6/2/2016 “Syriaca.org: Meeting Digital Infrastructure Needs for Endangered Cultural Heritage” @ Vanderbilt U. “Cultural Heritage at Scale” #CHAS16

Posted by on Thursday, June 2, 2016 in Uncategorized.

Note: Updated with links.

Syriaca.org General Editor David Michelson will present on “Syriaca.org: Meeting Digital Infrastructure Needs for Endangered Cultural Heritage” as part of “A Semantic Web Symposium: Cultural Heritage at Scale,” June 2-3, 2016, Vanderbilt University · Nashville, Tennessee (http://heritage-at-scale.info/).

Those attending the conference may use the following link (with caveats!) to view the development server for Syriaca.org: http://wwwb.library.vanderbilt.edu/

A brief abstract and outline for the presentation is as follows:

Syriaca.org: The Syriac Reference Portal is a research project publishing
online reference works and collaborative digital frameworks for the study
of Syriac culture, history, and literature. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic
which was once the lingua franca of the medieval middle east. Syriac
sources from the ancient world are plentiful, but there is no single
national library, university, or research institute which has the
resources or long-term mandate to maintain authority files or curate data
derived from Syriac materials. Because this void is not likely to be
remedied, Syriaca.org has created a linked open data infrastructure that
enables disparate digital projects to bridge this institutional gap. At
its core, Syriaca.org is a well defined system of URIs for use by three
types of end users. For libraries and linked data aggregators, it provides
authority files, disambiguation, and federated search. For specialists and
those creating digital projects, it makes available open source software
customized for representing Syriac-related materials in TEI and RDF and
the opportunity for data federation with other projects. Finally, for a
general audience (including members of the Syriac heritage communities,
students, and researchers in other fields), Syriaca.org publishes core
reference works which also serve as an entry point to exploring the linked
data it has fostered.


  • What is Syriac? (Images)




  • Cultural Preservation Needs of Syriac Heritage Communities




  • Information Infrastructure


  • Conceptual “Entities”

textual works
modern bibliography
“factoids” (events, biographical data, relations between entities)
subject headings*
physical objects*             *future development

The Emperor Constantine
The Gospel of Matthew
British Library Add. 14451
J. Segal, Edessa (1970)
In 526 an earthquake struck near the city of Antioch.
Orpheus Mosaic (Dallas Museum of Art, DEACC.1999.305)


  • Database Design

Each entity type has a database “module” published as an academic reference work.
Each item in the database has a URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) which serves both as a unique identifier and also as a resolvable URL that points to an entry in the database defining that item. Entries in any module can reference items in any other module.


  • Technical Standards

Exist-DB Database
-XML native database
-Use of XQuery to manipulate the database
-Open source
TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) XML documents
-TEI XML as the native format
-Strong academic support community

  • Technical Standards

RDF (Resource Description Framework) Serialization
-Ability to share data with partner projects
-Build linked open data (LOD) across projects
-Allow some semantic querying across modules in the database
HTML (Web pages for Humans)
-Standard academic prose for human readers

  • Adopting Best Practices from Cognate Fields

Pleiades Ancient World Gazetteer: http://pleiades.stoa.org
Pelagios Commons: http://commons.pelagios.org/
Fihrist Islamic Manuscript Union Catalogue: http://fihrist.org.uk
Perseus Digital Library: www.perseus.tufts.edu
VIAF: The Virtual International Authority File: https://viaf.org/

  • Fostering Collaboration

Changes to technical standards (ISO Language Codes, TEI guidelines, Library of Congress Transliteration Guidelines)
Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (http://www.hmml.org), St. John’s University (Columba Stewart)
Cult of Saints (http://cultofsaints.history.ox.ac.uk), University of Oxford (Sergey Minov)
Monastica (http://monastica.ht.lu.se/), Lund University (Samuel Rubenson)
eKtobe (http://www.mss-syriaques.org/) & Pinakes (http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr), Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes, Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique (André Binggeli)
Trismegistos (http://www.trismegistos.org/), KU Leuven (Tom Gheldof)
Novel Saints (http://www.novelsaints.ugent.be/), University of Ghent (Flavia Ruhani)
Late Antique Historiography (http://www.late-antique-historiography.ugent.be/), University of Ghent (Maria Conterno)
Beth Mardutho (www.bethmardutho.org/), Rutgers University (George Kiraz)

  • Sharing Our Code

LOGAR: Linked  Open Gazetteer of the Andean Region (http://wwwb.library.vanderbilt.edu/exist/apps/logar/index.html), Vanderbilt University (Steve Wernke)
Beta Masaheft (https://www.betamasaheft.uni-hamburg.de), University of Hamburg (Pietro Liuzzo)
Biblia Arabica (http://biblia-arabica.com), Ludwig Maximilian University Munich & Tel Aviv University (Ronny Vollandt)

  • d3js Visualization of RDF

At the end of the talk, we attempted to load this link:


To see the visualization work more clearly, please change the parameter LIMIT 25 to “LIMIT 100”

prefix rdf: <http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#>
prefix owl: <http://www.w3.org/2002/07/owl#>
prefix xsd: <http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#>
prefix rdfs: <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#>

?uri a lawd:Place; rdfs:label ?label; dcterms:isPartOf ?rel . ?rel rdfs:label ?relName .

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