The thesaurus that time forgot

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In the Beginning was the word

In 2001 at the  mda conference, Rebecca Jones and myself gave a paper, mischievously titled Towards a Flexible UK-Wide Integrated thesaurus, concerning the aspiration for a UK-wide thesaurus of Monument Types. At that time the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) had just completed the development of the Scottish Monuments Thesaurus (SMT). Based on its English cousin the Thesaurus of Monument Types (TMT), the SMT provided RCAHMS with terminological independence. Its very existence also paved the way for the development of a combined UK Thesaurus.

The paper that Beccy and I gave at that conference set out the vision of a combined Thesaurus of Monument Types. Although the idea was well-received and welcomed by the community the lack of available tools for the development proved a major stumbling block and the project was mothballed.

Five years later, in 2006, EH secured funding for EHKOS – the English Heritage Knowledge Organization System. Intended as a collaborative tool for use by the whole heritage community , EHKOS would provide us with an online editing tool. Unfortunately, due to budgetary constraints, the project ground to a halt at the end of Phase 1.  So it was back to the drawing board.

In 2013 the landscape looks very different. Open-source thesaurus editing software is increasingly  being made available and we’re investigating options for using these to develop the thesaurus. These include:

  • GINCO  – currently being developed by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication
  • Vocbench – developed by  Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN

But before we can begin creating the new thesaurus we’re making the existing vocabularies, currently in use, available as linked data.

The rationale behind this is that the community have been asking for them and we can no longer keep our public waiting. Obviously we’d have loved to deliver the combined thesaurus but as the Rolling Stones once sang, you can’t always get what you want.

The other reason for not waiting for the release of the combined thesaurus is that the new thesaurus will look somewhat different…

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