JISC Workshop on Historical Gazetteers

Earlier this month, JISC supported a workshop on the University of Nottingham on the development of gazetteers – historic dictionaries of place names (and other geographical information) and their co-ordinates or other appropriate reference.

Plenty of work is being done throughout the UK on research on place names, and many projects are keen to exploit such work in the digital realm, but the fruits of such work are only slowly becoming available.

Services such as EDINA’s excellent Unlock service, which identifies place names and adds in geographical co-ordinates, are beginning to allow users to exploit the rich seam of geographical information that exists in nearly all digitised resources. But for those working with historical material the services lacks the gazetteers which can identify non-contemporary place names.

Thus the Nottingham workshop looked at how projects such as the English Place Name Survey, the JISC Chalice and Halogen projects, the Unlock service, and various place name projects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could work together to create rich gazetteers to allow for greater exploitation of the geographical information that exists within digitised historical materials.

A full report is being prepared by the conference organisers Paul Ell (Queen’s University Belfast) and Lorna Hughes (King’s College London), but there seemed to be four key points from the day.

  1. More use needs to be made of the EDINA Unlock service. Further use will help build the possibilities for the service and geographical information in the educational sector.
  2. Different gazetteers need to be developed for different research questions. But questions still remain about the level of precision required, IPR restrictions, and the possibilities for re-use.
  3. A registry of gazetteers would help exploit existing research and data sets. Equally, there needs to be agreement over how individual items from gazetteers can be published on the WWW, and the stable URI base that will inform a linked data approach to geographical entities. The Pleiades service, of place names from the ancient world, was mentioned in this context.
  4. There needs to be training for academics and students to understand how ‘geographies’ can interact with their work, and how spatial content can be represented.


Agenda from the Workshop

10:00 Coffee and Arrival

10:30 Lorna Hughes, Jayne Carrol: Welcome and introduction

10:40 Lorna Hughes – e-Research for historic place names: strategic developments

10:50 The state of the art in historic place name research

1. Jayne Carroll and Paul Carvill – An overview of English Place name Survey and the Key.
2. Kay Muhr – Place-Names in Northern Ireland current state-of-the
3. Jean Anderson – Place name research and resources in Scotland
4. David Parsons – Welsh Place names initiatives

12:00 Humphrey Southall – Data Models for Historical Gazetteers: Administrative units, locations, “places” and place-names.


1:00 lunch

1:45 e-Research and historic place name research: recent initiatives

Alastair Dunning – JISC and e-infrastructure for e-resource Integration
Jo Walsh and Clair Grover – the JISC-funded CHALICE Project: linked data
Leif Isaksen, Southampton – HESTIA: Place name extraction from text


3:30 tea

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