20 MPH

Code The City 20: History and Culture

This event on 1 and 2 August 2020 was our  twentieth hack weekend! We are very excited to have hit this milestone.

At the weekend we had 22 people taking part over two days and running five projects covering history and culture. Each is covered in a separate blog post below – many with detailed guidance on how to tackle a similar project.

Quite a few of these used platforms from the Wikimedia suite: Wikipedia, Wikidata and Wiki Commons. As you can see from the graphic below, with only nine people working with these tools we got a LOT done in the two days of the event and a couple of days afterward to tidy up!

Screenshot 2020-08-07 at 17.27.12
Stats from WikiMedia edits and uploads

The text below here is the original weekend description along with suggested challenges and project ideas, not all of which were taken up.

So what can you do at CTC20?

We have three streams of activities for attendees to be involved with – data collation via Wikidata, transcription of records, and consuming data via cool stuff. So, there will be lots to get involved with no matter what your skills in data gathering, research, data science, GIS, historian, transcriber, software developer, web designer or general adventurer in the digital domain. Several of the projects cross the streams – luckily it is safe to cross the streams at CTC.

Data Creation Stream

(transcribing records in a structured way)

Transcription is important as it allows us to convert handwritten records from over a hundred years ago into a digital format that we can easily share and use.

We have the following projects / challenges that involve the transcription of historical records:

Data Upload Stream

(using Wikidata and other platforms)

We’re big fans of Wikidata. It’s a platform for Linked Open Data that can be queried and the data analysed, visualised, and mixed with other data sources. It’s a great place to store structured data about the city, its history and its significant people, places and institutions.

We have the following projects / challenges that involve the collecting, populating and cleaning of Wikidata related to Aberdeen:

Data Use Stream

(telling stories with the data)

What is the purpose and point of having a wide ranging set of historical data if it is never used? Building apps and websites that show, use and analyse this data gives it a purpose and a base for us all to build upon.

We have the following projects / challenges that involve using and visualising data:

We also have the wide range of data from the Data Creation and Data Upload Streams to play with covering things such as:

Now just imagine what cool fun informative projects can be built with the above data. Now turn the imagination into reality.

The Projects in Detail

Here are overviews of the individual projects / challenges. We’ve got an exciting, and growing list of projects below which are suited to all abilities and skillsets. So you can easily get involved in tasks from transcribing some records, to mapping, exploratory data analysis, 3D modelling, to nipping out to take some photos for the memorials team.

Mapping Memorials to Women

This project will see volunteers work on adding items to Wikidata for memorials to women in and around Aberdeen, and items for the women which they commemorate. There will be opportunities then to use that data to create maps and other visualisations. Much more detail on this challenge can be found here.

Grave of Jessie Seymour Irvine, St Machar Cathedral by Watty62 on Wikicommons.
Grave of Jessie Seymour Irvine, St Machar Cathedral by Watty62 on Wikicommons.

Mesolithic Deeside

Mesolithic Deeside is a group of archaeologists, students and local volunteers investigating the river Dee area 10,000 years ago. They’ve been gathering flints on seasonal field-walking trips and recording the data from the outputs of those allowing them to map Mesolithic Deeside.

East Park mesolithic finds
Map of East Park mesolithic finds

At CTC20 we have the opportunities for Data Scientists, GIS specialists, those working in 3D, AR and VR as well as web developers.

  • Can we try to identify what are the physical characteristics of the sites with the highest concentration of finds and then use that analysis to try to identify other similar sites between Drumoak and Aberdeen? And between Aboyne and the source of the Dee (we have already worked on the area in between).  Once we have identified the potential sites by physical characteristics we could then filter out the developed areas, like the water works at Shakkin Briggie, to leave us with target areas for test pitting.
  • How could we better visualise the information we have, probably in some sort of online format. Could this be in 3D, or use AR or VR in some way? What platforms lend them selves to prototyping the approaches?
  • Could we be analysing the data we have in some way that we have not considered or are not yet aware of?

Register of Returned Convicts of Aberdeen (1869-1939)

The Register of Returned Convicts for Aberdeen (1869-1939) contains 285 entries, with many of those before 1900 having accompanying images alongside the details of each individual. While a partial transcription of the volume has been carried out, important data including height, which is a key indicator of general health and nutrition, have been omitted. The challenge for Code the City would be to complete the transcription as well as linking the addresses of the criminals on their discharge to map data to give an idea of their distribution across the city.

Jane Clark's record
Jane Clark’s record

The complete set of images has now been posted on Google Drive. There is the opportunity to add them to Wikicommons as well as to colourise (some of) these to bring their faces to life.

Aberdeen Built Ships

Begun at CTC19 but not yet completed. this project involved AAGM staff and a volunteer working on scraping the Aberdeen Built Ships site for the data there with a view to getting it into Wikidata.

Data has been scraped and it should be possible to create Wikidata entries from it in the future, all linked back to the online ABS system using a new identifier in Wikidata. Since them we’ve completed the identification of which ships already exist in Wikidata. The next step will be to use Quickstatements or another tool to bulk upload data to the platform.

We could also then potentially identify ships in the Aberdeen Harbour arrivals that were know to have been built in the city. A more detailed write-up is provided in this blog post and a more defined list of tasks can be found on the Github repo.

Aberdeen Harbour Arrivals

For some time we’ve had more than 20 volunteers working  on transcribing the arrival logs for Aberdeen harbour (1914-1920). You can read more about that in this blog post.

We’re starting to built up a good idea of what was coming into the harbour and from where during the period from First World War. We will even be able to trace what the weather was like on any given day!

Volunteers use the guide for transcription participants which we created. The transcription work by the team wrote up their work in detail. The work became the basis of a prototype website built by our own Andrew Sage. There are some outstanding issues to be addressed with the website listed on the GitHub repository for the project.

There is still more work to be done here including completing the transcription.

  • What could we do with the application of coding and data science?
  • How could we use NLP and other tools to analyse the data, create timelines: analyse movements patterns and how these varied over time / during wartime.
  • Could we create Twitter bots – ” On this day 100 years ago The Vulture (a Schooner, 328 tons) arrived from Leipzig under master Schmidt carrying Timber.”
  • Can we improve on the website’s functionality even further?

Aberdeen March Stones

A small project to ensure that all of the Aberdeen March Stones (historic boundary stones) are well represented on Wikidata and Wikicommons.

Much more on this project description doc including a bunch of useful background sources, a list of suggested next steps, and the suggestion to create a Wikipedia article on the March Stones.

Aberdeen Provosts

At CTC19 and beyond we did quite a bit of work on the Provosts and Lord Provosts of Aberdeen. But there were tasks left to be done such as

  • Add honorific titles, partly done
  • Add biographical details from the memorials book – hardly started,
  • Source images for WikiCommons from the collection portraits at AAGM. A request has been sent,
  • Add places of burial, identifiers from Find A Grave, photographs of gravestones,
  • Add streets named after provosts and link to them.
  • Improve on the Wikipedia article on Aberdeen Provosts, and create individual articles for the more prominent ones.

Schools, Hospitals, Cemeteries and Companies

There are loads of opportunities to improve Wikidata to ensure that all hospitals, schools, cemeteries, workhouses and other things (current and historic) are represented in Wikidata. This will aid linked data queries – such as “How many Provosts of Aberdeen are buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery?”

For example contrast this map of NE hospitals through time with this list from Wikidata.

Similarly, if we can build up a body of data for the major companies in Aberdeen which were significant employers, we can link the import of goods by shipping, or which business people were connected with the larger companies. Currently there is only one company listed on Wikidata: Shore Porters Society. The Aberdeen Harbour Board doesn’t even exist in Wikidata at the time of writing! We can source data on other companies from openly published historic Post Office Directories of Aberdeen by the National Library of Scotland with even more on Archive.Org.

Listed Buildings

There are hundreds of Aberdeen listed buildings / structures on Wiki Data but many have no photos, and lack meaningful descriptions. There is an opportunity for keen photographers to capture pictures of these, upload them to WikiCommons and link the Wiki Data entries, and for the Wikidata entries to be improved, and for UPRNs to be added to the entries.

Aberdeenshire Settlements

There are 198 villages in Aberdeenshire listed on Wikipedia some with excellent names for example; there’s Kirkton of Tough the home of the famous Aberdeen Angus cattle breed, a settlement called Lost which keeps losing it’s street sign, and of course, Cock BridgeMany of these are only stub articles of a few sentences, but you can fix this! See also

These pages all fall under WikiProject_UK_geography and WikiProject_Scotland.  WikiProject_UK_geography gives clear outline for settlement pages.

For the infobox see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Infobox_settlement or, Gavin recently updated the Newmachar and Kingseat, Aberdeenshire pages which may be easier to copy from.

You can go for a little explore and gather photos of landmarks like churches, village halls and schools for wikimedia.

If you have a good Doric voice you could record the pronunciation of the village names, this is especially useful for the weird ones like Finzean or Ythsie

Other handy links:

And more? We expect a few more challenges to come in, if the above weren’t enough!

Sign up now and encourage your colleagues and friends to do so too!

See you there.

Ian, Andrew, Bruce, Steve