Mapping historical networks: Building the new Austrian Prosopographical | Biographical Information System (APIS)

The Austrian Biographical Dictionary (Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon/ÖBL) is the only large-scale work of reference covering courses of life and career of important historical figures of the entire area of both the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the First and Second Republics (of Austria). On the basis of roughly 18.000 published and digitally available biographies, we will create a digital environment allowing for new modes of access to the data in order to conduct empirical research in the context of a range of SSH disciplines, enabling researchers to take up innovative and interdisciplinary research questions. All of this will be made possible through a sound mix of cutting-edge methodologies and the collaboration of three institutes of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Institute for Modern and Contemporary Historical Research/INZ, Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities/ACDH and the Institute for Urban and Regional Research/ISR) and a number of external partners.

Making use of up-to-date semantic technologies (RDF, SKOS), the ÖBL will be developed into an efficient research infrastructure accessible as part of the Link Open Data Cloud. The application of relevant standards (GND, VIAF and others) is one of the technological backbones of the project. The project will be embedded in existing infrastructures such as DARIAH, CLARIN-ERIC and EUROPEANA which will ensure a maximum availability of research data produced in the project.

Through an innovative platform, the ISR will gain access to data that will allow them to develop and publish a copious social and demographic analysis of forms and patterns of migration of social elites with particular regard to the political schisms of the historical period under investigation. Applying comparative methods of histoire croissée, cultural transfer research, network research and historical area research will allow gaining new and detailed insights into the social interpenetration of European regions (serendipity principle).

In addition to the SSH results, the project will also generate significant output with respect to visualisation methods for the analysis of historical networks, controlled vocabularies (ontologies) and will work on refined tools for named entity recognition as well as the development of semantic technologies.

Making use of modern text-technology and semantic approaches, the project creates a unique bridge between humanities studies and social sciences. It is designed as a prototypical and future-oriented endeavour that will realise transdisciplinarity by means of a selected “workpiece”.

Data policies (all the data will be made accessible under a Creative Commons license, the research environment will be publicly accessible) and project strategies give grounds to expect many follow-up activities, a great impact with respect to future research in a range of related SSH disciplines and to dissemination in both the research communities and the wider public.

ACDH Contact:
Eveline Wandl-Vogt (Eveline.Wandl-Vogt@oeaw.ac.at)
INZ/ÖBL Contacts:
Michael Gehler (Michael.Gehler@oeaw.ac.at)
Christine Gruber (Christine.Gruber@oeaw.ac.at)
Roland Feigl (Roland.Feigl@oeaw.ac.at)
ISR Contact: