Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Fasti Online - Pelagios Compliant and viewable in the New API

We have some good news from Fasti-Online HQ, we are now Pelagios-compliant and are the first dataset (along with the Ure Museum) to be viewable in the new Pelagios API! Very exciting!

Trebula Mutuesca in the new Pelagios API v2 - showing the Fasti sites
The Fasti representations can be seen at:

Fasti Online in Pelagios

Fasti Online Annotations in Pelagios

Please note that this is using the cutting edge code (version 2 of the API) which is currently in a pre-release state and so may be down or a bit buggy - but it's great to be able to give a preview! A blog post will be coming soon introducing the v2 API, so watch this space!

How did we get there?

Firstly, with a lot of help from the Pelagios team! This was our first foray into the world of Linked Data, so we had quite a few queries initially, but once they were ironed out the process of creating the relevant files was relatively painless.

Linking the Pleiades URIs

Fasti is a database of archaeological excavations all of which by their very definition happen at a place. So our first step was to match the place information in Fasti with the placenames in Pleiades, which acts as the glue between the Pelagios partners. I have mentioned the process we undertook to do this in a previous entry. We ended up with 339 Fasti sites that link to a Pleiades URI, we hope to improve on this number in the future.

Creating the RDF representation

We then had to create the RDF representation of our data, which can be seen here. Our RDF is relatively simple, in that we just have the Fasti excavation name, followed by the Pleiades URI and the URI to the excavation record in Fasti. A typical entry looks like this:

<> <> <> .
<> <> "Pompeii, house VI 8, 20-21.2" .
<> <> <> .
<> <> <> .

Of course this file is created programmatically within Fasti's Archaeological Recording Kit (ARK) back-end. ARK is an open-source project, meaning that the codebase can be easily updated and those updates rolled out to all users of the system. This is a plus for us, because it has meant that we only needed to write a few new lines of code into the ARK codebase to output the Fasti dataset in a Pelagios-compliant format. The real beauty is that now the code has been written and committed back to the ARK codebase any other project using ARK (providing they can meaningfully match to Pleiades URIs) can immediately become Pelagios-compliant with the click of a button - very cool, and it bodes well for new partners in the future!

The VoID file

We also had to create a VoID file, essentially a machine-readable description of the RDF dataset. This was a little bit technical to look at, but thanks to a number of templates provided by the team we just replaced the relevant bits with Fasti-specific information and were good to go. Our VoID file can be found here, if you are using a similar set-up to us then it should just be a matter of replacing the Fasti-specific stuff with your own dataset details.

What's next?

Now that we have the code all cleaned, we will automate the creation of the .n3 file (the RDF representation), so that when a new site is added into Fasti it will automatically update the .n3 file - providing near live data to Pelagios partners. We are also looking forward to the other partners getting their data into the new API so we can start playing around with using the linked data on Fasti (and within other ARKs). We are just entering the fun part of a project like this - after all no one likes crunching their data to fit, but now it is in the right format we can really start using it for advancing the research in the field and learning new things about what we are interested in, archaeology, and not the ins and outs of arcane RDF notation!

This has also come at exactly the right time for the Fasti project as we are gearing up to release the new version of the front-end in the next couple of months, and the Pelagios linkages will become a big part of this overhaul. Fasti's future is bright... Fasti's future is Linked!

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