Wednesday, 27 June 2012

British Museum and Pelagios

A number of things struck me reading and learning about the Pelagios project.

  • Simplicity – the project has a clear and achievable focus of aligning information about places in the ancient world. By facilitating cooperation between global stores of classical data the project provides a richer and reliable resource for project partners and the whole community.
  • Sustainability – unlike the many aggregation projects currently competing with each other Pelagios works with organisations to harmonise rather than assert management and controls. The project is more likely to leave a lasting legacy because it is not just about aligning data but about a common and shared vision. Other projects have much to learn from the Pelagios approach
  • Tools – by concentrating on a particular and core set of data it provides the building blocks for other initiatives and allows partners to more easily participate. As such it supports a more rapid development of tangible and useful tools currently lacking in many other linked data initiatives.
  • Pro-active – it’s exactly what we all should be doing!
The British Museum currently publishes a beta linked data Endpoint which will shortly be improved and released as a full production system. We already understand the importance of linked data, accessibility and reuse. The ResearchSpace project (, which will incorporate the full BM online collection dataset, also seeks to use some of the same principles applied in the Pelagios project although, for the purposes of research, requires more detailed datasets.

As we venture into trying to make sense of larger datasets, the importance of applying the Pelagios principles will become ever more important. ResearchSpace tries to use and bring together the social networking models that are used, for example, for the Digital Classicist Wiki; some of the linked data approaches of Pelagios; and will provide integrated tools that operate across and within those environments. These tools include extensive annotation facilities and again, like Pelagios, the Open Annotation Collaboration guidelines are being used with the potential for further data exchange.

Data from all British Museum departments will be available including Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Greece and Rome and Middle East. The BM data has been mapped to the CIDOC-CRM schema and a working version of the schema is currently available at The Pelagios project will concentrate on mapping terms from the Museum’s place name thesaurus (also in RDF format and part of the CRM schema, containing both modern and archaic terms) to Pelagios stable URIs, providing the quickest route for the Museum to join the other Pelagios partners and make BM data more accessible to the community.

We look forward to contributing to Pelagios.

Dominic Oldman
Deputy Head of IS, British Museum
Principal Investigator of ResearchSpace

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