Ancient Studies Needs Open Bibliographic Data and Associated URIs

Update 1:  links throughout, minor formatting changes, proper Creative Commons Public Domain tools, parenthetical about import path from Endnote and such, fixing a few typos.

The NEH-funded Linked Ancient World Data Institute, still in progress at ISAW, has got me thinking about a number of things. One of them is bibliography and linked data. Here's a brain dump, intended to spark conversation and collaboration.

What We Need

  • As much bibliographic data as possible, for both primary and secondary sources (print and digital), publicly released to third parties under either a public domain declaration or an unrestrictive open license.
  • Stable HTTP URIs for every work and author included in those datasets.


Bibliographic and citation collection and management are integral to every research and publication in project in ancient studies. We could save each other a lot of time, and get more substantive work done in the field, if it was simpler and easier to do. We could more easily and effectively tie together disparate work published on the web (and appearing on the web through retrospective digitization) if we had a common infrastructure and shared point of reference. There's already a lot of digital data in various hands that could support such an effort, but a good chunk of it is not out where anybody with good will and talent can get at it to improve it, build tools around it, etc.

What I Want You (and Me) To Do If You Have Bibliographic Data
  1. Release it to the world through a third party. No matter what format it's in, give a copy to someone else whose function is hosting free data on the web. Dump it into a public repository at or Put it into a shared library at Zotero, Bibsonomy, Mendeley, or another bibliographic content website (most have easy upload/import paths from Endnote, and other citation management applications). Hosting a copy yourself is fine, but giving it to a third party demonstrates your bona fides, gets it out of your nifty but restrictive search engine or database, and increments your bus number.
  2. Release it under a Creative Commons Public Domain Mark or Public Domain Dedication (CC0).  Or if you can't do that, find as open a Creative Commons or similar license as you can. Don't try to control it. If there's some aspect of the data that you can't (because of rights encumberance) or don't want to (why?) give away to make the world a better place, find a quick way to extract, filter, or excerpt that aspect and get the rest out.
  3. Alert the world to your philanthropy. Blog or tweet about it. Post a link to the data on your institutional website. Above all, alert Chuck Jones and Phoebe Acheson so it gets announced via Ancient World Online and/or Ancient World Open Bibliographies.
  4. Do the same if you have other useful data, like identifiers for modern or ancient works or authors.
  5. Get in touch with me and/or anyone else to talk about the next step: setting up stable HTTP URIs corresponding to this stuff.
Who I'm Talking To

First of all, I'm talking to myself, my collaborators, and my team-mates at ISAW. I intend to eat my own dogfood.

Here are other institutions and entities I know about who have potentially useful data.
  • The Open Library : data about books is already out there and available, and there are ways to add more
  • Perseus Project : a huge, FRBR-ized collection of MODS records for Greek and Latin authors, works, and modern editions thereof.
  • Center for Hellenic Studies: identifiers for Greek and Latin authors and works
  • L'Année Philologique and its institutional partners like the American Philological Association: the big collection of analytic secondary bibliography for classics (journal articles)
  • TOCS-IN: a collaboratively collected batch of analytic secondary bibliography for classics
  • and its contributing project partners: TEI bibliographic records for  much of the bibliography produced for or cited by Greek and Latin papyrologists (plus other ancient language/script traditions in papyrology)
  • Gnomon Bibliographische Datenbank: masses of bibliographic data for books and articles for classics
  • Any and every university library system that has a dedicated or easily extracted set of associated catalog records. Especially any with unique collections (e.g., Cincinnati) or those with databases of analytical bibliography down to the level of articles in journals and collections.
  • Ditto any and every ancient studies digital project that has bibliographic data in a database.
Comments, Reactions, Suggestions

Welcome, encouraged, and essential. By comment here or otherwise (but not private email please!).