Arts & Humanities, History; historical dataset; geocoding; localisation; geohistorical objects; database; GIS;collaborative; citizen science; crowd-sourced; digital humanities
The latest developments in digital humanities have increasingly enabled the construction of large data sets which can easily be accessed and used. These data sets often contain indirect localisation information, such as historical addresses. Historical geocoding is the process of transforming the indirect localisation information to direct localisation that can be placed on a map, which enables spatial analysis and cross-referencing. Many efficient geocoders exist for current addresses, but they do not deal with temporal information and are usually based on a strict hierarchy (country, city, street, house number, etc.) that is hard, if not impossible, to use with historical data. Indeed, historical data are full of uncertainties (temporal, textual, positional accuracy, confidence in historical sources) that can not be ignored or entirely resolved. We propose an open source, open data, extensible solution for geocoding that is based on gazetteers composed of geohistorical objects extracted from historical topographical maps. Once the gazetteers are available, geocoding an historical address is a matter of finding the geohistorical object in the gazetteers that is the best match to the historical address searched by the user. The matching criteria are customisable and include several dimensions (fuzzy string, fuzzy temporal, level of detail, positional accuracy). As the goal is to facilitate historical work, we also propose web-based user interfaces that help geocode (one address or batch mode) and display over current or historical topographical maps, so that geocoding results can be checked and collaboratively edited. The system has been tested on the city of Paris, France, for the 19th and the 20th centuries. It shows high response rates and is fast enough to be used interactively.