In the first phase of the Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies: Data and Relations in Greco-Roman Names (hereafter SNAP:DRGN or SNAP) project (Jan 2014-Sep 2015) we aimed to address the problem of linking together large collections of material (datasets) containing information about persons, names and person-like entities managed in heterogeneous systems and formats.
SNAP1 was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under the Digital Transformations big data scheme. The Principal Investigator was Gabriel Bodard (then at King’s College London, now Institute of Classical Studies), and Co-Investigators were Hugh Cayless (Duke), Mark Depauw (Leuven), Leif Isaksen (then at Southampton, now Exeter), K. Faith Lawrence (then at King’s College London) and Sebastian Rahtz (late of Oxford).
The full (slightly redacted) bid document for the first SNAP:DRGN project, as approved by the AHRC is attached here: SNAP bid.
The general problem approached by the SNAP:DRGN project is exemplified by the inconsistency of and irregular overlap between the many huge databases of persons, names, and other personal data on the Internet. (These databases are familiar and ubiquitous, from lists of actors and creators in the Internet Movie Database or historical figures in Wikipedia, to private individuals via all sorts of social networking sites.) How does a researcher or analyst determine whether two records refer to the same person or are related in some other way, and whether other related information refers to both people equally? For this project we shall directly address these issues on a much smaller scale: there are very many historical prosopographies and onomastica (databases of persons and names), even within the relatively tight domain of Greco-Roman antiquity, and many of the same questions of identity and provenance apply. These databases can be worked on without the concerns raised by modern social network accounts: there are not the ethical and privacy concerns of working with living people; the scale, while still massive, is more tractable; there is much more academic coherence within the data, which, diverse as it is, is produced by a discipline with well-established working practices.
The SNAP:DRGN project will pilot a new approach to working with diverse person data, using as a starting point three large datasets from the classical world: the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, an Oxford-based corpus of persons mentioned in ancient Greek texts; Trismegistos, a Leuven-run database of names and persons from Egyptian papyri; Prosopographia Imperii Romani, a series of printed books listing senators and other elites from the first three centuries of the Roman Empire. We shall model a simple structure using Web and Linked data technologies to represent relationships between databases and to link from references in primary texts to authoritative lists of persons and names. We shall invite new projects and datasets in the domain to participate in the SNAP:DRGN network, to help us test the structures and contribute material on ancient people to the collection, and will help these projects to transform their data into a form that can be linked and annotated. We also plan to produce tools for illustration of the value of this data, and demonstrate research methods for working with the new material and information produced. The project will also show how to enhance and produce new data, generating new person references and links from classical texts that have not yet been looked at in this way (Greek and Latin inscriptions). We shall share our recommendations and our results through workshops, public conference papers, and a range of technical, academic and popular publications.