Notes on Method

As a first step, we have first identified the published reports of European travelers and entered them into a Zotero bibliography, accompanied with related primary and secondary literature. We have identified about 530 individual reports so far. Digital copies of approximately 95% of the initial sampling are available from Google Books and Hathi Trust. These copies will be used for the project. An online portal will provide information about the travelers and their reports, and it will also give access to the copyright-free full texts of these works.

The processed data, which includes texts, images, and metadata, will be presented via the GIS functionality of the platform (integrated into OSDS). The itineraries will thus be visualized. Copyright-free images that are found in the travelogues will be assigned to the relevant locations and are displayed or linked on the platform. This will make the travel experience vividly comprehensible and place the texts and relevant media in geographical context.

For the indexing of the reports, we import the files into a search index, and we extract the relevant entities. This process renders a faceted search in the Apache / Solr index possible. For this purpose, we benefit from Open Semantic Search as the search environment, which offers an integrated NER. In a further development phase, we will use the Linked Data capacities of Open Semantic Search, and we will integrate additional metadata about the travelers and the places that they visit. Targeted place names can be automatically introduced via Wikidata into the NER. Since it is impossible to avoid errors in the automated generation of facets and metadata, manual post-processing and enrichment of the texts will be necessary.



About the “Travelers in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire”

The long 19th century was the age of a rapid and radical transformation for the Ottoman Empire. The rise of nationalism among various ethnic and religious communities of the empire was one of the most defining factors in this transformation. Similar to other cases in Europe, nationalism paved the way for the emergence of new identities, and consequently the redefinition of the self and the “other(s)” at both personal and communal levels. This project aims at revealing, gathering, and processing the rich, yet hitherto untapped sources of information about this socio-political transformation, namely, the travelogues. Through observing this process in the outsiders’ (i.e. European travelers’) accounts, it also aims at shedding light on the European perceptions regarding the transformation in the modern Middle East. The project follows a Linked Open Data approach that provides the extracted entities and information as resources for multimodal research approaches.

As a first result of the collection and preparation of the data from these rich and untapped historical sources (i.e. travelogues), we will identify and analyze various descriptions of and narratives about the sociopolitical change in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire. Our initial, yet mostly manual, examination of the random samples from this literature already testifies to the existence of a rich source of information that provides valuable information on various aspects of identity (re)formation in the late Ottoman Empire and the European travelers’ perceptions of these processes. As a later step, we plan to link the extracted metadata about people, places, publications, and itineraries to other resources such as authority records and wikidata, and make our findings available as machine-readable Linked (Travel) Data. Finally, we aim, through our portal, to provide the scholars and research groups who are interested in the Middle East with an open, rich, and reliable resource for first-hand descriptions and depictions of the various aspects of the socio-political change in the long 19th century.