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Reassembling the Republic of Letters

SeCo participates in the Digital Humanities EU COST action Reassembling the Republic of Letters 1500-1800, 2014-2018, lead by University of Oxford. Eero Hyvönen leads the Work Group 2 People and Networks in the initiative involving over 30 countries.

Related to this topic, there is also a research project Cultures of Knowledge, phase III (2015-2017), where SeCo collaborates with Oxford and Stanford University with the goal of designing a Linked Open Data infrastructure, services, and tooling for the underlying humanist scholarly community.

Contact Persons

Prof. Eero Hyvönen, Aalto University

Dr. Eetu Mäkelä, Aalto University and University of Helsinki



Esko Ikkala, Eetu Mäkelä and Eero Hyvönen: TourRDF: Representing, Enriching, and Publishing Curated Tours Based on Linked Data. 19th International Conference of Knowledge Engineering and Management (EKAW 2014), Demo and Poster Papers, November, 2014. bib pdf
Current mobile tourist guide systems are developed and used in separate data silos: each system and vendor tends to use its own proprietary, closed formats for representing tours and point of interest (POI) content. As a result, tour data cannot be enriched from other providers’ tour and POI repositories, or from other external data sources — even when such data were publicly available by, e.g., cities willing to promote tourism. This paper argues, that an open shared RDF-based tour vocabulary is needed to address these problems, and introduces such a model, TourRDF, extending the earlier TourML schema into the era of Linked Data. As a test and an evaluation of the approach, a case study based on data about the Unesco World Heritage site Suomenlinna fortress is presented.
Eero Hyvönen, Miika Alonen, Esko Ikkala and Eetu Mäkelä: Life Stories as Event-based Linked Data: Case Semantic National Biography. Proceeedings of ISWC 2014 Posters & Demonstrations Track, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, October, 2014. bib pdf link
This paper argues, by presenting a case study and a demonstration on the web, that biographies make a promising application case of Linked Data: the reading experience can be enhanced by enriching the biographies with additional life time events, by proving the user with a spatio-temporal context for reading, and by linking the text to additional contents in related datasets.


Thea Lindquist, Michael Dulock, Juha Törnroos, Eero Hyvönen and Eetu Mäkelä: Using Linked Open Data to Enhance Subject Access in Online Primary Sources. Cataloging & Classifying Quarterly, vol. 51, no. 8, Francis & Taylor, 2013. bib link
Using online primary sources is both rewarding and challenging for users. Improving subject access is essential as these sources become increasingly important in educational curricula. A user needs assessment with humanities users showed improving findability and context for historical subjects were major needs. Linked Data can help by linking related concepts in the sources using specialized vocabularies, enriching them with outside resources, and enabling semantic services that empower users. This article discusses a project to enhance subject access in an online World War I collection by deep linking historical data on the civilian experience in occupied Belgium and France.


Thea Lindquist, Eero Hyvönen, Juha Törnroos, Eetu Mäkelä: Leveraging linked data to enhance subject access - A case study of the University of Colorado Boulder s World War I collection online. World Library and Information Congress: 78th IFLA General Conference and Assembly, Helsinki, IFLA, http://conference.ifla.org/ifla78, August, 2012. bib link
Academic users often find work with online primary sources both rewarding and challenging. Improving subject access in these sources is essential as digital collections propagate and work with primary sources becomes increasingly important in humanities curricula. A user needs assessment was conducted with humanities users at the University of Colorado Boulder to facilitate engagement with these sources. Two of the major user needs identified were improving findability and context, particularly for historical subjects. Linked Data can help meet these needs by linking related concepts in the sources using a specialized vocabulary, enriching them with outside resources, and enabling semantically rich services that empower users. This paper discusses a project the authors undertook to enhance subject access in CU’s WWI Collection Online by deep linking historical data on the civilian experience in occupied Belgium. This work is intended to lead to a richer understanding of forces shaping the WWI period.
Eero Hyvönen, Thea Lindquist, Juha Törnroos and Eetu Mäkelä: History on the Semantic Web as Linked Data - An Event Gazetteer and Timeline for World War I. Proceedings of CIDOC 2012 - Enriching Cultural Heritage, Helsinki, Finland, CIDOC, http://www.cidoc2012.fi/en/cidoc2012/programme, June, 2012. bib pdf
Events are an essential component of cultural heritage (CH) Linked Data (LD): they link actors, places, times, objects, and other events into larger narrative structures, providing a rich basis for semantic searching, recommending, analysis, and visualization of CH data. This paper argues that shared vocabularies (gazetteers, ontologies) of events, such as the “Battle of Normandy” or “Crucifixion of Jesus”, are necessary to facilitate the aggregation and linking of heterogeneous content from various collections. For example, biographies, histories, photos, and paintings often reference or depict events. A set of general requirements for an event gazetteer is presented, based on the needs of publishing, aggregating, and reusing cultural heritage content as Linked Data. After this, a metadata model addressing the presented requirements for representing historical events is outlined. The model is being applied in a case study aimed at developing an event ontology for World War I (WWI). Our goals from an end-user perspective are twofold: 1) Facilitate event-based cataloging for curators in memory organizations; 2) Utilize semantic event descriptions and narrative event structures in end-user applications for searching and linking documents and other content about WWI, and for structuring and visualizing them.


Eeva Ahonen and Eero Hyvönen: Publishing Historical Texts on the Semantic Web - A Case Study. Proceedings of the Third IEEE International Conference on Semantic Computing (ICSC2009), Berkeley, CA, USA, September, 2009. bib pdf
Historical texts are an important component of cultural heritage, and are being digitized and published on the web in various portals for the researhers and the public. However, searching and linking them with related contents is challenging due the non-structured text form, digitization errors, and the differences and variations between old and modern language, including historical names (e.g. places), used for querying. This paper addresses these issues by presenting an approach and a system for publishing old texts on the semantic web. As a case study, an existing historical newspaper archive on the web is considered. In our model, semantic metadata is added to the text using automated concept extraction methods. Search is implemented with semantic techniques, by creating a multi-faceted search interface for the text materials. Problems due to OCR errors and spelling variants are addressed with a fuzzy string matching algorithm trying to guess corresponding words in a lexicon, and giving suggestions for corrected words forms. References between texts in the library as well as links between the library and external knowledge sources are formed by using shared ontologies for semantic annotations.


Eero Hyvönen, Olli Alm and Heini Kuittinen: Using an Ontology of Historical Events in Semantic Portals for Cultural Heritage. Proceedings of the Cultural Heritage on the Semantic Web Workshop at the 6th International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC 2007), Busan, Korea, November 12, 2007. bib pdf
We argue that an ontology of historical events is needed in semantic portals for cultural heritage due to three reasons. First, ontological identifiers (URIs) of events, such as the World War II or coronation of Napoleon, are needed in order to make collection metadata mutually interoperable in terms of related events---in the vein as identifiers are needed for identifying artifact types, persons, and geolocations when annotating collection items. Second, events are of central importance in creating semantic links between cultural contents in applications such as recommendation systems. Third, historical events are important as content items of their own, forming the backbone of chronological histories.
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