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ResourcesResearch IntegrityVenice ‘time machine’ project suspended amid data row – Nature (Davide Castelvecchi Davide Castelvecchi | October 2019)

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Venice ‘time machine’ project suspended amid data row – Nature (Davide Castelvecchi Davide Castelvecchi | October 2019)

Published/Released on October 25, 2019 | Posted by Admin on November 2, 2019 / , , , , , ,
 


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Disagreements among international partners leave plans to digitize the Italian city’s history in limbo.

Like the city itself, an ambitious effort to digitize ten centuries’ worth of documents that record the history of Venice is at risk of sinking. Two key partners have suspended the Venice Time Machine project after reaching an impasse over issues surrounding open data and methodology. The State Archive of Venice and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) say they have had to pause data collection, and the archive’s director has raised questions about the usability of the 8 terabytes of information that have already been collected.

A useful illustration of the value of early discussions about data management and about ensuring that metadata is considered as well.

The project sought to digitize documents that stretch over 80 kilometres of shelves in the state archive. These record the minutiae of the city’s administration — from financial transactions to citizens’ addresses and family connections — during its heyday in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as a republic that for centuries dominated trade in the eastern Mediterranean. Many are written in Latin or the Venetian dialect, and have never been read by modern historians.
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The goal was to make this information freely available online to researchers worldwide. The project also aimed to push the state-of-the-art in text-recognition technology for handwritten documents, using machine learning to automatically read millions of pages and tag their contents so that historians could perform quick searches.
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