Place and Period in an Emerging Global Gazetteer: a proposed DH2014 workshop

Geography is an important aspect of many digital humanities research projects, and gazetteer access and development are often essential to them. In projects involving mapping or spatial analysis, named and/or unnamed places must be resolved to spatial locations described by a coordinate system. If we want something to appear on a map, we need to say where to place the marker, however it may be annotated for uncertainty. As many humanities scholars have discovered, this geo-referencing process can be challenging, in that descriptions of geographical locations in historical sources may be qualitative and not metrical (e.g. A is in or near B), or simply absent. Encoding the temporal attributes of places and place names is a further complication.

These challenges face those undertaking small- and large-scale projects, and everything between. To meet them historians, historical geographers, and scholars from several humanities domains are becoming (or have been already for some time!) gazetteer developers, and are making common cause with information and computer scientists tackling some of the computational problems involved. These efforts are increasingly framed as Linked Open Data systems [ wiki; nice video ], to facilitate integration and provide interoperability. Progress to date on digital historical gazetteers owes much to large historical GIS projects – the Great Britain Historical GIS supporting PastPlace/Vision of Britain, and the China Historical GIS in particular – and to the Pleiades and Pelagios projects to date focusing on the Classical period.

The ADHO GeoHumanities SIG will propose a day-long workshop at the DH2014 conference in Lausanne, Switzerland (8-12 July), to bring together people working on several aspects of historical gazetteer development in order to share plans and results, and importantly, to hear further requirements from DH scholars who have yet to weigh in.

Tentatively titled "Place and Period in an Emerging Global Gazetteer," we expect there to be three themes or segments to the program: 1) present practice and resources; 2) the emerging global gazetteer infrastructure; and 3) the temporal aspects of place representations. There has been an enthusiastic response to our initial proposition along these lines put before some of the folks very active in gazetteer development. So, we are working now to design a program that can advance that development and hold interest for everyone doing digital GeoHumanities work. If you have comments or an interest in participating, please let the SIG co-chairs know. (Kathy Weimer and Karl Grossner).