Digital Humanities and building data sets

Rob Myers reposted this New York Times link on the Open Knowledge Foundation discussion list about Digital Humanities and its growth. It mentions the Mapping the Republic of Letters project (unfortunately it does not appear to be open) and its linking together of the centres of letter production.

Last night I managed to build the places index, the locations from where Charles Dickens wrote his letters, parsing the RDF with rdflib 3 (though I’ve been trying to enure that it is compatible with version 2.4.2 on Linux though that is to come shortly). It still needs tidying up but I’m going to post what I have with the next draft of the site. Dickens’s letters cover France, the US and the UK and gradually I’m getting the latitude and longtitudes for the locations so that they can be used with Open Layers maps.

Does the project necessarily break new ground? Possibly, possibly not. I’m not a Dickens scholar (though I do think he could turn a phrase or two…) I hope that the project will allow us to think about ways of linking and sharing the data as well as find different ways of mining it. Mapping seems like one query. Placing the letters into context as well using historical data would be useful (but I need to find the right data sources – not just Wikipedia).

In all, I firmly believe that it is important to create and experiment with the data available and to think of new queries or mash-ups. What we create now will probably be placed into the shadows by the next generation but why wait. Let’s have fun now.