Two New Videos on the Historical Post Office Directories

 About AddressingHistory, Project Updates  Comments Off on Two New Videos on the Historical Post Office Directories
Nov 172010
 

We have had various blog posts throughout the last few months that help explain why the historical Post Office Directories that feed into AddressingHistory are so useful. But a few weeks ago we decided we would go one better and go and look around, take some pictures and ask our various project partners and supporters if they wouldn’t mind being on camera. As a result we will be sharing various videos over the next few weeks that explain what the PODs are, why they are useful, how they have been digitised and – my personal favourite – the strange things one can find out from them!

So… why are the Post Office Directories – especially when connected to the map in AddressingHistory – so useful? Richard Rodger, Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Edinburgh and Chris Fleet of the National Library of Scotland have some suggestions:

We know there are lots of reasons why you find the PODs and, hopefully, AddressingHistory so useful and we would love to hear your own comments and thoughts in any format – maybe you could make your own video!

Since we have been working mainly with the data from the Post Office Directories we were excited to be able to photograph and film both the physical PODs and the scanning process that the NLS and the Internet Archive are currently undertaking. Our second video features Zaria and Jamie who are digitising some 600,000 pages of Post Office Directories – they explain the process and show off their scanning kit!

We hope to bring you more videos soon as we have various silly POD highlights to share and our developer Joe has explained the process of turning the PODs and maps into the AddressingHistory website. We will also demonstrate how you edit an entry in AddressingHistory and the kinds of searches and information you can run very shortly. If there is something specific you would like to see or contribute we would love to hear from you.

Recent Presentations, Publications and Website Tweaks

 Presentations and Publications, Project Updates, Site Admin  Comments Off on Recent Presentations, Publications and Website Tweaks
Nov 162010
 

Things have been getting really busy prior to the big AddressingHistory Launch event this week so we thought we would quickly let you know what we’ve been up to.

Publications

We were delighted to be featured on page 8 of the Herald newspaper yesterday (Monday 15th November).

Last month we were also featured, along with the excellent AskScotland project, in IS News: the Newsletter of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland.

You can find information about these and other articles about the project in our new publications area. Do let us know if you have written about AddressingHistory for your local history newsletter, genealogy magazine, etc. and we will be delighted to mention and link to it here.

Recent Presentations

Earlier this month Stuart attended the  RunCoCo Community Collection Online Sustainability and Business Models workshop to give a short presentation on AddressingHistory and to hear about the other exciting projects in the JISC Developing Community Content Programme which we are part of.

In late October Nicola also gave a presentation on AddressingHistory, and how we have been using social media (like this blog), to the CILIPS Autumn Gathering in Dunfermline and was delighted to meet librarians from across Scotland many of whom took AddressingHistory flyers and posters for their libraries and local history groups. Do get in touch with us if you’d like to do the same.

Changes to this Website

In readiness for our launch of the AddressingHistory tool we have been adding and changing a few things around here. We have added two new pages for Presentations and Press.

The Presentations page lists and links to the presentations we have been giving on the project – including numerous mentions of our wonderful blog readers and community around the project. The Press page has been prepared for journalists, bloggers and others who want to write about the project. There are links here to information about the project, the project partners and our new collection of images associated with the project.

There are a few other smaller changes to the website:

  • AddressingHistory Launch Event link added – this is a new area of the website for all things launch related. If you are in Edinburgh and can make it along or if you would like to read blog posts and live blogging from the event then this is the place to click.
  • Flickr link added – AddressingHistory is proud to announce our new Flickr account. Here you will find images of the physical Post Office Directories and maps which AddressingHistory will be making available online. We will also be adding images from our launch event, screen captures of the tool, and other images we think may be of interest to you or to people writing about the project.
  • AddressingHistory API Google Group link added – we have recently set up this Google Group (an easy to use email list)  for those interested in using the API (Application Programming Interface) for AddressingHistory for their own websites, projects, or mashups.

You can view all of these changes on the site or see our annotated image below:

Previews of Forthcoming Attractions

Over the next few days we will also be adding:

  • A link to the AddressingHistory tool ready for tomorrow’s launch.
  • AddressingHistory Badges for you to add to your own website or blog.
  • Videos about the AddressingHistory project.

We also hope to add some guest postings from our first users of AddressingHistory – we’d love to hear what you think of it, what you have been researching with it or anything really interesting you’ve found out through the historical directories. Do drop us an email (addressing.history@ed.ac.uk) if you would be interested in contributing.

Nov 122010
 

Extremely exciting news: today we are making a limited number of tickets available to our fantastic AddressingHistory Launch Event taking place next Wednesday (17th November).

We hope that you will be able to join us to celebrate not only the launch of our AddressingHistory online tool but also to celebrate the rich history and historical resources of Scotland. The programme for the event includes some fantastic speakers and will highlight some really fantastic resources and projects around local, family and Scottish history.

You can reserve your (free) place via our booking page (http://addressinghistorylaunch.eventbrite.com) and we recommend doing this as soon as possible as our venue has a strictly limited capacity and we anticipate significant interest from local historians, genealogists and academics.

If you cannot join us on the day (we know that you, our lovely readers, are both very busy and located all over the world!) we will also have various online celebrations. Videos of our speakers will appear here shortly after the event whilst we also hope to post images and blog postings live from the launch. You can also contribute directly by adding your comments to the Twitter hashtag #AHLaunch, by commenting here on the blog or by adding your thoughts to our Facebook page. We will also be adding some extra special goodies to the website over the next few days so watch this space…

Finally, if you would like to add a mention of AddressingHistory or the launch event to your blog, your community group website, a newsletter or publication you are involved with or any other space you contribute to please get in touch (addressing.history@ed.ac.uk) and we can provide you with information, a link to the preview of the tool and images. We can also provide you with our new and fabulous HTML badge so that you can show your support for the project (full info on that coming soon).

We look forward to seeing you in person or online for our launch next week!

AddressingHistory Launch Programme Announced

 Project Updates  Comments Off on AddressingHistory Launch Programme Announced
Nov 082010
 

We have just confirmed the programme for our official AddressingHistory Launch which is taking place on Wednesday 17th November. We will be celebrating local Scottish history with a range of speakers and invited attendees with particular interests and expertise in genealogy and local, social and Scottish history.

We will be writing up the event here on the AddressingHistory blog (in as close to real time as available wifi/3G networks allow) and we will be posting videos from the event a few weeks afterwards. You can also join us via Twitter using the #AHlaunch hashtag.

The Programme

We are absolutely delighted that we have speakers from a huge variety of Scottish history projects and digital resources and we think that the videos from the day will be fantastic viewing!

  • Welcome – Cate Newton (Director of Collections and Research, National Library of Scotland)
  • Introduction – Professor. Robert Morris (Emeritus Professor of Economic and Social History , University of Edinburgh)
  • AddressingHistory presentation and launch – Stuart Macdonald (AddressingHistory Project Manager, EDINA) & Nicola Osborne (AddressingHistory Project Officer & Social Media Officer, EDINA))
  • Visualising Urban Geography project – Professor. Richard Rodger (Professor of Economic and Social History, Univ. of Edinburgh)
  • Statistical Accounts of Scotland – Dr Helen Chisholm (EDINA)
  • NLS Digitised Historic Mapping – Chris Fleet (Senior Map Curator, National Library of Scotland)
  • Tobar An Dualchais – Kenny Beaton (School Of Celtic and Scottish Studies, Univ. of Edinburgh)
  • Internet Archive digitisation project(s) – Lee Hibberd /Ines Mayfarth (National Library of Scotland)
  • Wrap Up followed by demonstrations

We will be making a small number of tickets available to blog readers so do keep an eye out for an update on that shortly.

If you would like to show your support for the project we are also going to be making various HTML badges available when we launch. If you’d like to be one of the first sites to feature one of these then email us at: addressing.history@ed.ac.uk.

We would also love to hear what you plan to do with AddressingHistory or, if you’ve been using our preview version, any interesting stories and comments about what you’ve already been exploring. Email us or leave us a comment linking to your blog postings, videos, pictures etc.

AddressingHistory API Google Group

 Addresshistory API, Project Updates  Comments Off on AddressingHistory API Google Group
Oct 262010
 

If you are interested in the AddressingHistory API (Application Programming Interface) we have set up a Google Group to allow discussion, sharing of ideas, comments and tips about using the API for your own projects etc. We hope that it is going to be a really useful space for people who want to create new mashups and tools using AddressingHistory data.

You can sign up for this discussion list by joining the Google group here:

http://groups.google.co.uk/group/addressinghistory-api

AddressingHistory Launch Date Set!

 Addresshistory API, Project Updates  Comments Off on AddressingHistory Launch Date Set!
Oct 192010
 

This is a very short but exciting update on AddressingHistory.  Following a successful preview with lots of useful feedback we are now preparing to fully launch AddressingHistory on Wednesday 17th November 2010. Mark the date in your diary and look out for more news soon!

Project Update: The Preview is Here!

 Project Updates  Comments Off on Project Update: The Preview is Here!
Sep 302010
 

Things have been a little quiet on the blog recently as we have been busy working away on the AddressingHistory tool.

If you signed up for our Preview then you should have already received an email inviting you to test out AddressingHistory (please get in touch if you asked to join the preview but have not yet heard from us) and you can send us your feedback here. Feedback from our previewers so far has been very positive and we are excited about the full launch – details of which will be coming soon (you can also sign up to be alerted to the launch, or join our mailing list)

In preparation for our launch we would be really interested in hearing how you hope to use AddressingHistory to find out more about your area, your ancestors or historical residents or businesses that might have special meaning for you. Please let us know about your interest in the project and the history of Scotland in the comments below or drop us an email with your story as we’d love to do some special blog postings on these stories and the information available in AddressingHistory. Look out for a great guest blog post from Chris Fleet, of the National Library of Scotland, on the history of Causewayside that we hope will inspire you to share your stories!

Finally, for our Australian readers, there will be an opportunity to grab a flyer for yourself or your local history or genealogy group over the next few weeks as Chris Paton, a Scottish history and genealogy expert who runs the Scottish GENES blog, is taking some of our flyers on his Scottish Research Roadshow in October which includes appearances at the History and Genealogy Expo Sydney 2010.

Remember if you would like further information on the project or would like us to send some posters and flyers to you, your local history group or genealogy community then please get in touch.

Would You Like to Be Our Guinea Pig?

 Project Updates  Comments Off on Would You Like to Be Our Guinea Pig?
Aug 122010
 

We are pleased to announce that you can now register to be one of our early testers of AddressingHistory. Over the next few weeks we will be looking for feedback and comments on the look-and-feel and functionality of the web tool before it is launched to the world.

If you would like to be one of the very first to try out AddressingHistory (and hopefully give us some feedback) please head on over to our sign up form and we’ll be in touch.

If you’d rather wait for the full launch then you won’t have too much longer to wait!

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.

2

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

1

Thanks for reading – there’ll be more soon!

– Joe.