Jul 302010
 

We’ve been a little quiet lately as most of the AddressingHistory team have been taking summer holidays. However AddressingHistory has been much discussed this month:

Nicola presented an AddressingHistory poster at the ARLIS 2010 conference in Edinburgh and debuted our lovely new flyers and posters (do email us if you’d like some of these for your own library, community group, or similar space).

AddressingHistory Flyer

The project also appeared in two National Library of Scotland publications which can be picked up in person from either the George VIth Bridge or Causewayside buildings or can be viewed online:

AH appears on Page 13 of the Summer issue of the Discover NLS magazine:  http://www.nls.uk/about/discover-nls/issues/discover-nls-16.pdf

Discover NLS (July 2010)

AH is also featured on Page 4 of the July issue of Cairt, the newsletter of the Scottish Maps Forum – http://www.nls.uk/collections/maps/subjectinfo/cairt17.pdf

CAIRT (July 2010)

And finally AH is mentioned in the current issue of Practical Family History Magazine on page 9 (that’s us in the fetching lime green on the right hand side of the image below).

practicalfamilyhistory1

Thanks to Chris Fleet at the NLS and to Chris Paton at Practical Family History for the above mentions. We’ve been so excited that so many people are getting excited about AddressingHistory and have heard some amazing stories of family history connections to Edinburgh as we’ve given poster presentations so we’re really looking forward to seeing what happens as you start to use the tool for your own explorations of the past.

We will have more news about the beta tool for you soon: watch this space…

Jul 142010
 

Hello – and welcome to my first post!

I’d like to let everyone know how things are progressing with the software side of AddressingHistory.  I’ve been working on all aspects of AddressingHistory, from the database (at the back-end), storing information from the Post Office Directories, to the public-facing webpages at the front-end.

A large part of the challenge so far has been to take raw text from the Post Office Directories and turn it in to useful, structured data. This is necessary before you, our future users, can search through it – and add your own data!  I’ve created software that parses the Post Office Directory text, extracts the useful information and loads it in to a spatial database (a database with special features to manage geography). For those who are interested, all the software I’ve written is made with Java, using Spring MCV, runs on Apache Tomcat and the database is PostgreSQL with PostGIS extensions.

I’ve written software which allows easy access to the organised, structured information from the Post Office Directories. It’s known as middleware, or an API.

There is a development version of the API available here, where you can change the parameters to search for your own surname, or address:

http://devel.edina.ac.uk:8082/ah/ws/search?surname=Alexander

http://devel.edina.ac.uk:8082/ah/ws/search?profession=baker

You can also search for addressess (using an ‘address=’ parameter) and perform spatial searches on specific areas.  Results are returned in plain-text (comma separated format) or, by default, in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON).

I’ve also been experimenting with Google’s Geocoding API, with some success!  After extracting the address text from each entry in the directories, I send a query to Google’s mapping service in much the same way as you’re probably used to using Google Maps.  It looks as though we can get accurate locations (a process known as ‘geocoding’) for the majority of entries in the Post Office directories.  That will mean we will be asking you to help us locate the small percentage of addresses we cannot automatically geocode, and to help us make sure what we have coded automatically is in the right place. Once we have the coordinates of each entry, they can be shown on a map – and be used to search for results.

So combining the data loaded in the database, the web service to request entries using specific search terms – and the newly geocoded data, we’re able to make some quite interesting maps. For example, this map (unfortunately shown on a modern map of the city for now) is a quick look at the location of some of the bakers, yes, bakers, in Edinburgh, in 1905.

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And here, are all the people with a surname of ‘Alexander’…

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Thanks for reading – there’ll be more soon!

– Joe.

Jul 022010
 

The AddressingHistory team may have been a little quiet lately but we’ve been very busy…

January 2010 Issue of Cairt

January 2010 Issue of Cairt

Joe, our software engineer, has been creating a fantastic beta/test version of the AddressingHistory tool (and as promised in our last post he’ll be writing us a guest blog post on how that has been going).

Stuart has been working with Chris Fleet, at project partner the National Library of Scotland, to create an article on AddressingHistory for Cairt, the Scottish Mapping Forum magazine, which should be out later this month. We will link to the digital copy as soon as it is available. Stuart has also written a piece on the project for the next issue of ALISS Quarterly (due out in August).

Nicola has also been out and about talking about the project. In mid June she gave a presentation to the JISC Regional Support Centres Scotland Web 2.0 Forum for Academic Librarians. The title, “AddressingHistory: Using Social Media to Frame an EDINA Crowd-Sourcing Project“, reflected that the talk looked at how we are using social media – tools including this blog, twitter and facebook – to help build awareness of the project.

ahprezi

Also presenting at this event was Gillian Hanlon of Ask Scotland. They are a real time service for asking librarians in Scotland questions about libraries, research, Scottish heritage questions… almost anything in fact (at the event we Gillian demonstrated the system live by asking a question about Cranachan and the history of this delicious Scottish desert). If you’re interested in giving it a try then take a look at the Ask Scotland website.

Nicola also attended a workshop run by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement in London in mid-June and was excited to hear about a new Micheal Wood TV series for the BBC called “English Story” that will look at the history of a single village, Kibworth in Leicestershire, from it’s earliest origins through to the present day.

Kibworth Church by RATAEDL
Kibworth Church by RATAEDL

The programme makers (MayaVision) are still completing filming and post production so it may be some time before it hits TV screens but the initial glimpses looked fascinating and the wealth of local history knowledge and enthusiasm that the programme makers had found was inspiring. Given how many fascinating events had taken place in this one small village it is also fantastically exciting to think about what we may be able to find out about Edinburgh’s past when the AddressingHistory tool is launched.