An article has just appeared in the journal Historical Methods about the information architecture underlying the web site A Vision of Britain through Time:
Rebuilding the Great Britain Historical GIS, Part 2: A Geo-Spatial Ontology of Administrative Units (Historical Methods, vol. 45 (2012), pp. 119-134)
It is the second in a series of three, and explains how we organise our information about historical administrative units, given that we have locations for only some of them. The data structure behind the web site is always an ontology, defining what units exist, what their names are and what relationships they have with other units; and sometimes a GIS, holding polygons for some units and point coordinates for most of the rest.
The first article appeared last year and described how we hold statistical data about administrative areas, and in particular our novel approach to recording what statistical data measures, enabling us to hold all statistics in one column of one database table:
Rebuilding the Great Britain Historical GIS, Part 1: Building an Indefinitely Scalable Statistical Database (Historical Methods, vol. 44 (2011), pp. 149-159)
The third article should appear in 2013, and will describe how we hold more qualitative information including descriptive gazetteers and travel writing; how we link these together, and to information about administrative units, via a formal enumeration of “places”; and how the Vision of Britain web site itself works to draw in visitors by making our “place pages” highly visible to search engines.