Another step forward has just been announced in the world of digital heritage data mechanics.
Anyone who works with heritage data will be familiar with the various vocabularies and wordlists promoted and maintained by the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH), English Heritage (EH) and the Welsh and Scottish Royal Commissions on Ancient and Historical Monuments (RCAHMW & RCAHMW).
Originally produced as massive lever arch files of paper (yes, I have a copy of such a publication!) and latterly as ‘digital data’ (well, kind of; pdfs and html at least), it was possible to request copies of the database dumps supplied as csv files but that was as good as it got.
One of the outputs of the Seneschal project has been to provide these vocabularies as Linked Open data and this data has already been put to use by the Archaeology Data Service and the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The use of Linked Open Data in this context is being promoted by FISH.
A massive new development has just been announced by Ceri Binding at the University of South Wales. A set of widgets building on the data and background services is now live. These widgets can be built into any information system, for the first time providing a ready-to-use interface to heritage vocabularies. This will be a marked improvement on the kind of simple alphabetical word lists often deployed in database systems and on the web, which are far from ideal for helping users choose appropriate terms to use. Importantly, the widgets leverage the underlying concepts (referenced by URIs), the terms themselves are merely appellations or labels assigned to these concepts; this allows for some impressive multi-lingual capabilities and also multiple references to the same object.
So big congratulations to the Seneschal team, especially Ceri, for providing what should become a key component of our digital heritage infrastructure, helping to improve our indexing procedures and search/retrieval mechanisms.