Are you a prosopography?

At the SNAP:DRGN project meeting in Edinburgh a few weeks ago, we decided on a couple of definitions that will impact on the ways in which partner datasets interact with the project. Our current thinking is that we need to distinguish between two kinds of data:

(1) The first kind, which we’ll loosely call a “prosopography”, is a curated database of person records, with some ambition to be able to be used as an authority list. Prosopographies such as PIR, Broughton, PBW, etc. would be obvious examples of this category, as would the controlled vocabulary of persons in a library catalog like VIAF, Zenon, British Museum persons, Trismegistos Authors, the Perseus Catalog, etc. Even if the task of co-referencing persons is incomplete (as with Trismegistos, say), the intention to disambiguate qualifies the dataset as a “prosopography”.

(2) The second, which we call a “list of attestations” is not comprehensively curated or disambiguated in this way, and has no ambition of being an authority list. Examples of this kind of dataset (as I understand them) would include: the EDH person table; the raw list of name references Mark has extracted from Latin inscriptions; the tagged and indexed “names and titles” in the texts of the Inscriptions of Aphrodisias or Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania.

In the SNAP:DRGN workflow, we hope that all “prosopographies” of type 1 will be contributed into the SNAP graph. We shall assign SNAP URIs to all persons in the datasets, and in time work to co-reference and merge with persons sourced from other projects as well as possible. These will form the authority file to which other datasets will refer, and we would recommend that lists of “attestations” of type 2 use Pelagios-style OAC annotations (*) to point to the SNAP identifiers as a way of disambiguating their person-references.  The process of disambiguating and/or co-referencing persons in this way might eventually lead some lists of annotations to become disambiguated prosopographies in our schema, at which point we would potentially want to include them in the SNAP graph as first class entities.

(*) We hope to the have the SNAP:DRGN guidelines for these Pelagios-like annotations (“Scenario 5” in our Cookbook) available very shortly.

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