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:], EADitor [see:], the new [yet-to-be-released], and

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.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Report from SemTechBiz + Getty TGN in

I spent last week in San Jose, attending the Semantic Technology and Business conference, where I participated in a LODLAM-sponsored workshop aimed at providing an introduction to linked open data technologies to a library, archive, and museum audience.

I was asked to provide a somewhat hands-on demo of SPARQL. My presentation, from 0 to 60 on SPARQL queries in 50 minutes provided a brief outline of the sorts of linked data methodologies we're employing in our numismatic projects--particularly and OCRE--and the SPARQL queries that make them possible. I started fairly simply and built up to more complex queries of weight analysis and geographic distribution of coin types. By downloading SPARQL queries with geographic data as a CSV file from the endpoint, I was able to import the CSV directly into Google Fusion tables to generate maps. I have placed the content of the slideshow up on Dropbox as a PDF.

The audience consisted mainly of cultural heritage professionals, although there were some industry professionals in attendance. The feedback I received was positive overall (judging by the Twitter stream, in any case), but I did receive comment about the model and ontology (or lack thereof) that we have employed in Rest assured that we are working on a formal ontology and refined data model that conforms to data/computer science standards. No more URIs used simultaneously as classes, properties, and instances!

On another note, the Getty Museum announced last week the release of their Thesaurus of Geographic Names as linked open data (following the Art and Architecture Thesaurus). I have extended the nomisma editing interface (as well as the one) to enable Getty TGN lookups for mints and regions in order to link nomisma ids with Getty ones. Through this mechanism, we can establish links between Pleiades and TGN places, although there are certainly more ancient places in Pleiades than in nomisma, which are purely numismatic.

The text search yields a response of matches from the Getty SPARQL endpoint. The user can read the scope note for further context about the use of the TGN id and make the appropriate selection of skos:exactMatch or skos:relatedMatch.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Art of Devastation: A Web-based Catalogue of First World War Medallic Art

As part of its commemoration of the centennial of the First World War, the American Numismatic Society announces the launch of Art of Devastation ( an important new web-based research catalogue of the thousands of art medals, commemorative medals and tokens produced in response to this major conflict.

Directed by Dr. Peter van Alfen, with assistance from Sylvia Karges, Art of Devastation aims to be the first comprehensive catalogue of this abundant and varied material, one that takes full advantage of the web environment and linked open data. Intended to help identify medals and tokens in users’ hands, Art of Devastation offers unique catalogue numbers for types and variants for future referencing, and illustrates, where possible, multiple examples for comparison. Mapping tools allow users to locate where the item was created, and where the events associated with it took place. Links to other websites, such as Wikipedia, take users to entries discussing the artist who created the item, as well as the people, events, and things, like the weapons or symbols depicted on it. In addition to serving as an identification and learning resource, Art of Devastation provides easy access for non-numismatists to an important, yet often overlooked body of primary evidence from the Great War.

Before the War began, medals and tokens had served for centuries as a significant means of communication where easy and durable forms of mass communication did not exist. Whether issued by states, organizations, or individuals, their commemorative and propagandistic function was already well known and understood. Increasingly, by the turn of the century, the medal had also become an important medium of more reflective and private artistic expression. Art medals could be distinguished from traditional types of medals by their frequent lack of words, non-elite representation, greater emotional intimacy, experimental shapes, and cast production rather than striking. During the War, these various public and private functions continued, converged, and were greatly intensified by the enormity of the conflict. Thousands of different types of medals and tokens were produced on both sides, consuming scarce metallic resources. This outlay underscores the fundamental role that these items played in feting heroes, marshaling support, directing public opinion, and, more poignantly, expressing grief and disgust.

Art of Devastation enables users to explore the range of artistic responses to the War and particular events within it. The sinking of the Cunard passenger liner RMS Lusitania by the German submarine SM U-20 on May 7th 1915, for example, attracted considerable artistic output on both sides of the conflict. René Baudichon, a French artist, responded with a medal with themes paralleling those of Allied atrocity propaganda, depicting a drowning child avenged by Ultrix America, the Statue of Liberty with a sword.

On the German side, the emotions were more complicated. The artists Karl Goetz and Walther Eberbach derided Allied hypocrisy on purported bans on armament shipments on passenger liners with their satirical takes on the sinking, while Ludwig Gies cast enmities aside to focus solely on the human tragedy of the event.

The creation of this new web tool is the work of ANS database developer Ethan Gruber. At launch, Art of Devastation incorporates the roughly 1,400 relevant items in the ANS’s collection. In collaboration with other institutions, such as the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Royal Library of Belgium, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the catalogue will continue to expand.

The project director, Dr. Peter van Alfen, is available to discuss Art of Devastation by phone or email:

212-517-4470, ext. 153,

Links to Illustrations:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

OCRE updates: coin types through Pupienus added

There are a few significant updates to report with OCRE (Online Coins of the Roman Empire). First, we have added all of the coin types through Pupienus (A.D. 238). There are now more than 19,000 Roman imperial coin types represented in OCRE. I have also generated new RDF dumps from both the ANS and British Museum collections, so we now have physical specimens (including images in some cases) for these new types. The last update from the ANS is from Septimius Severus, I believe, so we added thousands more physical coins into the triplestore that power's OCRE's linking. There are about 25,000 physical objects linked to types defined on OCRE. The new Contributors page is a dynamic representation of collections that have submitted data into the triplestore. The University of Virginia collection has been updated to link a few coins of Severus Alexander and Maximinus Thrax into OCRE. Two of these are from the Oliver's Orchard Hoards, a large hoard excavated in Britain in the 1980s. About half of UVA's collection comes from this hoard, and so there will be more georeferenced coins added into the system eventually, as we make our way through the Crisis of the Third Century. As such, the two coins of Severus Alexander from this hoard, published in the UVA collection, are the first two physical objects available in OCRE that have attested findspots.

Importantly, OCRE has been migrated to the newest version of Numishare. OCRE is functionally the same as before, but the query process for displaying thumbnails on search results pages is more efficient. Pages will load slightly faster while browsing the collection. This migration also means that the new version of the project uses the Bootstrap framework, which means that the site is responsive, functionally equally as well on mobile devices as on desktop ones.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

British Museum Coins in OCRE

With many thanks to Eleanor Ghey in the British Museum Coins & Medals department for providing spreadsheet dumps of the BM's imperial coins from Augustus through the end of RIC Volume 4, I was able to match more than 11,000 coins from Augustus to Elegabalus to URIs defining Roman imperial coin types in OCRE. After these matches were made, another script queried the British Museum's SPARQL endpoint to generate a large RDF file conforming to's model. Most coins include die axis, weight, and diameter. Many (if not most) also include links to images. These measurements are now available for the quantitative analysis feature in Numishare, resulting in generally more accurate queries.

There are now roughly 20,000 coins hooked into OCRE from four collections: the ANS, British Museum, Berlin, and the University of Virginia Art Museum. We do expect to incorporate larger numbers from Berlin and the Bibliothèque Nationale in the future, as well as from some large scale finds databases like the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the European Coin Find Network. The floodgates will soon open in providing data and research tools to a wide audience of students, scholars, and generally interested parties to visualization information and ask questions of the data that were not previously possible.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Caracalla through Elagabalus published to OCRE

All of the types from Caracalla through Elagabalus have been published to OCRE. Additionally, the University of Virginia Art Museum collection has been re-published into the triplestore. The number is small, but there are four coins in this batch from UVA (see for example). So far, there is no coverage from the ANS collection, but we hope to make these coins available in OCRE by the end of next week.  Additionally, I expect to have most or all of the imperial coins from the British Museum available in OCRE tomorrow or Monday.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

ANS and ISAW Receive Major NEH Grant to Complete OCRE

The American Numismatic Society and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World receive a major grant from the NEH

The American Numismatic Society(ANS) and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World(ISAW) are delighted to announce the receipt of a major grant of $300,000 from the Division of Preservation and Access of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant, made as part of the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program, will provide for the full implementation of the Online Coins of the Roman Empire(OCRE) project.

Co-directed by Dr. Andrew Meadows of the ANS and Professor Roger Bagnall of ISAW and managed by Dr. Gilles Bransbourg, OCRE is a ground breaking initiative to create an online reference and cataloguing tool for coinage of the Roman Empire. Through its use of a Linked Open Data model, OCRE will provide full descriptions and illustrations of the 45,000 different types of Roman Imperial Coinage, as well as providing a union catalogue of specimens held in major collections.  Currently the collections at the ANS in New York, the Bode Museum in Berlin and the University of Virginia Art Museum are included. It is hoped over the lifetime of the project to add the collections of the British Museum in London and the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, as well as other collections as they become available online. 

Within three years, OCRE will also begin to include coin find information from the UK’s Portable Antiquities Scheme and the European Coin Finds Network. OCRE will additionally provide tools to chart the distribution of coin types, and to analyze metrological, stylistic, and typological data on the basis of coins included in the union catalogue.  The OCRE interface is currently fully searchable in eleven languages, rising to twenty over the course of the project.

Through its Linked Data approach, the OCRE project is designed to interact fully with other such initiatives being developed for the Ancient World, including ISAWs existing Pleiades project (, a joint ANS London Institute of Archaeology project to catalogue Coin Hoards of the Roman Republic (, a joint ANS British Museum project to establish a type catalogue of Roman Republican Coinage and Oxford University’s Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire project (

Executive Director of the ANS, Dr. Ute Wartenberg, commented. “The award of this major grant is exciting for the ANS and pays tribute to the hard work and technical skill of the staff involved in the planning of the foundation stage of the project. We also owe a major debt to donors and members of the Society who have supported the project to this point.”

Dr. Bransbourg will give a presentation on the project at the 39th Chicago International Coin Fair in Rosemont, Illinois, on Friday, April 11th, 2014 in the Kennedy Room, during an ANS reception taking place at 5:45 pm through 7:45 pm. He is also available for interview on +1(212)571-4470 ext. 156, or alternatively on +1(347)622-0106.

For more information contact Joanne Isaac at +1(212)571-4470 ext. 112 or

The American Numismatic Society, organized in 1858 and incorporated in 1865 in New York State, operates as a research museum under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is recognized as a publicly supported organization under section 170 (b)(1)(A)(vi) as confirmed on November 1, 1970.