Over a three-year period (2017-2020), the World-Historical Gazetteer (WHG) project has produced a data store and associated software and services supporting collaborative digital and data-driven historical scholarship at the global scale. This Linked Open Data (LOD) system focuses significantly but not exclusively on the centuries since 1500, and has these closely related components:

The gazetteer. A spatially and temporally comprehensive database of significant world historical place names. Our data stores (a relational database and index) have been seeded with about 1.8 million undated records from the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN) and other public sources. To that core we have begun adding temporal depth–about 60,000 explicitly historical records from several contributors at Version 1 launch in July 2020. Many more are in queue.

A “union index.” Records from the WHG core gazetteer are merged with those of specialized gazetteers from our project partners and elsewhere in a rich, high-performance index

Interfaces to the gazetteer. We have built (a) a web-based interface for searching, browsing, and augmenting the data, and (b) an application programming interface service (API) providing faceted programmatic access to the data [GitHub Repository]

Domains of focus. WHG offers a platform for research communities interested in linking their overlapping and related place data for their particular region(s) and period(s) of interest. So far, there is an emerging interest group for a “LatAm” domain within WHG, concerned with colonial era Latin America and the Atlantic maritime region.

The project was initially outlined broadly at an NEH-funded specialist workshop held at the WHC in 2014 (Start-Up Level I; #HD‑51828‑14). Thanks to another NEH award, this time in the Preservation and Access program (PW‑253719‑17), we will over the next three years implement an updated version of the 2014 vision.

The core project team includes:
Ruth Mostern, Principal Investigator
Karl Grossner, Technical Director and Developer
Susan Grunewald, World History Center postdoctoral fellow
Patrick Manning, Project Consultant
Owen Knight, Student Research Assistant
James Sauls, Student Research Assistant

Former team members
Ryan Horne, former WHC postdoctoral fellow
David Ruvolo, Project Manager

The project’s Advisory Committee has met periodically, both in person and in teleconferences, to provide essential input and feedback as we proceeded. We have a growing number of data partners, whose projects also provide for us “real-world” use cases. An essential requirement of this work is that it contribute demonstrably useful services. The Linked Open Data paradigm has terrific promise and is seeing increasing uptake, but as yet few large-scale systems can show benefit to historical scholarship. We are determined to be among those that do!

Last modified, 24 July 2020