The Aegean, a sea scattered with small and big islands, named thus by the ancient Greeks due to its large waves, called “aiges” (goats), was inhabited systematically already from the Neolithic Period (6800-3200 BC). This sea constitutes the stripe of water connecting mainland Greece with Asia Minor, Crete, the southeastern Mediterranean and North Africa with northern Greece, the southern Balkans and the Black Sea, and Europe with Asia. Thus, it constitutes a diachronic field of intense social, economic and cultural activity and exchange, where cultural elements of different origin came into contact, confrontation and osmosis shaping in the insular microcosms new cultural vocabularies of greater or lesser range.
Each island has its own history, tradition and character, which it shares to a large extend with the rest of the islands or with groups of them. The Cyclades and the Dodecanese are two distinctive –although in no way compact– geographical and cultural units, in contrast to the larger and more isolated islands of northeastern Aegean. The latter had always closer relations with the Asia Minor coast, similarly to the eastern Dodecanese, while several of the Cyclades islands were traditionally related to Attica and the Peloponnese. However, the Aegean networks have always been wider. Depending on historical circumstances, they connected the islands with Egypt, the Near East, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean ports, America and Australia. Today, the Aegean, the greatest archipelago in Europe, is not only a point of reference for the history and culture of the three continents which it borders, but also a site of recreation for thousands of visitors, since it combines in a unique way natural beauty and cultural wealth.
The Cultural Portal of the Aegean Archipelago is a product of collaboration between FHW and the Ministry of the Aegean. The objective of the project is the development of a web site providing cultural and historical information of high quality in order to demonstrate and promote the unique historical and cultural characteristics of the Aegean, as well as the integration of the vasrious web sites that are related to the Aegean into a thematic cultural atlas on the Internet through a unified checking procedure of content quality and accuracy.
The objective of the Portal is the presentation of the historical and cultural physiognomy of the Aegean islands. In order to achieve this objective all conventional forms of information were used (texts, data tables, photographs, drawings and maps) but also new ones, resulting from the applications of multimedia technologies in cyberspace. 3D representations, architectural and city-planning models, historical maps, videos and sound applications aim at facilitating the understanding of the described phenomena, at documenting the texts, but also at adding new possibilities for perception, increasing both the width of the cognitive field and the possibilities for deeper examination. In this way, information becomes user-friendly, easy to understand and attractive, without losing its exactitude and accuracy. In addition, serious effort has been made in order to exploit the methodology of data retrieval in the voluminous and manifold content thanks to the multiple and overlapping possibilities of searching in a digital environment.
Geographically the Portal includes the Regions of North and South Aegean. The former includes the prefectures of Lesvos, Chios and Samos, while the latter includes and the Prefectures of the Cyclades and the Dodecanese. This is the main area for which a systematic information development and a detailed search of relevant web sites has been carried out. Our objective is to enrich the Portal in the future so that it will include all the islands of the Aegean, but also the Greek and Turkish coasts.
Temporally the historical and archaeological information extends from the Prehistoric Period to modern times.
Structurally the Portal includes two categories of text units (entries): Islands and General Issues.
General issues: this category includes entries that deal with issues of history and archaeology, geology, geography and environmental studies, popular culture and architecture,. It also includes entries that present briefly the present day socioeconomic and cultural profile of the islands, as well as entries that refer to selected and representative historical figures per period.
Islands: Regarding the development of the information of the entries that deal with particular islands, indicative is the structure of the entries “identity”, which has been adapted to the needs of a general demographic, administrative and cultural presentation of each island, as well as the structure of the main body of the entries, which are organized in units that reflect more or less the thematic distribution of the issues dealt with by the “general” entries: natural landscape and environment, history, archaeological sites and monuments, museums, architecture and popular culture. Issues that do not fall into the above structure are developed freely in a separate unit or units.
A common characteristic of all the entries is the incorporation of audiovisual applications, a bibliography, a glossary of special terms, catalogues with additional information, as well as a special webliography. The entries have internal links to other entries of the Portal or texts from other databases.
At the same time the Portal functions as a guide to the Internet through the registration, evaluation, classification and presentation of the many scattered web sites on the Aegean islands. The classification is based on thematic and geographical criteria, as well as criteria regarding the type of information and services provided. The users have at there disposal not only the opportunity to search the database of web sites relevant to the history and culture of the Aegean, but also to browse following the thematic catalogue.
The project follows generally the methodology developed by FHW for the needs of other Internet encyclopaedic projects, as the Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World. The flexible format we have chosen for the production of this kind of projects allows its adaption to the specific project depending on the public it is addressed to. In the case of the Cultural Portal of the Aegean we are addressing the wide public of the Internet users. Therefore, the methodological conventions have been shaped accordingly so that they allow easy access to the incorporated material. Regarding the development of the content, we have adopted a simpler way of writing, while the bibliographical coverage provides basic information with emphasis on new publications, which in their turn can guide the reader further to a deeper examination. Regarding the webliography, we have tried to cover fully the relevant field of information.
Information has been structured on multiple levels, which allow either a more superficial or a more in-depth examination. In other words, the users choose by themselves to what extend they will exploit the width of provided information. Obviously, conventional methodological requirements are followed regarding information accuracy and avoidance of evaluation judgments.