What is Pelagios Commons?
Pelagios Commons is a community & infrastructure for Linked Open Geodata in the Humanities.
What does that mean exactly?
Linked Open Data is an old idea that is slowly coming of age. Essentially Linked Data is a way of connecting online resources that have something in common. To some extent this occurs already with standard HTML hyperlinks, but these provide only unilateral (one-directional) links between specific documents. The technologies behind Linked Open Data allow us to introduce meta-links that create multi-lateral connections between clusters of content related to a specific concept. In our case that concept is geographic (hence geodata): Pelagios links historical materials through their common reference to particular places.
In what way is it a community?
The Web is just as much a human phenomenon as a technical one. Any initiative that proposes to link resources together is inherently social in nature. If we are to form healthy ecologies of dynamically interacting Web resources, we must collaborate to establish processes which create long-lasting mutual benefit. Pelagios Commons offers online forums and real world events which allow anyone with an interest in connecting the past together to get involved. No technical experience is required (although techies are extremely welcome too!). Pelagios Commons is also part of a wider ecosystem of projects dedicated to interlinking online resources about the past.
In what way is it an infrastructure?
Like the Web, Linked Open Data should be decentralised. That is, everyone contributes something, and there is no ‘master’ system which controls everything behind the scenes. Nevertheless, to help everything play together nicely, we need tools and services which help people create links and make use of them. Pelagios Commons focuses on addressing current process bottle-necks, rather than building an end-to-end product. Our contributions include the following freely available resources:
Recogito, a tool that makes it easy to identify, record and export as Linked Open Data the places referred to in historical texts, maps and tables;
Peripleo, a search service that allows you to find community-curated content related to specific places;
Pelagios Map Tiles, a set of resources that allow you to project data onto dynamic maps dedicated to different historical periods.
Pelagios Commons also makes small grants available for the development of other resources likely to be of benefit to the community.
Pelagios Commons operates through the activity of multiple Working Groups dedicated to particular historical periods or creating new tools, services and resources for discovering and representing historical geography. WGs also play an important role in the governance of Pelagios through its Commons Committee. They have access to funds in order to hold international workshops and create resources such as maps, datasets or software.
How is the project supported?
Pelagios Commons is supported financially and administratively by the Pelagios 6 project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.