Thursday, January 15, 2015

Coinage of the Roman Republic Online: Something for Roman Numismatists to “CRRO” about



Today, in collaboration with the British Museum and the Münzkabinett of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the ANS launches another major new tool to aid in the identification, research and cataloging of the coins of the ancient world. 

Coinage of the Roman Republic Online (CRRO) continues the precedent set by Online Coins of the Roman Empire (OCRE) in presenting, in an easily searchable form, all the varieties of the coinage issued in the Roman Republic. Six online collections containing over 20,000 specimens of Roman Republican coinage spread across 2,300 coin types, in addition to hundreds of hoards from Coin Hoard of the Roman Republic (CHRR) and additional individual findspots provided by Berlin are now available for research. 

The site presents a basic description of each published variety based on Michael Crawford’s 1974 publication Roman Republican Coinage (RRC), which remains the primary typology used for the identification of Roman Republican coin types. Since its publication there have been significant revisions to the dating of the series following the discovery of new hoards, but no attempt has been made to reflect these, or to make any other amendments to the published typology at this stage. 

The descriptions are based on the typology set out in RRC, but have been modified to meet the standards of the British Museum’s collection management system by Eleanor Ghey and Ian Leins. These were previously published in Ghey and Leins 2010, which forms an update to the 1910 catalogue of the collection by Grueber. Additional types not in the British Museum’s collection were added to this database by Richard Witschonke of the ANS. 

Many of these coin types are linked to specimens present in the British Museum’s collection, Münzkabinett of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the ANS, and elsewhere, and where available, to images. Searches are made straightforward through a series of facets, presented in a way that will already be familiar to users of other ANS search tools. Traditional searches of familiar numismatic categories such as obverse and reverse legends and types are provided, as well as the ability to search by deity, in the hope that CRRO will provide an identification tool useful to collectors, dealers, curators, and field archaeologists. Researchers can now list all coin types found within a country and any regional division below the country (E.g., Liguria, down to the town or city). 

ANS database developer, Ethan Gruber, says that, "like OCRE and all of our other digital projects at the ANS, CRRO uses Linked Open Data methodologies to aggregate information from disparate institutions and present the information in an interface available in more than 10 languages with advanced mapping and metrical analysis features. CRRO is a fully functional research portal for Roman Republican numismatics." 

The ANS acknowledges the contribution of Michael Crawford to the project, and also thanks Michael Sharp of Cambridge University Press for allowing us to use the numbering system of Roman Republican Coinage. 

For further information contact Joanne Isaac or call (212) 571 4470 ext. 112.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Berlin Joins OCRE Project

We are kicking off the new year with a major breakthrough in the Online Coins of the Roman Empire project. Yesterday, I received a data dump of LIDO/XML of Roman imperial coins from the Berlin Münzkabinett, for which I wrote two PHP scripts: the first to create a concordance between their reference field and coin type URIs in OCRE, and the second to iterate through their dump to create RDF that I just ingested into Nomisma.org's SPARQL endpoint. Nearly all of Berlin's coins are photographed, and all contain axes, weights, and diameters which are available for metrical analysis through OCRE visualization interface (http://numismatics.org/ocre/visualize).

In the week before the holiday, we completed RIC Volume IV, covering all Roman emperors through Uranius Antoninus (A.D. 254). There are now more than 21,000 coin types available in OCRE, with physical specimens from the British Museum and Berlin now linked in through Uranius. We are waiting on some updates from Mantis in order to link in ANS coins for Trebonianus Gallus, Trajan Decius, and a few others. We also expect a batch of photographs for several thousand coins in the coming weeks.

We should be moving into RIC V by next month.

edit (12 Jan. 2015):

All of Berlin's coins in OCRE come with photographs, but the current number (3,620) is not representative of all of Berlin's Roman imperial coins. Only those which have been photographed are published to the database online.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Near term progress in digital numismatics

Looking Back

As we close out 2014, we can reflect on a tremendous amount of progress we have made with respect to Nomisma.org and other digital numismatic projects at the American Numismatic Society. Numishare's front end has been migrated from Cocoon to Orbeon, which will enable a wider variety of current and future web standards, and the user interface was migrated into Bootstrap 3 last spring. The new version of Mantis was launched a few months ago, immediately following the release of a new project, The Art of Devastation, which is a type corpus of World War I medals. The first of the Edward T. Newell Greek numismatic research notebooks have gone online, annotated to link to other resources (monographs, coins in the ANS collection, and other researchers) by means of LOD technologies. The new version of the ANS archives, Archer, has gone online, employing SPARQL to link to another new project, the ANS Biographies (a production installation of EAC-CPF software, xEAC). In OCRE, we have completed volume IV of RIC, from Septimius Severus to Uranius Antoninus. More than 12,000 coins from the British Museum have been ingested into the Nomisma triplestore to be made available in OCRE (with many thanks to Eleanor Ghey from the BM for providing data dumps in spreadsheets that have allowed me to create a concordance between their coins in OCRE URIs). The new Bootstrap 3 version of OCRE launched into production last February, the first of the Numishare projects migrated into that stylistic framework (therefore, enabling out-of-the-box scaling for mobile devices), and in late March of 2014, we received $300,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to complete the project over the next three years. Finally, much progress has been made in the development of a formal RDF ontology for numismatics, in conjunction with an architectural re-write of Nomisma.org, which has been in development for much of the year.

Looking Forward

We are going to be making at least as much progress in 2015 as 2014, especially in the first few months of the year. The new Nomisma.org framework will be released by the end of January. It will be fully compliant to the latest standards and protocols for a linked data publication framework. The data model for IDs will be revised significantly. SKOS will play a much larger role in linking instances together (via skos:broader), and the instances will conform to formal classes from the Nomisma ontology. The editing interface for concepts will be opened up to a wider editing team, and I foresee many more URIs minted this year, especially outside the realm of ancient numismatics. There is a large demand for greater representation of Medieval and Islamic URIs. The editing interface includes improved lookup mechanisms for linking Nomisma concepts to matching terms in other vocabulary systems, like VIAF and the Getty thesauri.

The main bottleneck for the release of the new version of Nomisma lies in the creation of URIs for Roman Republican moneyers. RRC and IGCH URIs are going to be spun off into separate projects, maintained by specialists are are focused on the curation of those datasets. As a result, the existing RRC URIs in Nomisma must redirect to URIs in a new domain name. Additionally, RRC URIs are used in production in several different projects, so those projects must transition to the new RRC Online URIs before the URIs are deprecated in the http://nomisma.org/id/ namespace. Before RRC Online can launch, the Republican moneyers must have URIs in Nomisma. I expect to have the list verified by the end of the week so that we can move forward with publishing the moneyers in Nomisma either by this Friday or the first week of January. RRC Online (which will function exactly like OCRE, but focused on Roman Republican coinage) will launch soon after. We already have more than 10,000 coins from  the ANS and British Museum ready to be linked into RRC Online, in addition to several hundred coins from The University of Virginia Art Museum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and University College Dublin. After the launch of RRC Online, we will move the new version of Nomisma into production by the end of January. By the time we meet in April in Berlin to discuss the Online Greek Corpus and Poland to discuss the European Coin Find Network, we should have transitioned all projects to use the new Nomisma ontology, which Karsten Tolle has been working on over the last one to two years. A draft of the Nomisma documentation should be available in time for these meetings.

We have a number of longer term Greek numismatic projects coming down the pike. As part of the Online Greek Corpus, we are going to work on standardizing Seleucid and Alexandrian types within the ANS database, as well as work on improving IGCH, which will function as a standalone Greek coin hoard research tool, much like Coin Hoards of the Roman Republic. The digital IGCH will serve as an important bridge between Greek coins in the ANS collection and associated bibliographic references. We hope to show serious progress with respect to Greek projects in time for the INC meeting in Taormina in late September.

Finally, over the course of 2015 and extending a few years into the future, we are going to work on systematically cleaning up the ANS collection database, linking denominations, materials, people, etc. to URIs in Nomisma, the Getty thesauri, VIAF, etc. whenever applicable. This will dramatically improve the usefulness of Mantis, which is often limited due to inconsistency in data entry and utter lack of controlled vocabulary. Furthermore, we are going to work on improving the bibliographic references, making it easier to traverse from Mantis to Donum (the ANS library catalog), Worldcat, JSTOR, etc. to access further information. Mantis will grow into a more useful numismatic research portal over time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Extending Nomisma for spatial queries

I have recently worked on extending the geographic query functionality in the new Nomisma prototype. It took a few days of fiddling around and testing, but it was altogether a painless operation. First it required reading the (excellent) spatial query documentation for Apache Fuseki, which is the SPARQL endpoint that we have been using in Nomisma for nearly two years. I actually had not upgraded Fuseki since launching it into production in the early months of 2013, and so I had to update from 0.2 to 1.1 across the board in order to enable spatial queries--on the Nomisma production server, on the American Numismatic Society production server (Fuseki powers the interlinking of the Society's archival records in Archer), and on my two development machines at home.

Fuseki's configuration can be extended to use Lucene or Solr as the spatial index. The latter made a lot of sense because Solr is already an integral part of the architecture of most of our digital projects. The Solr index in Nomisma powers the basic facet-based search/browse interface and the Atom feed. I found an older email on the Jena list with an example configuration TTL file that I was able to modify.

After successfully configuring the spatial index, I initially learned that I was not able to use my current index for extending Fuseki. That is because only main Nomisma concepts are indexed, and not the geo:SpatialThing objects associated with mints and regions. The browse interface would be confusing if you received results for both nm:rome and nm:rome#this, the geographic feature associated with the concept of the mint of Rome. As a result, I spun up a new index for storing the URIs and coordinates for the geo:SpatialThings only, and this facilitated spatial queries that delivered results that I expected.

This is a dramatic leap forward in the types of geographic queries we can do in Nomisma, as we can get query results within a bounding box or within a certain distance of a point. Once we begin connecting larger numbers of coins with findspots into the system, we'll be able to do heatmaps showing geographic distribution and a variety of other visualizations. If we ingest other forms of GIS data, such as roads, springs, shrines, etc., we can query for hoards and finds within X meters of the geographic feature.

The example below is a query that will get mints within 50 km of Athens (by giving the lat and long of the city).

SELECT * WHERE {
   ?loc spatial:nearby (37.974722 23.7225 50 'km') .
   ?mint geo:location ?loc ;
         skos:prefLabel ?label .
  FILTER langMatches (lang(?label), 'en')


You can test it yourself in the Nomisma prototype.

Friday, November 7, 2014

New version of Mantis released

Following the migration of Numishare's public user interface from Apache Cocoon to Orbeon, the American Numismatic Society's collection database, Mantis, has now been updated and deployed into production. The new version of Mantis take advantage of new user interface developments incorporated into Numishare since the winter--namely HTML5 + Bootstrap 3, which makes the site work equally well on mobile devices as desktops and laptops.

While much of the functionality has remained the same despite the noticeable visual facelift, the migration to Orbeon has enabled some new data export features, which follow advances in modern web publishing frameworks. Data are available in Turtle and JSON-LD in addition to RDF/XML. These serializations are available through REST URIs. They are also accessible via content negotiation, made possible by Orbeon's XML Pipeline Language (XPL). I won't go into further detail, as I already discussed this in a previous blog post. However, Mantis now has an APIs page with documentation on how to access data (as do all other Numishare projects). I plan to improve this documentation in the near future to include more information about our Solr schema and fields available for query, including some pretty advanced examples.

Over the last week, I migrated Coin Hoards of the Roman Republic, OCRE, and AoD to the Orbeon-based Numishare in production. I am pleased to announce that I have deleted Cocoon 2.1.11 from Tomcat on the server. It has served me well as a [mostly] XML developer since 2007, but it's time to move on.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New Emperors Added to OCRE

We have added more than 1,300 new coin types from Gordian III to Trajan Decius into OCRE. We have now surpassed 20,000 types, and are at least half-way finished the publication process.

The British Museum and American Numismatic Society coins from this period have been re-processed and added into the Nomisma RDF triplestore. The University of Virginia coins will be republished momentarily, giving the project a few dozen more coins from published British coin hoards. At present, there are more than 14,000 physical specimens from the ANS and nearly 13,000 coins from the BM accessible through OCRE.

Many of the BM coins from this lot have findspots (many found in hoards excavated in Britain over the last 30-40 years, e.g., http://numismatics.org/ocre/id/ric.4.gor_iii.6), but unforunately the findspots data in the British Museum's SPARQL endpoint do not contain machine readable geographic coordinates. Hopefully the BM data may be enhanced to improve the geographic usefulness in OCRE eventually.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Numishare Migrated from Cocoon 2.1.11 to Orbeon

Over the past few weeks, I have been working on migrating Numishare's public user interface from Cocoon 2.1.11 to Orbeon. While Cocoon has been capable of delivering most of the functionality integral to Numishare, it is time to move on. Cocoon has been part of Numishare's application stack since before Numishare really even became a reusable framework; it dates back to the development of the University of Virginia Art Museum Numismatic Collection website back in 2007. Since this date, Cocoon has seen the release of 2.2 (dramatically different than 2.1.11), and has been stuck in a 3.0 alpha for more than three years. In fact, the most recent release of any version of Cocoon is 2.1.12. The application has served the cultural heritage community well for years, but let's admit it, Cocoon is dead. It has been dead for years, and I've been keeping Numishare going with duct tape and bubble gum for far too long. In fact, you have to change one of Cocoon 2.1.11's out-of-the-box settings to even support native UTF-8, resulting in garbled responses from Solr.

Although Cocoon has run its course, XML technology is still quite powerful, and has gotten a shot in the arm with the new XQuery/XPath 3.0 and XForms 2.0 specs, which will support JSON processing, among other new features. Orbeon's XML Pipeline Language (XPL) is quite robust, and Orbeon has been powering the user interface for all of my other projects for quite a few years (xEAC [see: http://numismatics.org/authorities/], EADitor [see: http://numismatics.org/archives/], the new [yet-to-be-released] Nomisma.org, and Kerameikos.org).

All of the functionality built in Cocoon's pipelines have been ported into Orbeon's XPL, which is now a better MVC framework. Furthermore, XPL and Orbeon processors enable a variety of modern HTTP features that are employed for the semantic web. All pages are HTML5, and record pages now include RDFa to embed Nomisma properties.

It is now much easier to deliver linked data in RDF/Turtle and JSON-LD. Numishare supports content negotiation to receive individual record metadata in NUDS/XML, RDF/XML, Turtle, JSON-LD (all three in Nomisma's model and ontology), and KML in the appropriate content-type; search results are available in Atom by requesting 'application/atom+xml' or raw Solr XML by requesting 'application/xml' in the Accept header. I have not included it yet, but the Pelagios linked data will also be made available in TTL and JSON-LD in addition to RDF/XML. The multilingual interface will be more dynamic, as we can make use of the browser language passed through the request header rather than relying on the 'lang' URL parameter. Finally, I have introduced an 'apis' page (linked from the navigation menu), which lists available APIs (just one now, to aggregate NUDS records into a single model) and relevant documentation. There are a number of features that have yet to be added, but Orbeon provides a path for implementation that Cocoon simply does not.

Most of the projects on our test server have already been migrated into the new version of Numishare. Once I have ported the stylistic themes from OCRE, AoD, CHRR, and Mantis, I will work on pushing the new Orbeon-based Numishare into production.