Over a three-year period (2017-2020), the World-Historical Gazetteer (WHG) project will produce 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 will focus significantly but not exclusively on the centuries since 1500, and have these closely related components:

  1. The gazetteer. A spatially and temporally comprehensive database of significant world historical place names. This broad but shallow resource (an estimated 30,000 entries, subject to change) will draw on a few core sources, including print historical atlas indexes, linguistic atlases, and modern physical geography datasets. Those core records will be aligned with existing gazetteers where possible, including GeoNames and the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN), and be enriched with some data from DBpedia
  2. A "union index." Records from the WHG core gazetteer will be merged with those of specialized gazetteers from our project partners and elsewhere in a rich, high-performance index
  3. Interfaces to the gazetteer. We will build (a) a web-based interface for searching, browsing, and editing the data, and (b) an application programming interface service (API) providing faceted programmatic access to the data [GitHub Repository]
  4. Demonstration pilot projects. Data from two groups of historical research projects will be linked via the gazetteer, demonstrating the value of linked data in historical scholarship. One group is concerned with Maritime Asia, the other with the Atlantic World

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:

The project's Advisory Committee will meet periodically, both in person and in teleconferences, to provide essential input and feedback as we proceed. We also have several data partners, whose projects will provide for us "real-world" exemplar applications. 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!