publish their finds as quickly as possible, as public information that belongs to the world of scholarship, and to the history of mankind.” The fact that so many do not do so was, he suggested, a scandal that the profession tended to paper over. In 2002, his arguments were presented in “Publish or Be Damned: Problems in Archaeological Publication,” in Mauerschau: Festschrift für Manfred Korfmann, Remshalden. From an early date, Mr. Ottaway saw the potential of electronic technologies to help this situation, although he was well aware from the early days of the internet that electronic publication would initially be viewed with skepticism. In 1997 he wrote that “In the archaeological professions, we must find ways to publish material more quickly on the internet, while following established and accepted methods of peer-review so that the quality of electronic publishing is not in fact or in perception second rate.”
Over the years, Mr. Ottaway has supported the work of many authors attempting to complete the publication of archaeological material. Dr. Anastasia Dinsmoor’s determination to publish the work of her father-in-law and husband at the site of the Propylaia resulted in 2004 in the publication of The Propylaia II: The Classical Building, by W. B. Dinsmoor and W. B. Dinsmoor Jr. This would not have been possible without Jim Ottaway’s assistance. The Lerna series has been a particular beneficiary of his personal generosity, with its three most recent books including dedications to him.
At the end of his speech, in which he discussed the role of digital technologies in enriching archaeological publications and making them more useful as well as increasing access and providing it when needed, Mr. Watkinson asked the Chair and President of the Trustees to come forward. Professors Williams and McCredie then jointly presented Mr. Ottaway with a Sony Reader digital book onto which had been loaded The Neolithic Pottery from Lerna (Lerna V), the latest volume in the Lerna series. At the same time, Mr. Watkinson announced that all previous volumes in the Lerna series had been digitized, and were now being made available free of charge for download and use on the American School’s website. (Just click on “view online” in each catalogue record, except that for Lerna V where a separate link is provided below the bibliographical description.)
Mr. Ottaway made a gracious acceptance speech in which he described the growth of his interest in the problems of archaeological publication. All in the room were relieved and pleased to hear of his commitment to remaining on the Publications Committee of the Trustees and continue to actively support the School’s Publications program in his new capacity as Trustee Emeritus.
Readers of this news story may download the .ePub version of Lerna V and the PDF versions of Lerna I: The Fauna, Lerna II: The People, Lerna III: The Pottery of Lerna IV, and Lerna IV: Architecture, Stratigraphy, and Pottery of Lerna III, from the website.
James H. Ottaway Jr. (center) receives a Sony Reader from Trustees President, James R. McCredie, (left) and Chairman, Charles K. Williams II (right)