Our heritage, the places and people where we come from, are an important part of the culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. In towns small and large around the country, memorials stand to commemorate the fallen who served in the New Zealand Wars, World War I and World War 2. Wouldn't it be good to be able to stand in front of a monument, and see more than just names?
The New Zealand Memorials Register contains locations and photos for over a thousand war memorials across the country. In order to help people today to connect the names on those memorials with the people who lived and served before them, we want to connect this information with personnel records from the Online Cenotaph database.
In order to make those connections, we are setting up a website to import data for each memorial, and use crowdsourcing to transcribe and classify the text from those images. We hope that this will become a useful tool for New Zealanders who want to research their local history, and find out more about their families and whakapapa.
If we can help families and historians to successfully match up these names with the people they commemorate, it could help New Zealanders to engage with and learn about our shared past through telling their personal stories. It could also become a useful resource for visitors to the country, helping them to understand the history and culture of the people who live here.
We're developing a website using the Drupal CMS, with custom code to parse KML geographic data from the Memorials Register and fetch linked entry data from that site. On the Online Cenotaph database, queries are made through an ElasticSearch-based API, pulling in fields that are likely to help site users to identify specific people with a name query.
As the initial focus is on crowdsourcing, the site is intended initially for data entry on desktops and tablets. The site includes responsive layouts to improve usability on handheld devices, and future development may include further mobile-friendly options, such as the ability to search for the nearest monument based on a device location supplied by users.
The Cenotaph database will be moving to a linked open data approach in August of this year, rather than its current rate-limited API. When we are sure of exactly what that will entail in terms of data access, schemas and ontologies, we can work on refining our approach: improving the quality of searching and resource linking available to site users.