Cultosaurus Humongous or Everything you ever wanted to know about heritage but were afraid to ask

Big ideas

As mentioned in my earlier post – The thesaurus that time forgot – the idea of a combined Thesaurus of Monument Types for the whole of the UK has been around for more than a decade. Unfortunately, as with anything that’s left, unwatched, on a back burner for any length of time, it’s likely to boil over. In this case, like the magic porridge pot, the idea has not just boiled over, it has grown…and grown..and grown…and gr…(well you get the picture).

The idea is no longer to develop a UK-wide Thesaurus of Monument Types but to expand it to cover the whole of Cultural Heritage, and the whole of the geographic British Isles (including the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands).

The thesaurus would include those vocabularies provided by EH, RCAHMS and RCAHMW as well as bringing together all of the existing thesauri/authority files recommended by FISH.

In addition, it  would also look to incorporate other terminologies from the reference data lists in use by the following organizations:

Where practicable archaic, regional and dialect terms would be included and the thesaurus would include multilingual aspects with Welsh, Gaelic, Manx and Scots Gaelic included (where appropriate).


For both geographical and political reasons it is recognized that the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands share a common cultural heritage with respect to their archaeology and architecture and that, although certain regional differences occur, these do not reflect the current geopolitical boundaries, for example:

  • The Neolithic monuments found across the whole area
  • The Roman presence in England, Scotland and Wales
  • The Viking settlements of Ireland, The Isle of Man, Scotland and the North of England
  • The Georgian architecture of Bath, Dublin and Edinburgh
  • The military architecture of the 18th, 19th and 20th Century

As such, the proposed British and Irish Thesaurus of Cultural Heritage (acronym not to be used in polite circles) aims to provide a common framework and language for the recording of the built and buried heritage.

What and how?

Currently the terminologies in use sit in isolation from one another. The intention of the TCH is to bring them together under the umbrella of an Uber-thesaurus. Thus each domain (monuments, objects, materials, periods etc.) will become a hierarchy within the larger Cultosaurus Humongous (to misquote Blue Oyster Cult).

This structure will also allow us to create relationships between domains so that if a monument type is made of a specific material and found in a specific period then we can model that within the structure.

Obviously once the TCH is built it will be made available as linked data, each concept being represented by a HTTP URI. It is also anticipated that we will be able to associate each concept with images and other documentation so that the TCH will become a truly encyclopaedic resource for the Cultural Heritage sector.

So, that should be simple enough then…


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