Pelagios: Linking Places, Entangling Data

Pelagios is an international initiative concerned with the development of Linked Open Data methods, tools and services so as to better interconnect the vast and ever-growing range of historical resources online. Specifically, it uses the Open Annotation RDF ontology [1] to associate place references within those resources to online gazetteers that offer URI-based identifiers for such places. The resulting graph is then exploited in a variety of ways to facilitate research, teaching and public engagement. Pelagios has generated sustained and lively community interest, and has offered a pioneering model for other initiatives which are semantically annotating different reference types from people to time periods, including PeriodO [2], SNAP [3], PastPlace [4] and al-Thurayya [5]. The success of the Pelagios approach has also attracted funding for academic research through the Pelagios 4 project which is working with specialists in historical geography to identify both the advantages and limitations of semantic annotation for comparative studies and visual and statistical analyses. In parallel with these developments a community of practitioners has emerged with interests in a range of related activities: the annotation of curated or third-party content; the production of specialist gazetteers; the integration of place annotations with those of people, periods and things; and the visualization and analysis of graph-based data, to name but a few.


In addition to reviewing the outputs of Pelagios 4, this talk will present an outlook on our plans for "Pelagios Commons", a new phase of Pelagios which will focus explicitly on increasing its technical and social decentralization. This spans beyond its current pre-Modern scope, in order to embrace later periods, differing scales of geography (from intra-urban to multi-regional) and the conceptual changes of dealing with mythical, fictional and itinerant places. It will present our experiences in establishing Special Interest Groups, as well as lessons learned from similar initiatives. In doing so we hope to foster discussion and critique from those planning or implementing related community-driven projects.

Text: Rainer Simon, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology (