Linked Pasts II: Madrid, 15-16 December 2016

October 28, 2016

pelagioslogoThis event will be of interest to those reading this blog.

Pelagios Commons is pleased to announce the second international “Linked Pasts”, a symposium dedicated to facilitating practical and pragmatic developments in linking digital resources in History, Classics, Geography and Archaeology. Bringing together leading exponents of Linked Data from both academia and the Cultural Heritage sector, it will address the obstacles to and issues raised by developing a digital ecosystem of online open materials.

A preliminary programme is available via our eventbrite page (, where tickets for the event can also be reserved. (The event is free, but places are limited.) Refreshments (tea/coffee, lunch) will be provided, along with a reception on Thursday 15th December. A number of travel bursaries are also available: for more information please contact

Pelagios colloquium “Linked Pasts”

April 7, 2015

pelagiosThe Pelagios project has been providing the Humanities with linked data goodness for a few years now. This year the project will host a two-day colloquium that will be of interest to those reading this blog. More details below.

When? 20-21 July 2015

Where? King’s College London

Dear all,
The Pelagios project is pleased to announce a two-day colloquium on the subject of “Linked Pasts”. Bringing together leading exponents of Linked Data from across the Humanities and Cultural Heritage sector, we address some of the challenges to developing a digital ecosystem of online open materials, through two days of position papers, discussion and breakout group activity. Day 1 will tackle the themes of Time, Geo and People, and issues of Open Data, Classification Schemes and Infrastructure. Day 2 will be devoted to two parallel structured activities, one exploring Niches (space, time, people), and the other Nutrition Cycles (open data, classification, infrastructure). For details of the line up of talks and contributors, see below.
Venue and date: The Great Hall, KCL (Strand Campus), 20-21 July 2015
Refreshments (tea/coffee, lunch) will be provided, along with a reception on Monday evening. The event is free of charge but places are limited. To reserve your place, go to:
Day 1
   Welcome – Pelagios: A Linked Pasts Ecosystem?
   Keynote – Sebastian Heath (NYU), TBA
Session 1
   Time – Ryan Shaw (UNC), An Ecosystem of Time Periods: PeriodO (
   Geo – Ruth Mostern (UC Merced), An Ecosystem of Places: Gazetteers
   People – Gabriel Bodard (KCL), An Ecosystem of People: SNAP (
Session 2
   Open Data – Mia Ridge (OU), Trends and Practice within Cultural Heritage
   Classification schemes – Antoine Isaac (Amsterdam), Europeana (
Day 2
Session 3: Towards an Infrastructure
   Rainer Simon (AIT): The Recogito Annotation Platform (
   Humphrey Southall (Portsmouth): PastPlace gazetteer (
   Guenther Goerz (Erlangen): WissKI (
   Holly Wright/Doug Tudhope: Ariadne (
Session 4
   Structured Activity 1: Niches (Space, Time, People)
   Structured Activity 2: Nutrition Cycles (Open Data, Classification, Infrastructure)
Wrap up: feedback, next steps + community actions

Linking ancient people, places, objects and texts

December 1, 2014

snapThe following round table discussion event (see below) might be of interest to readers of this blog (it is definitely of interest to me!). I believe it will give us an insight into the direction the SNAP:DRGN project (which I blogged about earlier) is heading, and possibly an opportunity to contribute to their brainwave. Although the project focuses on linked open data, networks are definitely among their research interests, and the relation between network science and linked open data can always do with some more discussion. New technologies have a place in our workflows, we just need to find it! Linked open data and networks often accompany each other in project descriptions, but the usefulness of pairing them up beyond a metaphorical use of these new technologies needs more critical discussion. This round table might not necessarily be the place this needs to happen, but we will find a suitable venue for this discussion at some point 🙂

Linking Ancient People, Places, Objects and Texts
a round table discussion
Gabriel Bodard (KCL), Daniel Pett (British Museum), Humphrey Southall (Portsmouth), Charlotte Tupman (KCL); with response by Eleanor Robson (UCL)

18:00, Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Anatomy Museum, Strand Building 6th Floor
King’s College London, Strand London WC2R 2LS

As classicists and ancient historians have become increasingly reliant on large online research tools over recent years, it has become ever more imperative to find ways of integrating those tools. Linked Open Data (LOD) has the potential to leverage both the connectivity, accessibility and universal standards of the Web, and the power, structure and semantics of relational data. This potential is being used by several scholars and projects in the area of ancient world and historical studies. The SNAP:DRGN project ( is using LOD to bring together many technically varied databases and authorities lists of ancient persons into a single virtual authority file; the Pleiades gazetteer and service projects such as Pelagios and PastPlace are creating open vocabularies for historical places and networks of references to them. Museums and other heritage institutions are at the forefront of work to encode semantic archaeological and material culture data, and projects such as Sharing Ancient Wisdoms ( and the Homer Multitext ( are developing citation protocols and an ontology for relating texts with variants, translations and influences.

The panel will introduce some of these key projects and concepts, and then the audience will be invited to participate in open discussion of the issues and potentials of Linked Ancient World Data.

Prosopographies and social networks workshop

March 28, 2014

prosopProsopographies are great sources for building past social networks. Those interested in or working with large datasets of past individuals might be interested in the Prosop workshop. More information below. or on

Prosop: a social networking tool for the past

Call for participants

Second database development workshop

Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) on May 9, 2014.

Historians and other scholars with large databases of historical person data are invited to a workshop to test and populate Prosop, a project funded by the Office of Digital Humanities of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

What is Prosop?

Prosop is a collaborative semantic web database of details about individuals in the past. Although it maps networks and discovers connections, it is not just facebook for dead people. In particular, it aims to:

  • manage diverse types of data from different historical settings,
  • aggregate of large quantities of person data,
  • accommodate uncertain and conflicting information, and
  • facilitate data-driven study of historical systems of description and classification.
  • For more detailed information, visit our website at

What kinds of data do we seek?

We’re looking for information about relatively large sets of relatively ordinary people from the past. Typically, this information is extracted from archival records used by microhistorians. For example, the database contains the name, age, address, and physical description of 700 criminal court defendants from 1880s Egypt. Prosop is meant to work for all kinds of historical person data, and we are especially interested in data in unusual formats (linguistic, topical, or otherwise) that will help us to develop the flexibility of the system. Also, we are looking for participants who are willing to share their data with the community of researchers using Prosop.

Applying with a counterpart

For this workshop, we are especially interested in applications from pairs of researchers who have similar datasets and would like to test them for possible overlap. Prosop may help them to discover common individuals and explore community characteristics.

What will happen at the workshops?

Before the workshop, each participant will submit a tranche of names, which will be imported into Prosop. Participants will describing the characteristics of their data and the ways it might interact with other person data. Those working in pairs will consider any overlap that Prosop found, as well as commonalities that it fails to discover. Participants will discuss issues of categorization and comparison that arise. We will work to find ways to link data and to make the system more usable. The workshop will provide a chance for historians and developers to communicate.

What’s in it for participants?

Workshop participants will contribute to the design of a tool that will enable new research into global social history, and will have early access to its results. They should gain new perspectives on their own data and its place in the global history of person information. Those working in pairs may discover fruitful overlap between their data sets. Participants’ experience and input will help to refine the system towards its aim, which is to encompass all categories of historical person data. Participant costs will be covered by the organizers, though some cost sharing may be asked of those applying from abroad.

How to apply?

Apply via the form available here. You will be asked to attach a CV and a letter of application, which should include a general description of the data which you wish to contribute to the project. Where possible, please specify:

  • the number of persons in the database
  • the categories of information recorded about each person (e.g. name, age, birthplace, occupation)
  • the geographical and chronological range of the persons represented
  • the type of sources from which the information is drawn (language, archives, genres).

What is the deadline for applications?

The deadline for applications for the second workshop is April 7, 2014.

Are there other ways to participate?

Prosop is an ongoing project. In addition to possible future workshops, we are looking for beta testers. If you are not able to join this workshop, but might want to be involved in the future, please get in touch via our website and join our mailing list.

Networking Ancient Prosopographies

February 17, 2014

snapProsopographies are lists of people mentioned in ancient sources. There are many of these out there, containing a wealth of information on individuals and fragments of their life stories. The UK’s AHRC has just funded a project that aims to create standards for drawing links between databases of people from Greek and Latin texts. I cannot wait to see some of the project’s first results: such information on people and the way they might have been related is a dream for anyone using a network perspective to the study of antiquity. You can find out more about the project and the team led by Gabriel Bodard on the project website. Here is the press release:

A consortium led by scholars in Digital Humanities at King’s College London has been awarded an AHRC Digital Transformations Big Data grant to develop links between several databases of people from classical antiquity. The SNAP:DRGN project (“Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies: Data and Relations in Greco-roman Names”), will work with partners at Oxford, Southampton, Edinburgh, Leuven in Belgium, and Duke in the United States, to create standards for bringing together references that are to the same or related people from ancient Greek and Latin texts.

Scholars in the field of classical prosopography (publishing information about known people, their lives, and their relationships) have produced dozens of different collections, organized by region, time period, or political entity, and differing widely in scholarly approaches and technical standards. Dr Gabriel Bodard, the principal investigator of the project, says, “We can only do this work by working closely with both academic and professional experts in the study of ancient people and names, and information scientists who specialize in networked datasets. All of our work will be based on example data from partner projects who record and collate data from Classical Greece, the Roman Empire, Hellenistic Babylon, Greco-Roman Egypt and the Byzantine world. We’re not attempting to impose new models, but rather to reflect the diverse scholarly practices already in use to enable links between collections of people.”

Dr K. Faith Lawrence, the development lead, says, “This is really exciting work because it offers us the opportunity to apply Big Data methodology to bridge existing collections that are currently restricted to their respective data silos. Linked Open Data offers a very powerful way to bring together distributed knowledge, and especially to define entry points. Projects can refer to a figure, name or office within the classical world using the network of collected information from different sources as an authority. This has already been done very successfully for ancient places, but the possibility for scholars to link person and name authorities has been sadly lagging behind. This project will change that.”

By focusing on the way datasets can be brought together, SNAP embraces wider questions of person-tracking, applicable far beyond the Classical world. Without the important issues of privacy that constrain modern networks, the project is able to reflect on the ubiquity of tracking in the modern day. While initially working with data from the Greco-Roman period, we are in discussion with projects that look at other times and places. We hope that our standards can lead to linking prosopographical and biographical information across historical periods and contemporary data.

Videos Hestia2 seminar online

August 14, 2013

Hestia_logo_whtLast month we organised a seminar on linked data and spatial networks in Southampton and as you know I really enjoyed it. Videos and slides of presentations of the seminar are now available on The Connected Past website. There are hours of footage and books-worth of slides on there for you to enjoy! This was only the first in a series of Hestia2 events. More info on Hestia2, future seminars and online resources can be found on our new website. Looking forward to seeing you at one of our future seminars!

The Southampton Hestia2 seminar aimed to explore the potential of innovative spatial networks and linked data techniques for research and work in the higher education, public and cultural heritage sectors. It attracted an audience with diverse backgrounds and discussions really benefited from this. The seminar is part of Hestia2, a public engagement project aimed at introducing a series of conceptual and practical innovations to the spatial reading and visualisation of texts. Following on from the AHRC-funded initiative ‘Network, Relation, Flow: Imaginations of Space in Herodotus’s Histories’ (Hestia), Hestia2 represents a deliberate shift from experimenting with geospatial analysis of a single text to making Hestia’s outcomes available to new audiences and widely applicable to other texts through a seminar series, online platform, blog and learning materials with the purpose of fostering knowledge exchange between researchers and non-academics, and generating public interest and engagement in this field.

On organising the Hestia2 seminar in Southampton

July 29, 2013
John Goodwin presenting at Hestia2 in Southampton

John Goodwin presenting at Hestia2 in Southampton

As the organiser of the Hestia2 seminar in Southampton I could write about our initial struggle to find a good format, my fight with the university to book a seminar room in a completely booked out campus, discussions with our financial support staff to figure out a balanced budget, the technical flaws with our livestream feed, and of course the many very human feelings like “no-one will turn up!?!” and “what shirt should I wear?”. But none of that would be very interesting to read, and all of these concerns are now firmly pushed to the back of my mind and replaced by the feeling that this seminar was a success!

It will not come as a surprise that the organiser thinks his own event was a success. So let me at least try to come up with some objective-sounding arguments why this was in fact the case.

Multi-disciplinarity: organising a multi-disciplinary event is always risky. You need to address a very diverse target audience and convince them that the topics covered and the discussions will be of interest. People with different backgrounds also tend to talk in different languages: physicists will talk “maths”, classicists will talk “Greek/Roman”, archaeologists will talk “stuff”. The Hestia2 seminar was such a multi-disciplinary event. It was attended by classicists, historians, archaeologists, physicists and designers from the academic, commercial and governmental sectors. Despite this diversity the discussions very often converged into common interests. These included how large datasets like those held by the Ordnance Survey and the Historic Environment Records (HERs) could be usefully combined using new technologies, or how uncertainty about data can be formally expressed and visualised. Finding such common grounds was very much thanks to the chairs of our session. For example, Max Schich confronted the multi-disciplinary background of our audience directly when he asked to what extent individuals need to have skills and knowledge traditionally associated with different disciplines and professions to allow them to apply linked data and network techniques critically and usefully. This question drew very diverse reactions from the audience. Some felt that our educational system should allow for complete diversity and customisations of skills and knowledge, others (and I am part of this particular camp) believe that collaboration is the key, that field specialists should remain specialists but be able to collaborate with specialists in other fields by having some very basic understanding of the other’s “language”, approaches and questions.

Exploration: Hestia2 is not about showing off a great piece of work our team did a few years ago. It’s about learning from different projects’, institutions’ and individuals’ experiences with using innovative technologies to understanding conceptions of space. It’s about exploring the potential of such techniques for providing innovative insights into old datasets, or for allowing us to ask new questions of our data. The Southampton seminar definitely had that exploratory vibe. Very different techniques and projects were presented. The first three talks very much set the scene by giving an overview of different approaches. Max Schich introduced us to networks, Alex Godden provided an insight into the issues surrounding the aggregation and management of historical/archaeological data, and John Goodwin showed how the Ordnance Survey (OS) is implementing linked data. The discussions that followed showed a genuine interest in innovative approaches but also a constant concern with getting at the fundamental issues that keep all this innovation together. For example, in our discussion we never restricted ourselves to asking how something could be done, but always focused on why we should do it in the first place. The question of why HER data could not be seamlessly linked with OS data, for example, was not because of technological restrictions but concerns about protecting cultural heritage and also commercial concerns. Once such concerns were addressed we turned our attention to how combining such diverse datasets could allow us to ask new research questions, or could lead to a better management of historical resources.

Weather: it has sunny and hot. That makes every event an instant success!

I am very much looking forward to the second Hestia2 seminar in Stanford, where I will be able to put my feet up a little and enjoy another round of stimulating multi-disciplinary exploration.