Leeds IMC 2013 report


Posted: Sept. 23, 2013, 6 a.m. by adminluisf

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Our first public presentation of the database was scheduled for the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in early July this year, and we weren't sure until the last moment what we would be able to demonstrate. Our wonderful technical expert Brian Maher was building and testing new pieces of the user interface right up to the day of the presentation, and we also couldn't be certain how effective a live link to our server would be, since the Leeds conference was on a new site this year. We weren't even sure whether anybody would be able to find the room for the presentation, since the Leeds University Union is a complete rabbit warren.

In the end, however, everything went smoothly and a substantial audience gave a very positive reaction to the project. We were doing a joint session with the Nomen et gens from the University of Tübingen and they started by demonstrating their database, which focuses on fourth to eighth century prosopography and onomastics. We're going to be developing two-way links between the databases records we each have for individuals, to take advantage of the strengths of each project (they have far more philological details, while we provide more systematic descriptions of people's activities in charters).

We had two presentations: first up was Alice Rio, giving a brief overview of the database structure and the key entities into which we've broken the information: Agents (individuals and corporate bodies), Places, Objects (everything from a cow to a forest) and how we combine them into Factoids (statements made by the source material, which may or may not be true). Her presentation can be found here.

Then I showed what the user interface for browsing would look like. The main part was a PowerPoint sequence of screen shots (partly because that allows zooming in on the screen in a way that's hard in real life), but I ended with a very brief demonstration on the live test system. This showed how the faceted browsing could work in practice, narrowing down an initial large group of charters via combinations of authenticity and location of production. The PowerPoint part of this presentation can be found here.

Our next demonstrations of the database will be given in early 2014, though we don't yet know exactly what we'll be demonstrating: that will depend on how the user interface has been modified by then. But there's already enough there to show some of the potential ways people can access all the data we're inputting.

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