While the main business of the Network is conducted through regular Activity meetings, Pelagios is more than just about growing a community that can offer consultancy and support. Fundamentally, Pelagios is also about developing methods and tools that lower technical barriers and allow humanities and cultural heritage practitioners to work more effectively together in evolving the LOD ecosystem. This works not through any core funding but through the Network’s scaffolding of distributive resilience. In this new model of development, individual sources of funding, often very small, are pooled together to build on existing methods and tools, in order to meet the evolving needs of the community as a whole. This model both addresses the sustainability challenges inherent to dependency on a single source of funding or institutional support, and attempts to avoid reduplication of efforts and resources.
Working with international collaborators, Pelagios has co-created a lightweight but universally applicable method of linking online materials of different types (texts, images, databases), which are hosted by different global data providers. The method used is the annotation of place references. Instead of compelling everyone to remodel their data according to a single overarching ontology (such as the CIDOC-CRM), the Pelagios method simply states that each data publisher identifies the places mentioned in their data and then align those references to the appropriate record in a global authority of place information — a unique and stable record or Uniform Resource Identifier (URI). By means of annotating place references with gazetteer URIs, resources hosted by different data providers become machine readable, meaning that they are more discoverable, reusable, and interoperable.
The Pelagios method for creating semantic annotations is based on the W3C Web Annotation standard:
With its previous community grants (2017-2019), and now through its Activities, Pelagios is also supporting working groups for developing standards for shared conceptual elements that underlie humanistic disciplines and cultural heritage.
As teaching, research and curation pivots online, a number of challenges need to be addressed that cut across humanities domains and cultural heritage institutions — namely disciplinary and organisational division, the fragmentation of sources, and different data standards. While the Pelagios method for linking data is simple enough for anyone to understand, to actually produce LOD still requires technical expertise. To address this challenge and lower the technological barrier to teachers, researchers and curators, Pelagios is supporting the development of a range of open-source tools that are freely available, easy to use, and provide solutions to shared needs/challenges. Co-created with international partners, these tools map onto the Network’s Activities: