William Noel is the Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books at the Walters Art Museum. But for someone who spends the majority of his time analyzing ancient and medieval artifacts, he also embraces social media and stresses its value even for the oldest, most established academic and cultural institutions. Noel believes passionately that institutions should free their digital data.
Since 1999 Noel has spearheaded the conservation of a manuscript known as the Archimedes Palimpsest. The palimpsest is a unique Byzantine prayer book made up of parchments which contain hidden writings from three original previously-unknown texts: treatises written by Archimedes; works by the 4th-century B.C. Attic Orator Hyperides; and 3rd-century commentary on Aristotle’s Categories, by an unknown author. Using a powerful particle accelerator Noel and his team were able to uncover the hidden texts and publish all their images and findings on the Internet, available to anyone for free under a Creative Commons license.
Noel currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where he curates at the Walters, working to ensure that the public has free digital access to his collection.