AddressingHistory Launch Programme Announced

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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.

Would You Like to Be Our Guinea Pig?

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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 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.

How Do You Get Involved With AddressingHistory?

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Jun 112010
 

Over the last few weeks we’ve been really delighted to see that lots of you have been reading the blog, following us on Twitter and feeding back your comments and enthusiasm for the project. We really appreciate the support and we thought that we could probably make a few additions to the website to make it more useful for you  particularly while we are still developing  the AddressingHistory tool.

So, we have added a new How Do I Get Involved?” page where you will find a brief guide to what you can do to get involved in the project us and what you will be able to do with the tool when it is launched on the website. We hope you find this a useful addition and would welcome suggestions for any other information or resources you’d like to see here on the AddressingHistory website – or topics you’d like to see us blogging about.

A Quick Project Update

Development of the AddressingHistory tool is progressing well with our software engineer Joe hard at work extracting data from the digitised directories and trying to find the most successful ways to display and filter names, addresses and listings. We hope we’ll be able to bring you a guest post from Joe along with some screen shots of our very early test version some time soon so watch this space.