The aim of the geoXwalk gazetteer project Phase I was to assess the feasibility of developing and providing an online, Z39.50 compliant, fast, scalable and extensible British and Irish gazetteer service, which would play a crucial role in supporting geographic searching in the Distributed National Electronic Resource (DNER). Following the Phase I scoping study, which outlined the requirements and stakeholders for such a service, a demonstrator gazetteer was developed. The aims of the Phase II project were to:
Phase III will build on the Phase II work and explore key aspects identified during the development of the demonstrator that require resolution prior to full shared service mode. Phase III will be conducted by EDINA in partnership with the UK Data Archive (UKDA), University of Essex.
- develop a geo-spatial gazetteer service suitable for extension to full service;
- to consider how the gazetteer data could be made available as a shared service as part of the JISC Information Environment and to;
- promote the possibilities of a fully functioning service and act as a proof of concept.
The principal purpose of geoXwalk is to provide a shared service within the JISC Information Environment (IE) that can underpin geographic searching. The rationale behind the project is that there is currently no unified entry point to assist in geographic searching within the existing academic network as each information provider/service adopts different geographic coding conventions (some use postcodes, others placenames, some grid references etc.).The geoXwalk gazetteer should provide researchers and teaching staff with access to an on-line gazetteer for reference and cataloguing purposes.
A gazetteer is a list of place names together with their associated geographic location. The geographic location can be expressed in several ways, for example, as latitude and longitude co-ordinates, or simply as another geographical place name which contains this particular place, such as a county or a country.
This gazetteer will be more than a list of place names and their geographic coordinates. It will also classify features into types, e.g. city, river, and will store an appropriate spatial 'footprint' against each feature: settlements are represented as areas, rivers as lines and so on. geoXwalk is designed to make geographic searching transparent by 'crosswalking' these different geographies.
- Where is Ormskirk and what major towns are within 50 miles of it?
- Through which counties does the river Severn flow?
- Which police force areas cover southwest England?
As part of the project, the need for a geoparser was identified. That is, software that can take a document/resource that contains placenames and automatically identify their occurrence. Having identified a placename as such, the next logical step is to compare that against entries in the gazetteer which provides a means to access its 'alternate' geographies. For example, the placename 'Knowsley' could be resolved as parish code 'BX003' or grid reference 340900, 392300 - 347217, 397660. This methodology provides a means to explicitly georeference (i.e. attach a grid reference) to implicitly georeferenced material (such as 'Knowsley'). The result is that more powerful geographical based search strategies can be applied e.g. find me all documents about Gaelic songs that do not reference the Western Isles.
Full documentation for Phase I of the geoXwalk project can be found at http://edina.ac.uk/projects/crosswalk.html.
Futher information and documents related to Phase II of the project can be found at http://www.gogeo.ac.uk/Phase2Docs.htm