Omeka Plugins

Ah! One of the plugins available for Omeka is a geolocation plugin… excellent. I haven’t made much headway on my exploratory omeka installation, other than getting a wee bit of info into it (tempus fugit and all of that). I was initially perplexed how I was going to get all my old GIS/cultural heritage data point-data into it, but this plugin should make life easier. FYI, other plugins are:

The following plugins may be downloaded separately and installed, following information on the codex.

Bilingual Enabler
Makes several of Omeka’s core metadata fields bilingual.

Adds COinS metadata to item show pages, making them Zotero compatible. Learn more.

Allows collecting items from visitors. Learn more.

Allows Omeka users to ‘batch upload’ a large quantity of files at one time, creating unique items in the archive for each file. Learn more.

Adds location info and maps to Omeka. Learn more.

Administrative users can write notes about the site in an an editable space. Learn more.

When creating new items, the Tag Suggest plugin offers suggestions of tags based upon their frequency in the item textareas. Learn more.

Embed iPaper document viewers into your Omeka item pages. Learn more.

Embed PdfMeNot document viewers into your Omeka item pages. Learn more.


For the technically-minded amongst us, why not set up your own online world with OpenSim? By the looks of it, it is inter-operable with content created for Second Life, though I might be wrong on that. Actually, it might be a reverse-engineered version of Second Life, if the links on its main page are any guide (see for instance this)

“OpenSim is a BSD Licensed Open Source project to develop a functioning virtual worlds server platform capable of supporting multiple clients and servers in a heterogeneous grid structure. OpenSim is written in C#, and can run under Mono or the Microsoft .NET runtimes.

OpenSim is currently in the alpha development stage, with active testing of SVN trunk versions encouraged.”

For a fascinating look at what is going on in OpenSim, visit Darb Dabney’s Second Life GIS Blog. If it works for GIS, then archaeology should be a cinch…

Pleiades Responds

My attempt at pumping Pleiades through yahoo pipes led to an interesting discussion with Tom Elliott, the direct of the Pleiades project. Tom writes

As Shawn observed, pumping that list of ancient names through a presentist geocoder (like Yahoo!’s) gives you suboptimal results.

Pleiades in fact stores locations for every feature (at least when we can determine their locations). In our customization work on Plone for Pleiades, we’ve tacked on a couple of other interfaces that aren’t as obvious to users as they should be. Anywhere Pleiades displays or lists spatial content, we also provide an Atom feed that’s extended with GeoRSS tags, as well as a KML feed.

So, for those archaic places, Shawn could choose to use either of:

Both provide the coordinates, and therefore get you around the geocoding problem.

The full text of Tom’s post is here. Thanks Tom! I’m going to see what I can do with those new feeds…

Yahoo Pipes and the Pleiades Project

I recently wrote about trying to get Platial to map various kinds of data. Today I tried Yahoo Pipes. Again, the task was relatively straightforward: can I get an RSS feed of archaeological data – such as ancient places in the (non-mapped) Pleaides website database – onto a map without having to point-and-click each individual place?

First of all, I searched the various existing pipes that others have created. A pipe, by the way, is a collection of different modules ‘piped’ together to mash together different kinds of, and sources of, data. The pipe updates itself when the in-coming data changes. I found the geo-annotated Reuters news pipe, by el80n. This pipe collects information from the Reuters news-feed, extracts the locational information from it, finds out the actual coordinates for that location, and then displays the result on a yahoo map.

pipe1.JPGI swapped the feed from Reuters to Pleiades’ Archaic places, and la voila. A number of the sites from that list turned up on the map. Now, there’re a few bugs in it. The place-extractor looks at the feed, and grabs the first ‘obvious’ place name. In Reuters, that’s the modern name. In Pleaides, that’s the ancient name. The database that contains the geocoding only has modern names, so things get a little odd. For instance, Artamis (modern Messa), gets mapped to an island in the South China Sea. There’s a query builder in the pipe, so I need to figure out how to get it to grab the modern name, while labeling the map with the ancient name.

All of this took about an hour. I had never used pipes before, and all I really did was swap feeds. Imagine what somebody who knew what they were doing could accomplish! You may view the live result here.


TinyMap vs. Platial

I should not complain too much about Platial, as it is still in beta-testing, and the various bugs no doubt will be ironed out. I look forward to the map-from-rss feature – even rss feeds that are not geocoded can be imported (although you have to point-and-click to get the information where you want it). This will be an enormous boon when you’re dealing for instance with something like the Pleiades project. Their database has an enormous amount of information spatial information concerning ancient places. A person can subscribe to their Archaic places feed, for instance, and get the whole list. They do provide KML files for each individual point, but nothing (as far as I can tell) in the aggregate (and you have to dig down the document tree to fin ’em). So I tried to get Platial to import the whole list from the feed, and then I was prepared to spend the time properly dragging things into place.

Platial burped, and that was that.

If I was going to have to drag-and-drop each individual record, I thought there might perhaps be an easier interface to use. Platial after all fancies itself something of a social-networking site (you can mash up your information with information from some one else’s map)… but as Gabby mentioned in an earlier comment, what if you’re out in the field, and you want someone back at the office to have a quick map of something you’ve found, without having to register, create a profile, etc etc? Tinymap is your answer. You go to, zoom in on the region your working on (or punch in the decimal coordinates), drag and drop some Points-of-Interest, annotate appropriate, hit save and your done. The site gives you a unique URL for your map, and you email that back to the office. So here is a sample, with some information from Pleiades:

For quick and easy maps, TinyMap wins hands-down over Platial. Platial is better for more complicated maps with greater functionality – eventually.

Flash Earth

I clearly have too much time on my hands today. Anyway, I found ‘Flash Earth’, a site that allows you to select and display different sources of aerial/satellite imagery for whatever location you happen to be looking at. This link displays the location of Forum Novum. By cycling through the different sources, I found some images that were much higher resolution than the Google ones, other images displayed crop marks, and in one you can clearly see the trenches from our excavations in ’99 and 2000. Flash Earth would seem to be a handy tool.

MAGIS: Mediterranean Archaeology GIS

It turns out that what I thought was so clever yesterday, was done some time ago by folks at DePauw:

MAGIS, an inventory of regional survey projects in the greater Mediterranean region.

As of today, they have 288 survey projects in their spatially-searchable database. The interface is a bit clunky though, and relies on popups, which my browser consistently shuts down, despite me telling it not too. Platial and my BiblioCartography also have the advantage of allowing others to embed the maps in their own applications. If I get around to it, I might incorporate the MAGIS inventory.


In my research, I have often wished to know what kinds of archaeological projects were going on in a given region. This usually involved a bibliographical search on various names describing the region or place names I know within the region. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I know the name of the principle researcher synonymous with the region’s archaeology, and can search for that person’s published works.

But what if I don’t know these things? What if research in an area has yet to be published? It can sometimes be an extremely frustrating process. Wouldn’t it be better if you could just zoom in on a map of the region, and discover who is working there, and the relevant publications?

Problems should be solved by those who see them, and so, I have created just such an annotated map for archaeologists using the tools of

The map lives over on the side of this blog. I have created a sample annotation for how I think it will work: I have located a site that I have worked on (Forum Novum), provided links to relevant webpages describing the project, and included a small bibliography of published works relevant to that site. Marking a new site is a simple point-and-click process. You too may create annotations by using the buttons underneath the map. You can embed the map in your own website – and I’d be enormously pleased if you did!

I would suggest using the following format when you describe a site, because this will allow for more effective searching of the map:

Site name, site type

Links to major relevant website(s)

Names of principle investigators (which could be included in the tags)

Relevant bibliography

Archaeoinformatics and Digging Digitally

Archaeoinformatics has posted a number of archived lectures which may be of interest to those who have one foot in the dirt and another in bits&bytes, available here. And if you’re wondering who ‘Archaeoinformatics’ are, they tell us that:, is established as a collaborative organization to design, seek funding for, and direct a set of cyberinfrastructure initiatives for archaeology. seeks to coordinate with and, develop interoperability of its own projects with other relevant data-sharing initiatives. It offers to work with professional organizations and federal agencies to promote policies that will foster the development of cyberinfrastructure for archaeology.

I also draw your attention to ‘Digging Digitally‘, a blog connected with the Society for American Archaeology Digital Data Interest Group. They are organising a session for the 2008 SAA conference in Vancouver that sounds extremely interesting:

If you are developing or using web-based tools or resources for communicating archaeology, or if you have ideas or opinions about this subject, please consider being a presenter or discussant in a “Web 2.0″ session at the next SAA meeting in Vancouver (March 26-30, 2008). Please review the abstract below and contact Sarah Kansa ( if you are interested in participating. This session is co-organized by Sarah Kansa (The Alexandria Archive Institute) and Julian Richards (Archaeology Data Service & Univ. of York). The Alexandria Archive Institute is sponsoring the session by covering the cost of registration fees for presenters.

Historical GIS and various Google Earth Mashups – into SL?

What would be enormously cool would be to link the various historical GIS / Google Earth Mashups – into SL. After all, the world depicted in the historical GIS only exists as bits bytes and imagination. So why not take the next step through the GIS into a representation of its data in SL? Imagine that you were interested in the development of the city of Ottawa in the 19th century, and one of the addresses you find is linked via SLURL into SL. Click, and you’re in that structure, with its contents and inhabitants available for conversation. Would this be anything more than a gimmick?

Perhaps… but if the experience of the space has any effect on how lives were lived in that space, perhaps not. Maybe the way to link it would be to allow users of the GIS interested in particular locations to tag them with a SLURL to their own reconstruction of that space/place… a 3-dimensional discussion – virtual living history?

Here’s a list of various historical GIS etc for perusal…

Various Historical GIS Systems

China Historical GIS

Allows dynamic interaction with the map, simple querying of the dots-on-the-map – then, once you’ve found it, it will map it for you on Google Earth, Multi-map, etc

Great Britian Historical GIS

Data and university research lives at:

The Great Britain Historical Geographical Information System is a unique digital collection of information about Britain’s localities as they have changed over time. Information comes from census reports, historical gazetteers, travellers’ tales and historic maps, assembled into a whole that is much more than the sum of its parts. This site tells you more about the project itself and about historical GIS.

A separate site, funded by the UK National Lottery, has been created to make this resource available on-line to everyone, presenting our information graphically and cartographically. This site is called A Vision of Britain Through Time and presents the history of Great Britain through places. It can be found at:

Some points of interest re the GBHGIS:
• Like any mainstream GIS, the original GBH GIS could hold information only about units whose locations we knew. There are a few historical units which appear, for example, in tax lists but whose location is unknown. There are a great many more whose boundaries have yet to be mapped. The core of our new system is a systematic list of all the units we know about – currently over 48,000 units, linked by over 150,000 relationships.
• This core system is not, strictly speaking, a GIS at all: it is implemented using Oracle database software, requires no locational data at all and is organised as an ontology, or “polyhierarchic thesaurus”. Each unit can have any number of names, hierarchic relationships are held very flexibly, and we use a system of “date objects” which enable us to record changes as precise calendar dates, as years, or as strings of text such as “at least 1174 but possibly as early as 983”. [SMG: This is interesting, because it is much more flexible, lets all sorts of ‘fuzzy’ data get incorporated]
• Although knowing boundaries is not compulsory, we use the Oracle Spatial extension to hold over 40,000 boundary polygons, with dates, for many units. These polygons were created by our own earlier work, by Roger Kain and Richard Oliver’s work at Exeter University on the boundaries of Ancient Parishes, and recent work we have done on Scottish parish boundaries. The system can use hierarchical relationships to infer approximate locations for units lacking boundaries.

The public face of the GBGIS:

You interact with this site by inputting a place name or a postal code. I used the postal code for where I used to live – KT10 8NS and received the following info:
“Elmbridge is a District/Unitary Authority in the county of Surrey, in England. It is part of the South East.
This is a modern unit which was reported on by the 2001 census. Most of our historical statistics were originally gathered for units with quite different boundaries. To give you a clear picture of long-run change, we have used our detailed information on boundaries and population distribution to redistrict the historical statistics to the modern units.
Statistical comparisons will be made with England and Wales (change comparison)”
There followed information broken into the following sections:
“Population: In 1801 Elmbridge’s total population was 6,986. In 1901 it was 35,058. By 2001 the population was 121,911. -> more information”

“Life and Death: In 1851, 114 babies in every thousand died in their first year. In 1911 it was 80. By 2001 the rate was 3. -> more information”

and so on, for “industry”, “social class”, “language and learning”, “agricultural and land use”, “work and poverty”, “housing”, “roots and religion”, and then some more cartographic materials – “boundaries”, “relationships and changes”, “other units”

So while this site presents a vast amount of material in an appealing and effective manner, it is still for all of that, rather static.

National Historic GIS (US)

This site hosts information you can grab for your own GIS uses. You search their catalogue for info related to a place of interest. And you must register first.

Buffalo Historical GIS

The Buffalo Historical GIS (Geographical Information System) is an interdisciplinary project directed by Dr. Jean Richardson of the Department of History and Social Studies Education. Other faculty participants include Dr. Tao Tang and Mary Perrelli from the Department of Geography and Planning, Dr. M. Stephen Pendleton of the Economics Department and Dr. Gordon Fraser of the Great Lakes Center.
This prototype consists of several ArcIMS map layers containing feature data digitized from historic maps of Buffalo. The following maps are currently available:
• Buffalo in 1850
• Buffalo in 1900
• Pan-American Exposition 1901
• Buffalo Ward Boundaries
Future map layers will include additional feature categories such as schools, hospitals, grocery stores, taverns, theaters, etc., with links to additional text and images. Other map layers and attached databases will allow the display of demographic data such as population density, ethnicity, household income, property values, and governmental information.

National Historic Sites of Canada

Not a GIS per se, but rather a java-based clickable map that lets you click through to a blurb on a historic site once you’ve zoomed in on a particular area. And interestingly enough, a national historic site might not be in this system IF it is not currently under the admin of Parks Canada – sites admin’d by the NCC for instance are missing…

Grand repertoire du patrimoine bati de Montreal

This site lets you search by house # and street, to pull up all of the information (and sometimes photos) related to that house IF it is a designated heritage site. I am certain that at one time this site provided thematic map layers of the city and related the heritage info for particular house of interest to those maps… but I can’t seem to find it now.

From the Museum of London:

a google maps mashup for annotating the city of London

Speaking of google maps mashups, see the following for historically themed mashups:

And on a not very related theme at all, but relevant to the idea of a historical gis type site where you’d get to manipulate historical documents on your own is:

This is a site related to the classical world. The module itself is a numismatics module that takes you through how to classify, study, and publish ancient coins. Notable for the fact that you can manipulate some of the coins, and are taken by the hand through the entire process – including how to work with the often impenetrable coin catalogues. Now imagine that for an 1875 Valuation Roll and how to decipher 19th century handwriting…

World Explorer

From the website: an internet application that allows visitors to explore the world and it’s events using Google Maps and a dynamic timeline. The application is still in development, but we are working to build a community of interested people who can help get this project off the ground.

Historical Marker Database

‘History happened here’ is the theme – users mark up the world (via google earth) with historical information…

Your History Here

from the website: “Do you know something unusual about a place, building or street? Some odd factoid, rumour or tidbit? Share it here, and if you’re lucky someone will follow up with more info on your place.”

Also: “Hello, and welcome to YourHistoryHere, the place where you can share your knowledge about those unusual places, buildings or things that make places interesting to live. This site is on limited circulation at the moment, and is only supposed to be a mySociety demo, not a big posh project like PledgeBank. It may not be obvious, but the most important feature of YourHistoryHere is the construction of an underlying system for collecting and sharing geographic annotations in an open syndicated format, so you can use the yummy local data people leave for your own purposes. We’re building two sites that show how this can be useful, this one and, and we’d love to share the code for other ideas. Anyone want to build Tom Steinberg, mySociety Director – 23/08/2005″

What is also interesting about this are the discussions that seem to erupt after somebody posts a new spot – disputing / corroborating what the original poster had to say.

eRuv: A Street History in Semacode

taking things down to the level of a single street, from the website: “eRuv is a digital graffiti project installed along the route of the former Third Avenue elevated train line in lower Manhattan. The train line, dismantled in 1955, was more than just a means of transport; it was part of an important religious boundary — an eruv — for a Hasidic community on the old Lower East Side. Using semacodes, the former boundary is reconstructed and mapped back onto the space of the city. Pedestrians with camera phones can then access location-specific historical content linked through the semacodes.”