Traianos Gagos, colleague, friend, and archivist for the University Library’s papyrus collection, passed away suddenly last week at the age of 49.
“Traianos Gagos was an extraordinary scholar who helped to develop extraordinary resources both at Michigan and around the world. He was also a warm and enthusiastic friend and colleague, and we will miss him greatly,“ said University Librarian Paul Courant.
When Traianos arrived at the University of Michigan in 1988, the library already held the largest collection of papyri in the Western Hemisphere, but his vision, diligence, and dedication made it readily available to the world.
Back in 1995, when the World Wide Web was just a brave new world, Traianos was already part of the team that created the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS), a massive online database combining descriptions and images of papyrus fragments from multiple institutions. He worked tirelessly on the methodologies and politics of this program from the start, engaging in tasks that ranged from identifying details of metadata to collect for each papyrus to creating standards for technologies, to bringing new institutions on board. From 1996 to 2008 the project was supported by an almost-unheard-of series of five back-to-back multi-institutional National Endowment for the Humanities grants, on all of which Traianos served as principal investigator or project manager.
The impact of the APIS project has been revolutionary. With nearly eight thousand records for Michigan papyri now in the APIS database, the collection is heavily used by scholars and students all over the world. The Michigan papyrus collection is on the map as a leader and innovator, a place to look to as a model in the management of both electronic and original collections of ancient documents.
Traianos also put great effort into making this collection accessible to the non-specialist. The incorporation of translations and names into the APIS database was intended to facilitate access by scholars in related fields or laypeople who lacked the language skills to read the originals. He participated in numerous television and other media interviews for general audiences and conducted countless tours of the collection for groups ranging from senior citizens to school children. With Kathryn Beam in the Special Collections Library he contributed to the library’s highly popular annual exhibition “From Papyrus to King James,” whose CD-ROM version won the Michigan Press Book Award in 1999.
Traianos’s work as archivist for the papyrus collection in the library was just one portion of a rich professional output. He held a joint appointment as Professor of Papyrology and Greek in the Department of Classical Studies, where he taught not only the study of ancient texts but also founded and taught in the Modern Greek language program. He published widely and held many leadership positions among papyrologists nationally and internationally. Ludwig Koenen, professor emeritus of papyrology, has written a remembrance for the Classical Studies Web page.
His many friends at the University Library will miss his dry humor, ready laugh, and outlook of bemused tolerance for an imperfect world.
The Department of Classical Studies, the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, and the University Library will host a memorial for Traianos on Monday, May 3, at 4 p.m. in the Michigan Union ballroom.
Cards and letters of condolence may be sent to Gina Soter, c/o Department of Classical Studies, 2160 Angell Hall, 435 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003; they will be collected and passed on to his family. In lieu of flowers, the Traianos Gagos Fund for Papyrology has been established for the purpose of assisting and promoting study and research in Papyrology by students at all levels.
If you wish to make a gift to this fund, the following link will direct you to the College of Literature, Science and the Arts giving site where you can be assured your gift will be added to this endowment: http://lsa.umich.edu/alumni/giveonline. Click on “give student support,” then check the box “my gift is in honor/memory of someone.” Add Traianos Gagos there.