Friday, February 26, 2021

Google Ancient Places

[First posted in AWOL 9 November 2011. Updated 26 February 2021]

Google Ancient Places

The Web is seeing an explosion of digitized material being made freely and openly available online. Google Books alone has some 12 million books in over 300 languages; but other collections, such as the Open Library and the Hathi Trust, are also making accessible texts, many of which were previously available only in prestigious university libraries. But the challenge is: What’s there? And how can it be used?

With funding from Google’s Digital Humanities Research Awards, the Google Ancient Places (GAP) project addresses these two primary concerns of discovery and usability using ancient world places as the target information that we want to able to find and visualize. We call this automated process the ‘there and back again’ principle: it’s not enough to empower users to discover ancient places in large text corpora; we also allow users to move back again to find the books that refer to them.

On the discovery front, we have used and adapted the Edinburgh Geoparser to find (“geotag”) references to ancient places in the text and then link (“georesolve”) them to a gazetteer. Since we want to maximise usability, we have identified all the places found using Pleiades, which provide unique labels (or URIs – Uniform Resource Identifiers) for each location. In this way every place that we find has a URI that allows it to link to, or be linked from, other resources with information about the same place.

For visualization purposes, we have used a single-screen application with various components to help the reader navigate through a text geospatially. See the GapVis page for more information or go straight to our GapVis interface to start playing.

GAP is a proud member of Pelagios, the information superhighway for the ancient world,


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