Over a four-year period (2017-2021), 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 linked 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 regions and periods of interest. So far, there are emerging interest groups for global Dutch History, Colonial and pre-Colonial Latin America, the Middle East, Central Eurasia, and more.

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). Progress to date has been supported by another NEH award, this time in the Preservation and Access program (PW‑253719‑17, 2017-2020),  by its host organization, the University of Pittsburgh’s World History Center and by the Humanities Cluster of KNAW.

The core project team includes:
Ruth Mostern, Principal Investigator
Karl Grossner, Technical Director and Developer
Susan Grunewald, World History Center postdoctoral fellow
Alexandra Straub, World History Center Research Associate
Patrick Manning, Project Consultant

Former team members
Ryan Horne, former WHC postdoctoral fellow
David Ruvolo, Project Manager
Alec Story, Student Research Assistant
Owen Knight, Student Research Assistant
James Sauls, Graduate Student Research Assistant

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, 5 August 2021