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.

Refreshments (tea/coffee, lunch) will be provided, along with a reception on Monday evening.

The event is free of charge but places are limited. Please reserve your place through Eventbrite.

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

**Linked data goodness brought to you by elton, leif, rainer + pau**

***The colloquium is made possible by the generosity of our funders, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the AHRC***

Icelandic Religious Culture and the Environment. Margaret Cormack

My project started as a study of evidence for the cult of saints in Iceland, a continuation of my book on that topic which dealt with the period before 1400. The book focused on different types of evidence for the veneration of saints, and addressed issues such as the overall popularity of different saints at different times, possible contrasts between church dedications (reflecting episcopal control) and saint-related objects (statues, vernacular saints’ lives) which are more likely to reflect local veneration. While I commented on obvious distribution patterns, electronic mapping of this data at different periods makes it easier to observe geographical and chronological trends, including travel routes and the introduction of new cults from abroad.

The project is now expanding in a number of ways. I am seeking partners with comparable data from other countries, and hope to devise a form to facilitate the entry of such data. Sticking to Iceland, the church inventories that contain evidence for saints’ cults also contain information that is worth mapping and analyzing. Personal names are an obvious choice for inclusion, though problematic, since Iceland uses patronymics rather than last names; it can be difficult to figure out which “Jón Jónsson” donated the new psalter.  Place-names, on the other hand, can reflect not only saints’ cults but quality and use of land, in the present and in the past. (They can also be difficult to interpret. Does “Ólafsfjörd” get its name from St. Olaf or from someone who lived there?) Books can provide evidence for intellectual history; they may be identified by presumed place of origin, being described for example as “Irish” or “foreign.” The number and condition of objects may be stated, and occasionally we have receipts that illustrate how church income was being used. Information about land and livestock owned by the churches provides insight into farming practices and the economic status of individual churches and of the Church as a whole. The agricultural and place-name data will provide valuable insight into the environment of Iceland in the first half of the last millennium.

Chronologically, the project is being extended into the first century and a half of the Reformation, to observe the effects of iconoclasm (many statues of saints in fact survived, and were even repaired and/or replaced, in the Lutheran period). Merely comparing the number and locations of churches illustrates population growth and/or movement in different parts of the country. I am also hoping to connect my data with that contained in other data-bases. A number of  projects focus on mapping manuscripts containing protestant hymns (and their scribes and contents) or other types of literature; there is a database of folklore; and may soon be a data-base of locations of games (games are associated with conflict in many sagas; the Polish student working on this project hopes to find out how the locations were chosen in the first place – proximity to meeting places, to major routes of travel, to hot-springs?) I am a co-applicant for a grant which will create a basic list of GPS location points and names of farms which will facilitate linking these databases. This linkage will allow users to look for patterns that may survive or develop; do folktales traceable to saints’ lives proliferate locally, or are they carried (by what routes?) to other parts of Iceland? Do locations associated with large numbers of books before the Reformation remain centers of literary activity afterwards? Do scribes move from place to place, copying manuscripts as they go? To reach such results, we need 1) a good computer programmer, and 2) qualified individuals to enter data (i.e. graduate students in Icelandic language or their equivalent).

To play with the database, go to:

Click on “Search the Database” to play with it. Note: in order to get the maps (which are, after all, the object of the exercise!) you will need a Google Plug-in, for which instructions are (supposed to) appear when you need it, though if you already have GoogleEarth installed you may not need to do anything.

To read about the kind of results this mapping will produce, go to:

Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture, vol. 3 issue 2 (summer 2011) pp. 7-37.

I am looking forwared to hearing the papers, in particular to learning how it may be possible to trace the paths of individuals through time and  space.

Mapping Herodotus: countercartography, network graphs and bottomless maps

The past decade has seen a growing spatialization of literary studies, closely connected with the development of new geographical technologies, such as GIS, and their application to the humanities (Dear et al. 2011: GeoHumanities: Art, History, Text at the Edge of Place, New York). For example, Antiquity Á la Carte allows users to investigate the historical, cultural and geographical data produced by the Ancient World Mapping Center. Yet there is a problem with GIS applications, when applied to research into ancient geography. On the one hand, they present a pre-determined vision of the world, based on Cartesian principles and contemporary modes of thinking, into which users “plug in” data from antiquity. On the other, GIS, as a point-based geometrical package, is particularly poorly equipped to deal with the predominant primary source that preserve ancient conceptualisations of space—texts. In my contribution to this workshop, I will outline the ongoing efforts of two projects to use mapping visualisations as the means of interrogating and challenging our understanding of ancient world space (cf. Harley, J. B. 1989: ‘Deconstructing the map’, Cartographica 26, 1-20): the Hestia project, which investigates the ways in which geographic space is organised and represented in Herodotus’s Histories; and Pelagios, which uses and develops the principles of Linked Open Data to facilitate the construction of (potentially) bottomless maps.

Textual space is constructed by and through the stories told about it, where ideas such as hodology (Purves, A. 2010: Space and Time in Ancient Greek Narrative. Cambridge) and topokinesis (Turnbull, D. 2007: Maps, narratives and trails: performativity, hodology and distributed knowledges in complex adaptive systems—an approach to emergent mapping. Geographical Research 45, 140-49) provide an interpretative framework for reimagining Herodotean space. Developing the idea of ‘proxies’, we explored how individuals, social groups or even non-human agents contributed to the complexity of spatial representation in the Histories. In particular, we analysed these spatial entities in terms of their textual relatedness—whether and how places and/or proxies are linked by the author. The resulting ‘X-ray’ maps (cf. Moretti, F. 1998: Atlas of the European Novel, 1800–1900. London) seemed to offer to us alternative pathways through Herodotean space that can bring to the fore the underlying ways in which spatial understanding is constructed in terms of action and influence rather than cartographic location.

Texts, however, are only one source and means of accessing important data salient to rethinking ancient world space. In a rapidly expanding digital environment, it is now possible to gain access to primary data of all different kinds, rather than rely solely on their interpretation in print publications. But how is one able to find them and bring them to bear on one’s own research? The Pelagios project uses global gazetteer services (e.g. to achieve a connectivity through common references, with the result that online documents of varying nature—not only literary texts but also inscriptions, archaeological finds, museum objects, photographs, etc.— can be read in and against each other. As well as helping us to see the ancient world as being every bit as interconnected, interactive and interesting as the present (Elliott, T. and Gillies, S. (2009): Digital Geography and Classics. Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.1), this community driven initiative has the potential to transform research, while also posing the challenge of developing the tools and methods that need to be developed for that research to take place.