Tuesday 24 September 2013

Pelagios 3 Overview

After our initial announcement we thought it would be good to go into a little more information about our work plans for Pelagios 3. This post provides a summary of the stages ahead, and as we begin new phases of the project we will provide additional detail about each workpackage. You can also read a PDF of the full project description.


The mission of Pelagios 3 is to annotate, link and index place references in digitized Early Geospatial Documents (EGDs). EGDs are documents that use written or visual representation to describe geographic space prior to 1492.

Primary objectives:

(i) provide an index of toponyms attested, and the places they refer to (where known), in all available EGDs, accessible both as Linked Open Data and via the Pelagios Web Service;
(ii) create an open and semi-automated toolset that allows the scholarly community to enhance and refine the index incrementally, by annotating place references in further historical sources;
(iii) develop a freely available analysis workbench and contextualization widgets that enable researchers to bring together spatial documents in new and innovative ways and provide key contextual information as embedded content in third-party websites.

We will carry this out through a series of nine workpackages. Three Infrastructure Workpackages (IWPs) will deal with the mechanics. Six Content Workpackages (CWPs) will deal with content related to specific historical regions and periods.


IWP1: Gazetteer Infrastructure

IWP1 will establish the common gazetteer infrastructure necessary to form the bodies of Pelagios annotations. Pelagios is grounded in the idea of a “Gazetteer ecosystem”: URI-based gazetteers that are specific to a spatial, temporal or cultural milieu and maintained and curated by their respective research communities, but aligned through the principles of Linked Data and a common, overarching referencing framework. (Hereafter we refer to all such URI-based gazetteers simply as ‘gazetteers’). In order to arrive at an initial, pragmatic version of such an infrastructure, two challenges need to be addressed: (i) a common, generic gazetteer data model needs to be identified which suits the needs of the different individual stakeholders involved; (ii) referencing frameworks need to be agreed, through which different gazetteers can cross-link to each other.

IWP2: Annotation Toolkit

IWP2 will facilitate pragmatic solutions to the issues of transcription and identification by assembling a toolkit of both automated and manual methods and technologies that can be tailored to a specific document. The following software tools will be the results of IWP2:

  • an assistive image processing tool that automatically pre-identifies toponym candidates on digitized old maps;
  •  a tool (integrated with the previous browser interface) to visually enhance pre-identified toponym candidates to aid manual transcription;
  •  manual annotation and transcription tools that focus specifically on simplifying navigation and selection within high-resolution digitized EGDs;
  • a recommender system that proposes plausible toponym options to the annotator (seamlessly integrated with the overall annotation browser interface);
  • a management dashboard to extract, compile, edit and export lists of annotations, and prepare them for linking and upload into the Gazetteer infrastructure;
  • a publishing tool to present annotated items online.

IWP3: EGD Workbench

IWP3 will develop tools that allow end-users to navigate, visualise, interpret and compare the annotations generated in CWP1-6. These tools will operate on top of the Pelagios API, which will be extended to support the updated Pelagios 3 annotation data model. Concrete visualization software components to be developed will include:

  • a browser interface containing a synchronized map-, timeline-, and network-based visualization; 
  • a tool to drill down to explore specific properties of an annotation set (equal to one or more collections or specific EGDs), such as its spatial coverage or the sequence of the toponyms contained within it, and compare it against other annotation sets. 
  • a visual search interface which enables end users to discover collections that are particularly salient with regard to a specific area and time of interest.

CWP1: Latin Tradition: 

Example EGDs - Antonine Itineraries, Ravenna Cosmography, Bordeaux Itinerary, Vicarello goblets, Natural History (Pliny), Chorographia (Pomponius Mela), Peutinger Table, Divisio Orbis Terrarum, Dimensuratio provinciarum, Notitia Dignitatum, Ora Maritima (Avienus), Periegesis (Priscian), De Mirabilibus Mundi (Solinus)

CWP2: Greek Tradition: 

Example EGDs - Geography (Strabo), Armenian Geography, Suda, A Sketch of Geography in Epitome (Agathemerus), Manual of Geography (Ptolemy), Description of Greece (Pausanias), Synecdemus (Hierocles), Christian Topography (Cosmas), Epitome of the Ethnica (Stephanus of Byzantium), Description of the Roman World (George of Cyprus), the Madaba Mosaic, The Dura Europos Shield, the Iliad, the Odyssey, texts in Minor Greek Geographers vols. 1 & 2.

CWP3: Early Christian Tradition

Example EGDs - Gough Map, Italie Provincie Modernus Situs, Description of the World (Marco Polo), On the Vicissitudes of Fortune (Niccolo de Conti), Fra Mauro Map, Erdapfel (Martin Behaim), World Map (Henricus Martellus Germanus), Genoese Map, De Virga world map, Vesconte World Map, Bianco World Map, approx. 320 sundry EGDs from the British Library

CWP4: Early Maritime Tradition

Example EGDs - Le Liber (portolano), Lo Compasso (portolano), approx. 180 Portolan charts (Pujades 2007), Catalan Atlas (Cresques Abraham).

CWP5: Early Islamic Tradition

Example EGDs - Image of the Earth (Al Khwarizmi), al-Kashgari World Map, Tabula Rogeriana (al-Idrisi) Book of Curiosities, Maps of the Balkhi School

CWP6: Early Chinese Tradition: 

Example EGDs - Yujitu (‘Map of the Tracks of Yu’), Songhuiyao, Chinese Buddhist Temple Gazetteers, ‘Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms’

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