Thursday, March 15, 2012

Critique on Addressing History

Addressing History is based on Edinburgh’s geographical past, by post directories being amalgamated on historical maps. It is part of a JISC project founded by EDINA alongside the National Library of Scotland (NLS). It contains a blog and presents links to networks such as Twitter and YouTube, showing conferences and instructional videos. The website has a simple layout and easy navigation in accessing data. The homepage is presented professionally for academics and local historians, yet inviting for the public due to the information being displayed coherently.  

Addressing History uses primary source material from three post office directories (POD’s), the Alexander Kincaid 1784, the Bartholomew Post office 1865, and Johnston Post office plan 1905. The POD tick boxes above the map indicate the scale of each directory, thereby limiting searches such as place, people and occupations to these areas in Edinburgh. On the other hand, data capture of POD’s are more advanced and completed through a scanning process with two high digital cameras.  It is checked before being processed through OCR, and then standardised to be published online.  However, OCR is a low standard system which reduces image quality and therefore allows errors to occur, especially during textual data searches. Nevertheless, the website uses a truncated search where the first three letters of the word are detected in the directory index therefore distorting the accuracy in results, for example a search for ‘William’ may also identify results as ‘Williamson.’ Accuracy in other areas for instance, mapping results are difficult to judge without direct access to the primary records. Nonetheless, the directories scaled on the map are detailed until magnified to the highest extent, where basic outlines of roads and fields are displayed.  

Moreover, Addressing History abides by the 2.0 principles, thus allowing the public to access data as well as altering it. The public have to register in order to geo-reference information, which sends algorithms through Geo-Parser in identifying them. This may be a hindrance to historians as geo-locations are not confirmed but are rated out of five for degree of accuracy. Interestingly, the website can be used in conjunction with other mediums of technology such as an Application Programming Interfaces (API), this is applicable to other technologies and enables crowd sourcing as well as using data for ‘Mashups’ and other websites, known as the middleware service. Another brilliant aspect of API is that it permits interfacing and thus gives the public information whilst being at the location. Downloaded data can be presented in a JSON format for other websites, a KML format to use in sites such as Google Earth and basic TXT format. These are alternative versions of XML, which are useful to historians in assisting with research on other websites.

 Addressing History could be developed further by broadening their resources to affiliate the whole of Scotland, subsequently historians could access the majority of the information needed in one place. This implies a necessity for further amendments and developments. The project functioned from April to September 2010 as it did not receive the funding required. Despite this Addressing History has accomplished a great deal and is an invaluable resource.

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