Submissions/From Wikidata to a global historical gazetteer: Pelagios and PastPlace

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

After careful consideration, the Programme Committee has decided not to accept the below submission at this time. Thank you to the author(s) for participating in the Wikimania 2014 programme submission, we hope to still see you at Wikimania this August.

Submission no. 6027
Title of the submission
From Wikidata to a global historical gazetteer: Pelagios and PastPlace
Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)
Author of the submission
E-mail address
Country of origin
United Kingdom
Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)
University of Portsmouth
Personal homepage or blog
Recently, and especially in mainstream GIS (Geographical Information Systems) research, gazetteers have been seen simply as lists of geographical names and coordinates, usually extracted from maps. However, in the past and especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, gazetteers were far richer: place encyclopaedias, describing localities and their relationships with other geographical entities. The development of the semantic web creates a new need for such rich gazetteers, with a more formal structure; and, of course, today Wikipedia is much the most widely used rich gazetteer, between a quarter and a third of all articles including a geographical coordinate. The presentation starts by discussing Wikipedia itself as a gazetteer, using as examples articles about English villages worked on by my students on this course:

It moves on to how the same information is represented more formally in Wikidata, comparing it systematically with other open gazetteers and especially with GeoNames. Wikipedia's underlying requirement that each entity be "notable" makes the gazetteer subset of Wikidata smaller than GeoNames, but also better defined and cleaner. For this reason Wikidata identifiers are linking together the federation of historical gazetteers being constructed by the Mellon Foundation-funded Pelagios project (

The three initial gazetteers are the Pleiades gazetteer of the ancient world (New York University), the China Historical GIS (Harvard) and my own project's PastPlace gazetteer (Portsmouth), based on the data model behind our very popular site A Vision of Britain through Time. These are historical gazetteers in that every placename comes from an identified historical source, and the dates are those of the sources. Pelagios is systematically extracting all the place names appearing on every map, and map-like work, created before 1492, but longer term we want to greatly extend this by crowd-sourcing the extraction of place names from tens of thousands of scanned old maps in online library collections, building on our earlier Old Maps Online project. All Pelagios content will be published as open linked data under a CC-BY license, and as it uses Wikidata identifiers, both for places and where possible sources, integration with Wikipedia will be trivial.

The presentation will include a substantial demonstration of the PastPlace gazetteer, using the associated web app, which is based on jQuery Mobile and OpenLayers, and interacts with the PastPlace open linked data API.

Open Data
Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)
This could obviously also be an "Open Scholarship" proposal, but given the strong links to Wikidata it probably fits better under "Open Data". We are not sure exactly how this is supposed to work, but if this were an academic conference we would be listing Rainer Simon (Austrian Institute of Technology), Leif Isaksen (University of Southampton) and Elton Barker (Open University, UK) as co-authors.
Special requests

Interested attendees

If you are interested in attending this session, please sign with your username below. This will help reviewers to decide which sessions are of high interest. Sign with a hash and four tildes. (# ~~~~).

  1. --Lydia Pintscher (WMDE) (talk) 22:22, 31 March 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Markus Krötzsch (talk) 06:27, 1 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  3. --Michela Vignoli (talk) 11:41, 2 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  4. --Sannita (talk) 09:21, 8 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Ahoerstemeier (talk) 09:42, 16 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Add your username here.