Introducing the WebMaps-T Working Group

Pelagios
Pelagios
Jun 26, 2019 · 3 min read

Gethin Rees and Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, British Library

The profusion of humanities and cultural heritage datasets made available over the last decades has created considerable demand for user interfaces to aid discovery. Web map interfaces like Peripleo provide a method of discovering data within and across datasets. All geographical data can be temporally situated one way or another, and time sliders have often been integrated within map implementations to help refine search. The Web Maps-T working group aims to enhance the ability of the Linked Pasts community to visualise Linked Open Data (LOD) and other humanities data in time and space.

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Aims

The working group will kick-off the development of a JavaScript map and time-slider component (Web Maps-T) based on the GeoJSON-T standard. The component will allow data to be filtered and shared using temporal representations that are suitable for cultural heritage and humanities data. Timeline visualisation can help users to filter data and refine their search using a time slider, allowing a better understanding of the distribution of Linked Pasts data over centuries.

The group therefore scope best practice in timeline visualisation, which could later be an important feature of the component. Web Maps-T does not purport to be a full system for uploading, filtering and querying data, but a component for use within broader systems that perform these functions, in-keeping with current web development trends.

Take the example of maps that have been georeferenced by volunteers using the British Library’s Georeferencer. At present, all georeferenced maps are depicted on a crowded web map:

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Although this provides a fantastic summary of the hard work of our volunteers, finding a useful map is not easy amongst all the points. Consider that a user seeking an antiquarian map of Greek Islands like the one from Insularium Illustratum below would have to sift through many points that represent modern maps that were not relevant to their interests. A time slider could filter out maps published after the 16th century, leaving fewer points that are more relevant to the user’s interests on the web map.

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A map from the Insularium Illustratum, an account of the islands of the Mediterranean, and of some others produced by Henricus Martellus Germanus in 1495 (British Library Add MS 15760 f. 6r)

Who?

Digital humanists and cultural heritage specialists with three skill sets will participate in the group: first, front-end JavaScript developers; second, user experience specialists; and third, temporal and geospatial LOD modellers. The three will join in a two-day hack event to produce a JavaScript web map with time slider component and specifications for Timeline visualisation.

Benefits

Individuals and projects within the Linked Pasts community could add maps to blogs and websites that would benefit from time-slider filtering and gazetteer integration. As Linked Pasts data available on the web grows, so too does the need to filter and share those data within visualisations. By providing a common path to derive visualisations from LOD, Web Maps-T will align user experiences whilst boosting the uptake of standards (LinkedPlaces, GeoJSON-T) and gazetteer use. Visualising and filtering data in this way can facilitate serendipitous discovery and help researchers find specific data quickly and effectively. Changing geographical patterns or visualising itineraries can stimulate research questions, particularly for those without the technical skills to use GIS. The adoption of Webs Maps-T will ultimately help Linked Pasts researchers to discover, share and publish data more effectively.

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