Friday week before last, we received the news that so many working groups had been eagerly awaiting: the 4Memory consortium (of historical studies) will become part of the Nationale Forschungsdateninfrastruktur (NFDI), the German National Research Data infrastructure.
This is exciting news for FactGrid, just weeks before its fifth birthday. We will be acting as an official repository for historical data in the upcoming NFDI structure. German projects can now make a good case that FactGrid is the optimal platform for their data.
Changing the rules of our present research data management
The German National Research Data Infrastructure aims to bring transparency and sustainability to all research fields, from microbiology to computational linguistics. Whether researchers are still collecting data entirely for themselves in private Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, or whether they are working on digital platforms that are more or less designed like conventional books, designed to be read and looked at – they will face new questions in their research grant applications: Do they produce data? Do they correct publicly available data? If so, the new questions will be: How do they make sure that others can actually work with their data?
Germany’s national author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called it a “masquerade in red and white”, but was himself a member (just as he became a member of the Illuminati a little bit later; it made sense to join such organisations and to know from within what they were all about). Freemasonry was in its most idealistic terms an updated edition of the brotherhood of men united under a simple and strikingly anti aristocratic system: the system of the old craft guilds. With their three degrees of apprentice, fellow and master there was no room for privilege of birth. German masonry evolved from the late 1730’s through the 1750’s principally as a system of four degrees, with Scots Master at the apex and the development did not stop there. The chivalric degrees of the 1760’s and 1770’s gave way to increasingly complex systems, overgrowing this initial construct. These high-degree systems claimed roots in the middle ages if not deeper pasts, synthesising Christianity with alchemy, magic, and theosophy. Masonic entrepreneurs travelled through Europe selling secrets which they would convey in extraordinary lodges. What they offered would have been considered heresies only a generation before, and now became a market of esotericism – a market that turned the masonic world into its first framework and distributor. The Strict Observance or Order of the Temple, the masonic high-grade-system founded by Carl Gotthelf von Hund und Altengrotkau in Germany in 1751 was the biggest player on this stage in central Europe – the system of red and white, the colours of the Knights Templars.
In a tremendous effort of a year’s of work, Heino Richard of the Genealogical Society of Thuringia e.V., step by step translated the first volume of the Thuringian Pastors’ Books (the volume for the former Duchy of Gotha) into data which we could now feed into FactGrid: More than 13,300 database objects are stemming from this work allowing now entirely new explorations of the territory’s social and religious history. We as curious about the joint ventures this work might inspire. There is no reason to fear that the database version will render all further work on the paper-based volumes obsolete, the platform might, however, offer itself to the editors of the Pfarrerbuch as an unexpected aid.
The eight volumes cover all the parishes of the former Thuringian territories from the Reformation to the 20th century. A first survey is prefixed in each volume to give all the all the parishes and offices with lists of the pastors and auxiliaries who held the respective offices. The main part is in each volume devoted to the individual biographies.
We are proud to announce a new and massive Wikibase project that will keep a big community busy for far more than a year: Last month the president of the University of Erfurt, Prof. Dr. Walter Bauer-Wabnegg, and Dr. Elisabeth Niggemann, director-general of the German National Library in Frankfurt and Leipzig (DNB) signed a memorandum of understanding that aims to bring GND data into the FactGrid – on a large scale.
The GND, the Integrated Authority File, is an authority file for millions of persons plus corporate bodies, conferences and events, geographic Information, topics and works – designed to harmonise the exchange between libraries, archives and academic projects in the DACH countries, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
To have the GND inside had been our constant topic over the last year. A Wikibase instance is a cool thing to contribute to as soon as it is the research tool you yourself would use in your research. GND data link into the world of open data, they clarify who or what you are speaking of in your research in all German language contexts – and they will reach out the other global authority files and to the universe of library data.
The Wikibase software has been designed to serve underneath the +200 Wikipedia installations, it is offering its services in SPARQL-queries but it does not aim at people interested in the facts collected on an item of knowledge.
Magnus Manske’s Reasonator is the tool which turns Wikidata information almost into articles – in any language. The page on Q13339, Johann Sebastian Bach is, as it turns out, in many ways superior to the 200+ competing Wikipedia articles on Bach: It has one sinle source to be edited by users world wide. It shows at a single view what it has to offer – you do not crawl through well balanced sentences, which might not at all offer the information you are looking for.
But the Reasonator has its fundamental drawbacks: Technically you are on a platform that uses Wikidata information – not on the global Wikidata interface. Practically and organisation-wise you are on extraterritorial space when it comes to future developments. The Reasonator is Magnus Manske’s dream child. It is not part of the package Wikimedia will develop as the universal Wikidata front-end (because any such front-end would immediately rival the 200+ Wikipedias?