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Linked Open Data Infrastructure for Digital Humanities in Finland

Project Goals

Digital Humanities (DH) is a major new research paradigm at the crossroads of computing, humanities, and social sciences. The main idea is to develop and use novel computational methods, such as data analysis, topic modeling, visualization, network analysis, deep learning, and artificial intelligence, to solve research problems in Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) based on big data that is becoming available as a result of digitalization of the society.

DH matches well with the multidisciplinary strategy of Aalto, and there are indeed DH research activities in five Aalto schools (Science; Arts, Design and Architechture; Engineering; Electrical Engineering; Business). At the University of Helsinki (UH), the Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities HELDIG was recently established as a major strategic profiling action of the university with eight new HELDIG professors nominated in six faculties, and a 10MEUR budget for 2016-2020. There are substantial DH actives also in other Finnish universities, such as the University of Turku and Univerisity of Tampere, and in major Cultural Heritage (CH) and media organizations, such as the National Library, National Archives, Finnish Heritage Agency (Museovirasto), Finnish Literature Society (SKS), National Broadcasting Company Yle, and many others. In EU, DH research infrastructure work is coordinated by the EU ERIC DARIAH -- Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities Aalto and UH have joined into DARIAH as co-operative partners.

LODI4DH is a joint initiative of Aalto University, Department of Computer Science, and University of Helsinki, HELDIG Centre for Digital Humanities, for creating centralized national Linked Data services for open science. The services enable publication and utilization of datasets for data-intensive DH research in structured, standardized formats via open interfaces. LODI4DH is based on the large collaboration network and software created during a long line of national projects in DH between UH and Aalto since 2002 that created several in-use infrastructure prototypes, such as the ONKI ontology service, Finto ontology service at the National Library of Finland (that deployed SKOS-based parts of ONKI as a national service, and has been developing them further), and Linked Data Finland platform LDF.fi. This line of research started with the national FinnONTO project series (2003-2012) on creating a national ontology infrastructure in Finland, and has continued with, e.g., the projects Linked Data Finland (2012-2014) and Linked Open Data Science Service by the SeCo group at Aalto University and University of Helsinki.

ONKI/Finto and LDF.fi already have had a wide user base demonstrating the need for the LODI4DH infrastructure. Applications based on them have also made their way from academic research into real use. For example, the BookSampo system, based originally on LDF.fi and maintained now by the Finnish public libraries (Kirjastot.fi), had 1.6 million visitors in 2016, the WarSampo system had 130 000 distinct users in 2017, and there are tens of thousands of users in the Finto service of the National Library of Finland, based on the ONKI prototype. Many museums in Finland, e.g., Espoo City Museum, AKSELI Consortium of 8 museums, and the new national KOOKOS cataloging system make use of the ONKI ontologies. In addition to the Finnish projects, there are several ongoing research projects with international universities, such as Oxford, Stanford, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, where the Finnish Linked Data services for DH are already in use. LODI4DH focuses on DH research infrastructures but the underlying Linked Data and Semantic Web technology can and has been utilized in other fields of research, too, extending substantially the utilization potential of the infrastructure.

LODI4DH aims at harnessessing all this work into sustainable national services, and integrating the work as a component into the EU ERIC DARIAH infrastructure. LODI4DH infrastructure is open source, publishes open data, and is free of charge for everyone to use.

LODI4DH Components

Domain Ontologies for Data Linking

Data from collaborating organizations is aggregated into shared open shared domain ontologies for 1) historical places and maps, 2) historical persons, 3) events, 4) keyword concepts, and 5) times. These core ontologies, provided as web services, are used as “semantic glue” in data linking and fusion.

Historical Places and Maps

As for historical places and maps, our work aims at developing the Finnish Ontology Service of Historical Places and Maps (Hipla), cf. the demonstrator Hipla.fi.

Historical Persons

This work started already in FinnONTO, and has been revitalized in the context of building the National Semantic Biography of Finland and related other biographical systems, see Semantic Biographies Based on Linked Data.

Historical Events

This line of research in LODI4DH builds upon our work on History on the Semantic Web, with applications such as WarSampo -- Finnish WW2 on the Semantic Web.

Historical Keyword Concepts

When developing ONKI and Finto, lots of Finnish keyword thesauri were converted and developed further into RDFS and SKOS ontologies, interlinked into a global linked data cloud called the KOKO, and published as ontology services. However, more work is needed here, for example, is areas such as archeology, built enviroments, history, and law.

Historical Times

LODI4DH creates a time ontology for making references to historical times and periods of time, including names of time periods. Services for calendar date conversion will be included in the system. Here results from international projects can be utilized.

Harmonizing Metadata Models

The project works on developing harmonizing metadata models for representing semantic data, such as Bio CRM for extending CIDOC CRM to representing biographical data.

Core Datasets

We also work on publishing and sharing interlinked core datasets, that are deemed to be useful in different research projects and applications. These dataset are expected to evolve into a kind of Finnish Linked Open Data Cloud. Work has started on, e.g., the following datasets: Linked Open Name Archive, based on data about 2.7 million place names provided by the Institute for the Languages in Finland (Kotus); Semantic National Biography, based on over 13 000 biographies of prominent Finns edited by the Finnish Literature Society (SKS); WarSampo datatsets related to WW2 history, provided by the National Archives of Finland, Defence Forces, and others; University of Helsinki Person Registry (1640-2000), provided by the University of Helsinki Archives; Semantic Finlex legislation and case law data, provided by the Ministry of Justice.

Linked Data Services

As for the publishing platform, the Linked Data Finland platform is used and developed further with additional services for DH data production, publishing, data analysis, and visualization.

Learning Materials

We also produce educational online materials, developing, e.g., the Linked Data School LinDa, for using Linked Data technology in DH research and application development.

Contact Persons

Prof. Eero Hyvönen, Aalto University and University of Helsinki (HELDIG)

Dr. Jouni Tuominen, University of Helsinki (HELDIG) and Aalto University


An overview of the project is presented in these slides.


Mikko Koho, Esko Ikkala and Eero Hyvönen: How to Maintain a Linked Data Cloud in a Deployed Semantic Portal. Proceedings of the ISWC 2018 Posters & Demonstrations, Industry and Blue Sky Ideas Tracks, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Monterey, California, USA, October, 2018. Vol 2180. bib pdf link
Mikko Koho, Esko Ikkala, Erkki Heino and Eero Hyvönen: Maintaining a Linked Data Cloud and Data Service for Second World War History. Digital Heritage. Progress in Cultural Heritage: Documentation, Preservation, and Protection. 7th International Conference, EuroMed 2018, Nicosia, Cyprus, vol. 11196, Springer-Verlag, October-November, 2018. bib pdf link
Mikko Koho, Erkki Heino, Arttu Oksanen and Eero Hyvönen: Toffee - Semantic Media Search Using Topic Modeling and Relevance Feedback. Proceedings of the ISWC 2018 Posters & Demonstrations, Industry and Blue Sky Ideas Tracks, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Monterey, California, USA, October, 2018. Vol 2180. bib pdf link
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