Friday 15 November 2013

The nesting of EAGLE within Pelagios

In our previous post we introduced what EAGLE is and what it hopes to achieve. In this post we outline briefly some particularities with our data structure that demonstrate what we are bringing to Pelagios.

Most fundamentally we use the term ‘place’ as it is defined by Trismegistos Geo: this means taking ‘place’ in its broadest sense, to refer not only to towns and villages, but also to regions, districts and all kinds of micro-toponyms. All toponyms referring to a single place are listed on their individual cards, each of which has a unique TM Geo_ID number. The number itself contains no information, but creates a numerical order. If two places are identified and their cards joined, the Geo_ID number of the old card is preserved but henceforward contains only a reference to the new card.

For example, Trismegistos Geo lists two kinds of places: ancient places attested in both literary and documentary sources, and modern places insofar an ancient document has been found there. Sometimes in fact no information about the ancient toponym is available and the findspot of an ancient text has to be recorded with its modern findspot. With regard to ancient places, it is not always clear what is a real toponym and what is a common noun that refers to a geographical item (also called appellatives in linguistic studies). In this matter, Trismegistos follows the practical rule that any toponym listed in the geographical index of a publication is also listed in the geographical database. Trismegistos Geo is also adding to PLEIADES id for some location, in order to facilitate the recognition of geographical entries in other databases. In addition, the cards store all names and variants; among them a standard name is chosen both for the ancient and the modern name. Moreover, every place is ascribed to a modern country, an ancient region and a Roman provincia, each item in a separate field. The standard name for the modern country is the one used in English, and the correspondences between each modern country or region and the ancient provinces are those in use at the Epigraphic Database Heidelberg.

Aligning the inscriptions in Trismegistos will mean that the “annotated thing” not only will represent the most up-to-date unique entry for that text but also will in turn link to multiple independent editions of the same text where they exist and indeed to all quality curated editions from the EAGLE BPN. In this way we will help minimize the possibility of duplicating records for the same place.

In the long term, we look forward to aligning both Trismegistos and Pleiades to Wikidata, in order to bring together the richness of both of these gazetteers. As we see it, establishing a network of gazetteers—one of the aims of Pelagios 3—is a highly valuable step towards harmonizing practice and making content reusable and extendable. We look forward to working with the Pelagios team to take linked ancient world data one step further in terms of data networking and interoperability, and together help facilitate research in all disciplines of the field, digital or otherwise.  

Thursday 14 November 2013

The EAGLE flies with Pelagios

EAGLE—the Europeananetwork of Ancient Greek and Latin Epigraphy—is joining Pelagios. EAGLE is itself a Best-Practice Network (BPN), co-funded through the ICT-Policy Support Programme of the European Commission, and aims to create a new online archive for epigraphy in Europe. As part of Europeana’s multi-lingual online collection of millions of digitised items from European museums, libraries, archives and multi-media collections, EAGLE will link and connect, using Linked Open Data (LOD) best practice, thousands of inscriptions, photos of inscriptions and related contextual items in a single readily-searchable platform.

The project will make available the vast majority of surviving inscriptions from the Greco-Roman world, complete with the essential information about them and, for all the most important, one or more translations. By joining Pelagios, EAGLE will be able to connect with other major online projects about the Ancient World and make its data accessible to other aggregator and LOD projects to increase the quality, usability and accessibility of data provided by the BPN. For example, our partner Trismegistos (KULeuven) has gathered geographical information concerning the provenance of the inscriptions listed by the major content providers—a total of some 35,235 place records and 124,569 place attestation records.

The EAGLE BPN looks forward to the possibilities of connecting materials that have for a long time been viewed only in isolation as a result of separation and localism. There are four tasks towards achieving this vision data wise:
  • To make all content available in Europeana, the largest culture and heritage aggregator in Europe (#AllezCulture)
  • To use Wikidata for our translations of inscriptions. By gathering all existing translations of inscriptions and providing an easy-to-edit online database of translations, EAGLE aims to enrich both those data that are present in Wikimedia Commons with curated content from the databases, and the database contents themselves with contributions from the wider public
  • To produce an open, interoperable format. In the Eagle portal, data will be available in XML files compliant with EPIDOC/TEI guidelines.
  • To produce open vocabularies that align existing models used by single content providers. These will provide many other URIs which, we hope, will become a way to further connect other data on the basis of Object TypeMaterialType of inscription, to mention just some.

We at EAGLE are excited about joining Pelagios and look forward to enabling online research about the ancient world take off.