World-Historical Gazetteer Project     Agenda (PDF)

Supported by the National Endowment for Humanities
September 8-9, 2017,  University of Pittsburgh   

Hosted by Principal Investigator, Ruth Mostern (History, Univ of Pittsburgh), this was the inaugural meeting of the recently funded project to construct a World-Historical Gazetteer.   Topics of discussion included:

•    Technical infrastructure
•    Spine (core gazetteer)
•    User Interfaces and machine-actionable APIs
•    Data Interchange specification (and Linked Open Data)
•    User stories and use cases for scholarly research

The planned technical infrastructure for the World-Historical Gazetteer (WHG) includes a relational database with spatial extensions (such as Postgresql with PostGIS), where records will be stored, and from which a variety of formats can be serialized for any given record or set of records.  The output formats are planned to include GeoJSON-T (essentially a time-enabled modification of the GeoJSON standard), RDF (for Linked Open Data), and flat text files.

The proposed method for integrating specialized gazetteers into the database begins with a core gazetteer (or “spine”) digitized from the index of the World History Atlas (2005) by Jeremy Black.  This core gazetteer contains some 10,000 named places (including States, Administrative Capitals, Cities, Peoples, and Natural Features) spanning human history.

As a user-interface, the project plans to provide a web-based search and display application that enables browsing of locations on a map, filtering historical places with keywords or dates, and provides links to complete gazetteer records or to other historical information that has been related to specific WHG gazetteer items.   The WHG user interface will build on the model and experience of the linked data index provided by the Pelagios and Recogito projects and develop a UI with features similar to those found in LinkedPlaces and Peripleo.

In addition to the standard output formats for gazetteer items, the WHG project will define a Data Interchange Specification, similar to the Pelagios Interconnection Format, which will facilitate the integration of specialized gazetteer content into the WHG “ecosystem.”  This Data Interchange Specification will provide the minimum required elements (and their data types) for gazetteer entries to be instantiated in RDF, using a pre-defined set of vocabularies and terms.   Based on this specification, a programmatic method for validation and ingest of new gazetteer data can be realized.   

Also discussed at the meeting were user stories and use cases for scholarly research, so that the development of the WHG system can meet the practical needs of the community.

Some of the important questions raised at the meeting were:

How do we define historical places and capture them in a digital gazetteer?   
To what extent is the WHG a Linked Open Data resource?
What data formats and standards are most appropriate for gazetteer items?
What functionality should a user interface provide?
What is the most practical method for automated validation and ingestion of new records?
How to accession or de-accession datasets into the union index or “spine gazetteer”?  
How can we de-duplicate and merge records when needed?
How can uncertainty (in location, or date, or source materials) be expressed in the gazetteer?
How to map global history?  Do places with higher population or higher diversity get prioritized?
How can search results link to original source materials most expediently for researchers?
How can the history of attestations, annotations, and links be tracked in the gazetteer database?


Personnel of the WHG Project:

Karl Grossner WHG Technical Director
PhD Geography, UCSB.   Former Research Developer, CIDR, Stanford University Library.
Developer of Topotime, LinkedPlaces, & GeoJSON-T.

Ryan Horne WHG Fellow
University of Pittsburgh World History Center, Postdoctoral Fellow

Patrick Manning  WHG Project Founder and Advisor
Emeritus Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh
Founding Director, World History Center, University of Pittsburgh

Ruth Mostern WHG Principal Investigator
Associate Professor of History and World History Center Director, University of Pittsburgh.   Investigator of the Digital Gazetteer of the Song Dynasty.   Co-Editor of Placing Names.
David Ruvolo WHG Project Manager
University of Pittsburgh World History Center, Manager
Meeting Participants:
Clifford Anderson
Associate University Librarian for Research and Learning, Vanderbilt University
Director for Scholarly Communication, Vanderbilt University Libraries
Project Director, XQuery Summer Institute 2015
Robert Batchelor
Professor of History and Director of Digital Humanities, Georgia Southern University
Investigator of the John Seldon Map Project,  and the Fujian Trader board game
Merrick Lex Berman
Web Service Manager and GIS Specialist, Center for Geographic Analysis, Harvard University
Project Manager of China Historical GIS [CHGIS],  co-developer of the Temporal Gazetteer [TGAZ]
Siddharth Chandra
James Madison College Professor and Asian Studies Center Director, Michigan State University
Investigator of the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 in Japan, Indonesia, and globally.

Christopher Chase-Dunn   Distinguished Professor of Sociology and
Director of the Institute for Research on World-Systems, UC, Riverside

Tom Elliott
Associate Director for Digital Programs and Senior Research Scholar, New York University Center for the Study of the Ancient World
Investigator of the Pleaides Project.
Hiroko Inoue
Research Associate, Institute for Research on World-Systems, UC Riverside
Krzysztof Janowicz
Associate Professor of Geography, UC Santa Barbara
Founder and Co-Editor in Chief, Semantic Web Journal
Investigator in EarthCube cyberinfrastructure for geosciences
Jane Landers
Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
Historian of Latin America and the Atlantic World.
Director of the Slave Societies Digital Archive
Patricia Seed 
Professor of History, UC Irvine
Investigator of the Jorge de Aguiar map (1492), and the history of latitude and longitude in cartography.
Ryan Shaw
Associate Professor, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina
Co-Director of PeriodO, gazetteer of period definitions.
Rainer Simon
Senior Scientist, Digital Insight Lab, Austrian Institute of Technology
Technical Lead of Pelagios, Recogito, and Peripleo.
Rombert Stapel
Postdoctoral Researcher, International Institute of Social History
Researcher, Global History of Labor Relations 1500-2000.
Jeanette Zerneke  
Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative Technical Director, UC Berkeley
Co-Developer of the ECAI CKAN Data Portal.



See also: historical GIS