I was lucky enough to get to WhereCamp UK last Friday/Saturday, mainly because Jo couldn’t make it. I’ve never been to one of these unconferences before but was impressed by the friendly, anything-goes atmosphere, and emboldened to give an impromtu talk about CHALICE. I explained the project setup, its goals and some of the issues encountered, at least as I see them –
- the URI minting question
- the appropriateness (or lack of it) of only having points to represent regions instead of polygons
- the scope for extending the nascent historical gazetteer we’re building and connecting it to others
- how the results might be useful for future projects.
I was particularly looking for feedback on the last two points: ideas on how best to grow the historical gazetteer and who has good data or sources that should be included if and when we get funding for a wider project to carry on from CHALICE’s beginnings; and secondly, ideas about good use cases to show why it’s a good idea to do that.
We had a good discussion, with a supportive and interested audience. I didn’t manage to make very good notes, alas. Here’s a flavour of the discussion areas:
- dealing with variant spellings in old texts – someone pointed out that the sound of a name tends to be preserved even though the spelling evolves, and maybe that can be exploited;
- using crowd-sourcing to correct errors from the automatic processes, plus to gather further info on variant names;
- copyright and IPR, and the fact that being out of print copyright doesn’t mean there won’t be issue around digital copyright in the scanned page images;
- whether or not it would be possible – in a later project – to do useful things with the field names from EPNS;
- the idea of parsing out the etymological references from EPNS, to build a database of derivations and sources;
- using the gazetteer to link back to the scanned EPNS pages, to assist an online search application.
Plenty of use cases were suggested, and here are some that I remember, plus ideas about related projects that it might be good to tie up with:
- a good gazetteer would aid research into the location of places that no longer exist, eg from Domesday period – if you can locate historical placenames mentioned in the same text you can start narrowing down the likely area for the mystery places;
- the library world is likely to be very interested in good historical gazetteers, a case mentioned being the Alexandria Library project sponsored by the Library of Congress amongst others;
- there are overlaps and ideas to share with similar historical placename projects like Pleiades, Hestia and GAP (Google Ancient Places).
I mentioned that, being based in Edinburgh, we’re particularly keen to include Scottish historical placenames. There are quite a few sources and people who have been working for ages in this area – that’s probably one of the next things to take forward, to see if we can tie up with some of the existing experts for mutual benefit.
There were loads of other interesting presentations and talk at WhereCamp… but this post is already too long.