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Reassembling the Republic of Letters:
LetterSampo - Early Modern Letters on the Semantic Web

Background - Republic of Letters

SeCo participated in the Digital Humanities EU COST action Reassembling the Republic of Letters 1500-1800, 2014-2018, lead by prof. Howard Hotson (University of Oxford) and Dr. Thomas Wallnig (Universität Wien). Eero Hyvönen (Aalto University and University of Helsinki (HELDIG)) lead the Work Group 2 People and Networks in the initiative involving over 30 countries. Related to this topic, there was also the project Cultures of Knowledge, phase III (2015-2017), at Oxford where SeCo collaborated with Oxford and Stanford University with the goal of designing a Linked (Open) Data infrastructure, linked data service, and tooling for the underlying humanist scholarly community, based on the data harvested in the Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) database and portal.

LetterSampo - Republic of Letters on the Semantic Web

Based on the EMLO Linked Data service prototype and the Bio CRM data model, the next step was designing and implementing a prototype semantic portal that supports Digital Humanities research on epistolary data. The goal is to develop a prototype called "LetterSampo - Republic of Letters on the Semantic Web", based on the Sampo" model and Sampo-UI" framework. LetterSampo is a new member in the Sampo series of semantic portals, a sister to, e.g., the Mapping Manuscript Migrations service of medieval and Renaissance manuscipts, and BiographySampo for biographical and prosopographical research.

For a presentation and demonstration of the 1. version of "LetterSampo - Republic of Letters on the Semantic Web", see the video below:

LetterSampo from SeCo Research Group on Vimeo.

In addition to collaborating with the EMLO developers and the Republic of Letters data providers, we collaborate here with the network scientists prof. Mikko Kivelä and Javier Urena Carrion of Aalto University, whose network analysis tooling will be integrated and used as part of the LetterSampo system.

At the moment, the EMLO data is not openly available due to copyright issues, but if these issues can be resolved, the Linked Data and data service can be opened for the research community and the public.

Contact Persons

Prof. Eero Hyvönen, Aalto University and University of Helsinki

Dr. Jouni Tuominen, Aalto University and University of Helsinki

Petri Leskinen, Aalto University

Publications

2020

Eero Hyvönen: Sampo Model and Semantic Portals for Digital Humanities on the Semantic Web. DHN 2020 Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries. Proceedings of the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 5th Conference, pp. 373-378, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, vol. 2612, Riga, Latvia, October, 2020. bib pdf link
Esko Ikkala, Eero Hyvönen, Heikki Rantala and Mikko Koho: Sampo-UI: A Full Stack JavaScript Framework for Developing Semantic Portal User Interfaces. May, 2020. Submitted. bib pdf link

2019

Eero Hyvönen, Ruth Ahnert, Sebastian E. Ahnert, Jouni Tuominen, Eetu Mäkelä, Miranda Lewis and Gertjan Filarski: Reconciling metadata. Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age (H. Hotson and T. Wallnig (eds.)), pp. 223-235, Göttingen University Press, 2019. bib link
Howard Hotson and Eero Hyvönen: Topics. Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age (H. Hotson and T. Wallnig (eds.)), pp. 137-148, Göttingen University Press, 2019. bib link
Howard Hotson, Thomas Wallnig, Jouni Tuominen, Eetu Mäkelä, and Eero Hyvönen: People. Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age (H. Hotson and T. Wallnig (eds.)), pp. 119-136, Göttingen University Press, 2019. bib link

2018

Jouni Tuominen, Eero Hyvönen and Petri Leskinen: Bio CRM: A Data Model for Representing Biographical Data for Prosopographical Research. Proceedings of the Second Conference on Biographical Data in a Digital World 2017 (BD2017), vol. 2119, pp. 59-66, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Linz, Austria, 2018. bib pdf link
Biographies make a promising application case of Linked Data: they can be used, e.g., as a basis for Digital Humanities research in prosopography and as a key data and linking resource in semantic Cultural Heritage (CH) portals. In both use cases, a semantic data model for harmonizing and interlinking heterogeneous data from different sources is needed. This paper presents such a data model, Bio CRM, with the following key ideas: 1) The model is a domain specific extension of CIDOC CRM, making it applicable to not only biographical data but to other CH data, too. 2) The model makes a distinction between enduring unary roles of actors, their enduring binary relationships, and perduing events, where the participants can take different roles modeled as a role concept hierarchy. 3) The model can be used as a basis for semantic data validation and enrichment by reasoning. 4) The enriched data conforming to Bio CRM is targeted to be used by SPARQL queries in a flexible ways using a hierarchy of roles in which participants can be involved in events.
Jouni Tuominen, Eetu Mäkelä, Eero Hyvönen, Arno Bosse, Miranda Lewis and Howard Hotson: Reassembling the Republic of Letters - A Linked Data Approach. Proceedings of the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 3rd Conference (DHN 2018), pp. 76-88, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, vol. 2084, Helsinki, Finland, March, 2018. bib pdf link
Between 1500 and 1800, a revolution in postal communication allowed ordinary men and women to scatter letters across and beyond Europe. This exchange helped knit together what contemporaries called the respublica litteraria, Republic of Letters, a knowledge-based civil society, crucial to that era’s intellectual breakthroughs, and formative of many modern European values and institutions. To enable effective Digital Humanities research on the epistolary data distributed in different countries and collections, metadata about the letters have been aggregated, harmonised, and provided for the research community through the Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) service. This paper discusses the idea and benefits of using Linked Data as a basis for the next digital framework of EMLO, and presents experiences of a first demonstrational implementation of such a system.

2017

Jouni Tuominen, Eero Hyvönen and Petri Leskinen: Bio CRM: A Data Model for Representing Biographical Data for Prosopographical Research. Biographical Data in a Digital World 2017 (BD2017), Linz, Austria, November, 2017. bib pdf link
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