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 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, 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 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 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).

   ?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.