Its been a long time…

The original SENESCHAL project to create the site, data, services and widgets ended way back in early 2014. In the intervening 5 years the resources have been utilized in a number of useful scenarios, and heritagedata URIs have found their way into many systems as points of reference. The vocabulary data itself has been maintained, extended and improved by members of the respective originating heritage organizations. However during this time the underlying platform actually remained fairly static. We are now performing some long overdue maintenance tasks on this platform, upgrading the underlying software and introducing an SSL certificate for https URIs (although persistent concept and scheme URIs will remain the same). We are also taking this opportunity to make some requested improvements to the web services, for example including scope notes with concepts in the returned data. There may be some slight changes required to the widget code to enable the widgets to continue functioning correctly. There will inevitably be a small amount of disruption to services during this time but we hope to keep this to a minimum.

SENESCHAL project case study features in the Scottish Government Open Data resource pack

The Scottish Government have just published an Open Data Resource Pack, developed to support Scotland’s Open Data Strategy which was published in February 2015. The Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s ambition for making data open and available for others to use and reuse. The release of data in this way will provide a societal asset which offers significant benefits to many.

The Open Data Resource Pack has been developed with support and input from organisations throughout the Scottish public sector. It provides handy tips and guidance to help public authorities throughout Scotland develop their own plans for open data. Open data is non-personal and non-commercial data which is made available online in machine readable formats and can be used, and reused for any purpose as it is available under open license. This guidance covers all the steps organisations should consider when they are thinking about releasing their data openly

The resource Pack features a case study on SENESCHAL as a successful project in publishing Linked Open Data.


Peter McKeague

Gaelic thesaurus: Historic Scotland Press release

To launch their Gaelic thesaurus, Historic Scotland have issued a press release.  The article includes references to as the home of Linked Data vocabularies for cultural heritage data and the SENESCHAL project, led by the Hypermedia Research Unit at the University of South Wales.

So far the story has been picked up by The Herald and The Oban Times.

Vocabularies in a useful form

Repeated references to RDF, SKOS, LOD, and REST services can sometimes seem an impenetrable wall of jargon leaving some people cold – how do we actually use all this stuff? Well the good news is that 99% of what you need is already implemented here at HeritageData. To use any of the controlled vocabularies in your own web pages or applications you can employ the brand new SENESCHAL widgets. This is a suite of predefined visual user interface controls that dynamically obtain vocabulary information from the web services.

The controls provide vocabulary navigation, search and selection functionality that can be embedded directly within your own web pages. A set of associated demonstration pages show how to configure and use each widget control, and how to combine them to create functionally rich user interfaces.

This is a preliminary release of the widget controls, and hopefully they will serve as exemplars to engender discussion and additional ideas about what people might want to do with these vocabularies. The widget source code is available as Open Source, under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) arrangement. Try the widgets out and let us know how you get on – we welcome constructive feedback on how to improve and extend them!

How many beans make 5? or One man’s fish is another man’s poisson

As a little fella, I was often asked by my dad the somewhat perplexing question: “How many beans make 5?”. The even more perplexing answer, “a bean, a bean and a half, half a bean and 2 beans”,  is imprinted on my brain like the lyrics to every Rush song up to, but not including, Test For Echo (I blame the fact that this was the first album not to be released on vinyl and therefore I didn’t spend hours stroking the gatefold sleeve whilst reading the astonishing literary offerings of Mr N. Peart esq.). As ever, I digress.

The above answer is, indisputably, correct and for years I was as certain, as certain can be, that it was the definitive answer.


In the early noughties, John Peel (DJ extraordinaire and National Treasure, RIP) asked the very same question on his BBC Radio 4 programme Home Truths. Imagine my surprise, dear reader, at

a) somebody else even knowing about the question


b) the staggering number of possible answers which his devout listeners sent in.

The debate seemed to go on for weeks and caused quite a kerfuffle amongst the cocoa-sipping, be-cardiganned denizens of Radio 4 land. Eventually, everyone had to agree to disagree.

Now, dear reader, I can hear you chuntering to yourself and muttering “What is this gibberish?”

Well, what this taught me was that sometimes there is no single definitive answer but that it doesn’t matter as long as everybody is aware that they’re discussing the same thing. Or in others words it doesn’t matter about the labels as long as the concept is agreed. That’s what we here at are trying to bring about and the next step with the vocabularies that we have is to create links between them as a precursor to the development of the Uberthesaurus.

We’re also hoping to link to other vocabularies from our cousins across the channel and make a truly multi-lingual resource. So if you know of a vocabulary that’s out there then point it in our direction. Thank you for you co-operation in this matter.