The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Gazetteers in the digital age

The gazetteer has evolved over the centuries, but modern web-based, big data-driven gazetteers such as GeoNames bear a striking resemblance to their early modern antecedents and emerge from the deceptively modest goal of attesting to the existence of places by naming them.

Within academic communities the gazetteer is rapidly emerging as a necessary foundation for meaningful work in the digital humanities and digital history. Over the past several years, historians and archaeologists in particular have pioneered a number of projects aimed at reinventing the gazetteer in the digital age. These include Pleiades (an NEH-sponsored gazetteer of the Greek and Roman world), Pelagios Commons (a Mellon-sponsored linked open data infrastructure), and the China Historical GIS project at Harvard. Each of these projects addresses the needs of a particular field of study but also makes a contribution to the global effort to establish best practices and powerful tools for computer-aided research in the humanities.

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