Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies: Data and Relations in Greco-roman Names

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Digital Humanities


The general problem approached by the SNAP project is exemplified by the inconsistency of and irregular overlap between the many huge databases of persons, names, and other personal data on the Internet. (These databases are familiar and ubiquitous, from lists of actors and creators in the Internet Movie Database or historical figures in Wikipedia, to private individuals via all sorts of social networking sites.) How does a researcher or analyst determine whether two records refer to the same person or are related in some other way, and whether other related information refers to both people equally? For this project we shall directly address these issues on a much smaller scale: there are very many historical prosopographies and onomastica (databases of persons and names), even within the relatively tight domain of Greco-Roman antiquity, and many of the same questions of identity and provenance apply. These databases can be worked on without the concerns raised by modern social network accounts: there are not the ethical and privacy concerns of working with living people; the scale, while still massive, is more tractable; there is much more academic coherence within the data, which, diverse as it is, is produced by a discipline with well-established working practices.

The SNAP project will pilot a new approach to working with diverse person data, using as a starting point three large datasets from the classical world: the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, an Oxford-based corpus of persons mentioned in ancient Greek texts; Trismegistos, a Leuven-run database of names and persons from Egyptian papyri; Prosopographia Imperii Romani, a series of printed books listing senators and other elites from the first three centuries of the Roman Empire. We shall model a simple structure using Web and Linked data technologies to represent relationships between databases and to link from references in primary texts to authoritative lists of persons and names. We shall invite new projects and datasets in the domain to participate in the SNAP network, to help us test the structures and contribute material on ancient people to the collection, and will help these projects to transform their data into a form that can be linked and annotated. We also plan to produce tools for illustration of the value of this data, and demonstrate research methods for working with the new material and information produced. The project will also show how to enhance and produce new data, generating new person references and links from classical texts that have not yet been looked at in this way (Greek and Latin inscriptions). We shall share our recommendations and our results through workshops, public conference papers, and a range of technical, academic and popular publications.

Planned Impact

The SNAP project will have a fundamental impact on the study of ancient names and people through the linking and integration of a selection of the most significant datasets in the field and the opening of this data through the Linked Open Data cloud. Even beyond the immediate academic beneficiaries of this historical data, the release of this collected dataset and the related methodologies and models will impact on related fields (history, literature, narratology, comparative mythology), corporations (including publishers and developers) and cultural heritage institutions working with person, name and person-like data. The project will be directly engaging with these groups to gain feedback and peer-review in the models and methods being developed to ensure that they are fit for purpose and to promote and aid the publication of additional datasets. Cultural heritage institutions, archives and publishers in particular will benefit from the enhancement of their data through connection to the graph and through the driving of new traffic to their materials (including paywalled data) through the links and relationships surfaced by the project.

The publication of the resulting dataset to the Linked Open Data cloud has the potential to interconnect or more richly connect existing datasets already in the cloud. It also represents a network of referenced people and people-like entities which mirror the social datasets currently being studied by sociologists and web scientists but without the ethical and privacy issues which are inherent in modern datasets. Working with historic datasets can enable investigations of social interactions and expression in a way not otherwise possible and then apply the lessons and experience to the wider linked data network. This research into social networks is not only an academic activity, but is also key to many areas of the Web industry: all of the major search engines, social networks, spam management and advertising professionals engage in this kind of study. The larger project of which SNAP serves as a pilot will directly impact these larger questions as well as engaging with genealogy companies and enthusiasts. At this stage of focusing on classical materials, the value of the data to the general public will be illustrated through user-friendly web presence and tools for non-academic study of ancient names and naming conventions.
Description The Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies: Data and Relations in Greco-Roman Names (SNAP:DRGN) project has addressed the problem of linking together large collections of material (datasets) containing information about persons, names and person-like entities managed in heterogeneous systems and formats. We are using the realm of ancient people databases (prosopographies) as a pilot for this research project, because of its maturity as a research discipline, and its manageable scale.
Exploitation Route SNAP:DRGN contributes to ongoing work on Linked Open Data for historical and ancient research materials, in particular the networks of information about people, places, objects and texts from the classical and other ancient cultures. As such the ontologies that we have used and developed, the data and authority list that we are making available, and the recommendations and standards that we have published will be used in related projects including library catalogues, museum databases, research collections and in the organization of digital publishing databases. Large European or world-wide projects including Europeana will also benefit from our recommendations on sharing and linking data from disparate sources and for multiple audiences.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description The principal non-academic impact of this pilot project were the use of shared standards and guidelines that we developed in collaboration with our partners in the cultural heritage and commercial digital publishing sectors. The most prominent current use of these standards outside of academia is the British Museum research database, whose person authority files have been converted into SNAP:DRGN format for contribution to the graph. This will have reciprocal value as added information from the graph will make its way back into the BM database. The project partners have also been approached by several other cultural heritage projects (American Numismatic Society, Kerameikos Project, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz) for involvement in future research.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Title SNAP:DRGN Graph 
Description A new aggregation of ancient person data from multiple datasets, including the core project partners, new data partners, newly minted data, and relationships and internal enhancements of the contributed data. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None yet. 
Description British History Online 
Organisation University of London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A collaborative bid for a small project (c. £25,000) will if successful lead to the improvement of SNAP:DRGN infrastructure and tooling, including the ability to ingest new RDF data more efficiently. We will also advise on the prosopographical standards and the format of RDF export from new development on a sample of British History Online person records, with a view to testing the SNAP standards against the first major contribution of non-classical material.
Collaborator Contribution Partners at the IHR will enhance a few sample volumes of the British History Online records to enable to assignment of unique identifiers for individual people, and with our support, export some of this data in SNAP:DRGN compliant RDF triples. As above, this will both contirbute to the SNAP dataset, and be a test of the standards in an adjacent but new discipline.
Impact Already: * Analysis of British History Online data, and plan for restructuring of data and generation of unique person identifiers; * Assessment of SNAP:DRGN standards for application to later historical period, and adjustment where necessary. Future: * New set of data relating to historical (Mediaeval British) persons in SNAP:DRGN RDF format; * Enhancement of SNAP:DRGN network with later historical content; * Written report on applicability of SNAP standards to Mediaeval and Modern historical records.
Start Year 2017
Description Gascon Rolls 
Organisation King's College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided experience, information and advice on the SNAP ontology and standards, leading to enhanced encoding of person information in the Gascon Rolls project.
Collaborator Contribution The Gascon Rolls data helped to test and enhance the SNAP standards, and will serve as a further dataset in a future phase of SNAP:DRGN.
Impact The Gascon Rolls dataset, released under open data licenses, containing mappings to SNAP ontology and corresponding RDF. Digital Humanities (informatics plus history).
Start Year 2015
Description Open Philology European Collaboration Consortium 
Organisation University of Leipzig
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Leading the Named-Entity group in an international collaboration to bring together services and content relating to Classical resources across Europe.
Collaborator Contribution Integration with many other projects, data providers and researchers in the area of digital research into classics and philology. Identification of common infrastructure needs and joint solutions.
Impact Meetings with project partners. Possible future funding applications.
Start Year 2014
Description Pelagios/Linked Pasts 
Organisation University of Southampton
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Co-hosted the Linked Pasts workshop at King's College London. This brought together a variety of academics, practitioners and thinkers in the field of Linked Open Data and the Humanities to explore questions of linking around places (Pelagios), people (SNAP:DRGN) and other concepts and systems. The SNAP project provided the venue and co-funded the social programme.
Collaborator Contribution The Pelagios partners organized the scientific programme and funded the majority of the venue and participant costs.
Impact A well-attended and very fruitful workshop. Several new collaborators were identified, some of which joined the SNAP:DRGN advisory board as a direct result of this event. There is an intention to hold follow-up workshops next year, for which Pelagios have already received funding.
Start Year 2015
Description VIAF data exchange 
Organisation Online Computer Library Center
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Development of our standards such that data in the SNAP:DRGN graph will be of tangible and immediate value to the OCLC's Virtual Internet Authority File (VIAF): including occupation/profession information so that new persons might be ingested; linking to other authorities so that the network of identities can be expanded. Converted a subset of VIAF data into SNAP:DRGN format to begin the process of enriching both datasets.
Collaborator Contribution Contributed data, expert advice, and information about internal structures and needs of the VIAF dataset to help with SNAP:DRGN planning.
Impact Contributions to Cookbook. Contributions to data graph.
Start Year 2014