On Friends and Friendships

By Katherine, Amara, and James (Project Investigators)

Constructing an ontology around relations between people is (relatively) straightforward when those relations are formal or familial: person X was taught by person Y, person A shared a house with person B, person P was the daughter of person Q. Where it gets difficult is when those relations are not familial, are less tangible, and we feel those relations are both significant and not unambiguously captured in our sources: for example, when two or more people appear to have been friends and that friendship appears to have been important to their lives.

Wikidata does not have a property for friendship, and as a project team we decided – after lengthy discussion and disagreement – that creating a property for friendship was unwise, because ‘friend’ is highly ambiguous. For example, ‘friends’ is used in ‘friends, Romans, countrymen’ to hail a group of people who are not necessarily friends, but rather to encourage those people to treat the speaker – or the institution they represent – as if friends. Similarly, the expression ‘friends of the British Museum’ is an organisational usage that describes a loose group of patrons, donors, and/or sponsors who are not necessarily ‘friends’ with the organisation but are rather well-wishers and/or supporters.

Wikidata – which Beyond Notability treats as a guide, though something short of a model – gets around this issue with the ‘significant person’ property, defined as ‘person linked to the item in any possible way’. That is, the property is used to define a range of relations that are significant to the subject: for example, between pi and William Jones (the latter named the former), Albrecht Dürer and Willibald Pirckheimer (the pair were noted correspondents), Hispano-Suiza and Marc Birkigt (the latter founded the former), 284 AD and Diocletian (the latter became Roman Emperor in 284 AD), Sarah Bernhardt and Betty Callish (they were friends).

For us, adopting this approach would have three disadvantages. First, it is non-specific, and a key rationale for creating our own knowledge base – rather than simply augmenting Wikidata – is to allow us to drill into the specificity of relations that our domain demands. Second, it is implemented in Wikidata without the requirement for evidence (to get technical, there is no property constraint for P3342 that requires a valid reference). Third, and more philosophical, is the emphasis on ‘notability’ (both of the subjects involved and of the relationships between those subjects), and the positional work that implies – notability thresholds depend on whosenotability counts and which relationships are considered to be significant. In a project seeking explicitly (it is in the title!) to go beyond notability, we have already resolved to always to make explicit that we are ascribing to people aspects of identity and self-image perceived by us in our interpretation of our sources. In turn, constructing our own notability thresholds for things like friendships between people – for, per Homosaurus “Connections based on affection and trust between two or more people” (and the various cascading private and public specificities thereof) – struck us, after much debate, as unwise.

So, what ascriptions or expressions of connections of this ambiguous kind are we encountering in our sources?

We know that Maria Millington Lathbury and Jane Harrison lived for some time at the same address – Chenies Street Chambers, a women’s residence in London. They were interviewed together in Pall Mall Gazette about lecturing work, and Harrison was described by Lathbury’s daughter in a published memoir as one of the “friends” who sought to help her establish her career as a freelance lecturer.

We know that Lucy Toulmin Smith wrote an obituary for Mary Kingsley, and Kingsley’s biographer, Stephen Gwynn, described her in his 1932 work as a “friend”.

We know that Agnes Conway dedicated her 1917 book to Jane Harrison describing her (in Latin) as a “beloved teacher” (“magistra dilecta”); and that Conway’s diaries reveal Jane Harrison was a hugely influential mentor for her for many years after she left Newnham College. For Amara, who has extensively researched Conway’s diaries, this amounts to friendship.

And we know that Anna Anderson Morton and Mary Brodrick ran a business together, travelled together, and were likely to have shared an address for part of their lives. Morton also arranged public appearances for Brodrick, announcements for which appeared in contemporary newspapers.

Based on our discussions, ontological observations, and analysis of evidence, our solution – for now – is to create the property ‘has personal connection to’. We plan to use this property to capture instances where evidence exists of non-familial and personal connections between people (beyond merely using the words such as ‘friend’ in a formal manner) and that is a more modest way of asserting connections between people that evoking ‘friendship’. For example, we have used this property to capture the personal connection between Ethel Henrietta Rudkin and Margaret Alice Murray as evidenced by Murray writing a foreword to a book written by Rudkin and by Murray having been noted as encouraging Rudkin’s work. This usage is then similar to Wikidata’s usage of ‘significant person’ in that its use is likely to be sparing – we don’t anticipate that every women in our knowledge base will have a ‘personal connection’ statement associated with them. However, it differs in placing an emphasis on the personal, and in not picking out ‘significant’ relations but rather trying to amplify the significance of other statements that suggest personal connections – in making ‘personal’ the evidence that links flatmates, colleagues in an excavation, or committee members.


By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator)

On 8 March 2023, the Beyond Notability team and a some keen Wikidata editors braved the snowy weather for the International Women’s Day editathon at the Society of Antiquaries. The introductory talks were in the ground floor Meeting Room, which, as I discovered about 5 minutes before we began, contains a 15th-century wooden painted panel that once hung in Baston House, the childhood home of Elizabeth Branson, one of the women in our database. Branson sent the panels for exhibition at the Society in 1880 and donated them to the Society subsequently – both exhibition and donation are recorded in the Society’s minute books (and included in her entry on our database). As I mentioned briefly in my introduction it was a fitting location, therefore, for the start of our day!

James followed my short introduction to the project and the programme for the day with training on Wikidata editing. He used the Wikidata item for politician and former Speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd, who died late last month, to talk through creating and augmenting Wikidata. Both my introduction and James’s training were recorded, and are now available on the Society of Antiquaries YouTube account

Katy Drake introducing “Illuminating Knowledge” (2023) the print she has created with Kath Van Uytrecht. Photo: A. Thornton, 8 March 2023.

We then reconvened in the Library. Before editing began in earnest, artist Katy Drake gave a brief speech to introduce a new artwork hanging in the Society’s Library, which she has produced with artist Kath Van Uytrecht. It is a large print, inspired by the women included in the Beyond Notability database. Katy and Kath travelled to Sweden to create the print.

Katy has very kindly contributed some explanatory text: “Illuminating Knowledge” is a collaborative print re-imagining the Lamp of Knowledge, a 14th century bronze Sabbath lamp that is the emblem of the Society of Antiquaries London. Kath and Katy have included 164 shapes inspired by clay Roman oil lamps to represent the women associated with the Society from 1870 -1950. Rather than a single lamp emanating from one source, the lamps represent the network of women and the importance of their contributions. By representing each individual they give voice to women’s work previously overlooked. 

Editing commenced after Katy’s short talk, and our attendees drew on a selection of relevant texts which we had pulled together from the Society’s Library to begin augmenting Wikidata. All in all it was a most enjoyable and productive day, despite the weather.

If you weren’t able to make the event, not to worry! You can get involved in editing Wikidata to add women in our database at any time – just view the training session linked above and visit our Wiki project page to get started.

Introducing our International Women’s Day 2023 Wiki editathon

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator, Beyond Notability)

We’re gearing up for our second International Women’s Day event next month. This will be a Wiki editathon, held both in person and online (book here!) at the Society of Antiquaries of London on 8th March 2023.

Following on from our collaborative Wiki editathon in December with the Victoria County History and the Women’s Classical Committee, we’re encouraging you to dive into our data once more and help us increase representation on Wikipedia and Wikidata of women active in archaeology, history and heritage. This time, we’re focusing on women who have entries in our database. We’ve built a project page on Wikipedia so we can see how Wikipedia and Wikidata entries for the women in our database grow and develop.

At present, we have over 500 women in the database. Some of them, like Ella Sophia Armitage, are already on Wikipedia and Wikidata. Others, like Sigridr Magnusson, are currently only on Wikidata. Many more, like Margaret Sefton-Jones, are not currently on either Wikipedia or Wikidata.

500 is a rather large number, so we thought we’d make things a bit easier by pulling together some smaller lists. These represent different areas of our database, different places, different activities, and different subjects.

Are you interested in folklore? Here is our list of women who were affiliated with the Folklore Society!

How about women who were freelance lecturers? Here is our list.

Or women who took part in excavations at Colchester? Another list!

And here is our list of women who were exhibiting a broad range of works in a variety of venues!

There’s something for everyone, we hope. So join us on 8th March – we look forward to seeing you there. If you want to take part online, we’re encouraging people working on Wikidata to take part from 8 March until the end of the month, as it is Women’s History Month.

Women of the VCH Wiki edit-a-thon

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator, Beyond Notability Project)

The Beyond Notability project is collaborating with the Victoria County History and the Women’s Classical Committee for an online Wiki editathon on 15 December. Since its foundation the Victoria County History has employed women as researchers and writers of these important county-level histories. Some of the women working for the VCH are already represented on Wikipedia and Wikidata, but many of them are not.

Attendees of the Wiki editathon will be adding women VCH contributors to Wikidata and Wikipedia, and augmenting entries for women who are already included to reflect their association with the VCH.

There are 21 women who contributed to the VCH currently included in our Beyond Notability database:

Of these 12 (Graham, Taylor, Armitage, Sellers, Bateson, Chapman, Harris, Wood, O’Neil, Stokes, Toynbee and Lobel) are on Wikidata, and 9 on Wikipedia (Graham, Taylor, Armitage, Sellers, Bateson, Wood, O’Neil, Stokes, and Lobel).

The Women’s Classical Committee has been working on adding women working in classics (broadly conceived) to Wikipedia in monthly editathons. There were 5 women involved in writing about Romano-British archaeology for the Victoria County History:

  • Charlotte Margaret Calthrop  – Romano-British Berkshire
  • Sophie Shilleto Smith – Romano-British Buckinghamshire
  • Edith Murray Keate – Romano-British Leicestershire (co-authored with William Page), Rutland (co-authored with HB Walters), Staffordshire (with Page)
  • Margerie Venables Taylor – Romano British Huntingdonshire, Kent (with Francis John Haverfield), Oxford, Shropshire (with Haverfield)
  • Ella Sophia Armitage – Ancient Earthworks for Yorkshire 1 (co-authored with Donald Montgomerie, this includes Romano-British Earthworks)

Of these, 3 are on our database (Keate, Taylor and Armitage), but only Taylor and Armitage are represented on Wikipedia and Wikidata.

15 December 2022: Editathon Programme

Purpose of event

  • Create, improve and enrich Wikidata and Wikipedia entries for women connected to the Victoria County History project
  • Introduce attendees to editing Wikipedia and Wikidata.
  • Provide a supportive environment for learning and sharing.


  • Create/augment Wikidata/Wikidata entries for women contributors to the VCH
    • If extant, are Wikidata/Wikipedia entries tidy? And do the links work?
    • HARDER Are there missing links to key identifiers (ie WorldCat, Archaeology Data Service) in Wikidata entries.
    • HARDER use “contributed to creative work” property to add VCH work to women’s entries as in this one for Mary Bateson (see her contributing to the DNB)
  • ONE PERSON TASK Augment VCH entry on Wikipedia to clarify staffing structure, including work of contributors as well as editors
  • Use Beyond Notability database as a trusted source for referencing in Wikidata/Wikipedia entries

Event Plan

3-3.20 Intro talks

3-3.05 Brief welcome (Amara)

3.05-3.10 Intro to VCH (Adam)

3.10-3.15 Intro to BN (James)

3.15-3.20 Intro to WCC (Victoria)

3.20-4.30 Training & Editing

Training on Wikipedia editing (Victoria)

Training on Wikidata editing (James)


Further Reading/References

Link to VCH Volumes online (not all volumes are available for all counties):

Beckett, John, 2011. Writing Hampshire’s History: The Victoria County History 1899-1914, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club Archaeological Society 66.

Chapman, Adam and Townsend, Mike, 2022. Bringing the VCH Past to the Wikipedia Present. IHR Blog.

Elrington, CR (Ed.), 1990. The Victoria History of the Counties of England: General Introduction Supplement 1970-1990 (Oxford University Press).

Pugh, Ralph (Ed.), 1970. The Victoria History of the Counties of England: General Introduction (Oxford University Press).


Special thanks to Adam Chapman, Victoria Leonard, James Baker, Shani Evenstein-Sigalov.

Election of Women Fellows to the Society of Antiquaries

By Ammandeep K Mahal (Research Fellow) 

Since its foundation in 1707, The Society of Antiquaries has been a hub of archaeological, historical, anthropological and art research, all of which fell under the broad term – ‘Antiquary’. Members of the Society of Antiquaries are known as Fellows. In order to become a member, a person must first be elected by existing Fellows of the Society, and they must be ‘excelling in the knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other nations’ and be ‘desirous to promote the honour, business and emoluments of the Society’. Once elected, Fellows are able to use the Post-nominal letters – FSA (e.g. Dr Rose Graham, FSA).

As part of the Beyond Notability project, the team have been combing through the archives at the Society of Antiquaries. A set of documents that has enhanced our understanding of the Society’s fellowship are the ‘Fellows Lists’. These are a set of printed lists, kept in the Library of the Society of Antiquaries and were collated every year. Each year comprises a list of the full name, address and year of election for each ‘Fellow’. The Fellows Lists also provide an annual record of the Society of Antiquaries Council and Committee members as well as its Local Secretaries.

The Council were elected from the Fellowship and met to decide matters of policy, the Committees assisted the Council with the management of specific areas of the Society and were split into the following; Finance, Library, Executive and Research. Local Secretaries were designated for different regions. Their tasks were varied and included reporting on recent discoveries, locally published books or periodicals and threats to monuments. The Local Secretaries were also required to gather information on current excavations, collectors of antiquities, recommend artefacts for exhibition, and to supply the Society with rubbings of engravings found at monuments or on stones. Therefore, the Fellows Lists provide an insight into the management and structure of the Society as well as the roles of the Fellows within it. They also show that the Society was involved in activities beyond its walls. The Beyond Notability team will investigate the role of the Local Secretaries further and then aim to integrate this work into our database, where relevant.

Women started to be elected as Fellows of the Society in 1920, and one of the earliest examples we have is that of Rose Graham. Rose was selected by the Council of the Society of Antiquaries to be proposed as a Fellow in 1920. Once she was proposed, she was supported by existing Fellows and then elected as a Fellow. Rose Graham, interestingly, was also elected to the Council of the Society in 1926, something that was also reflected in the Fellows Lists.

As part of our research at the Society, the Fellows Lists were photographed every five years, from 1920 to 1950 (the timeframe of this project). From these photographs, I was able to collate a tally of the numbers of men and the number of women Fellows. The total numbers of men and women fellows in each year were then used to construct a graph (Figure 1), enabling the visual comparison of men and women Fellows. 

The Fellows Lists have been an important dataset for us to consult as they provide comparable data that was not available from other archival sources. As can be seen in Figure 1, that the overall numbers of Fellows were increasing from 1921 to 1950, showing expansion of the Society of Antiquaries, not just through the election of women Fellows. Although the numbers of women Fellows were increasing, they were still incredibly low in comparison to the numbers of men being elected as Fellows. There seems to be relative stagnation for women Fellows in the years of the 2nd World War (reflected here in the data for 1935 and 1941) and a decrease in the numbers of men Fellows for the same time period. Thus, the events of wider society are reflected within the Fellows Lists.

This is important information that contextualises the data we are adding to our knowledge base using the fascinating documents held at the Society of Antiquaries. It forms a baseline from which it is now possible to map the growth of the Society in terms of both men and women Fellows. The numbers of women Fellows may also be used to form a comparison with similar data collected from other scholarly societies (where that data exists). This data comes from a period of great social and political change in Britain, a time that marked women’s entry into differing aspects of public life, thus the data illustrates for the first time, how such a change was reflected in the Society of Antiquaries.  

Getting started with for heritage projects

By James Baker (Co-Investigator)

The Beyond Notability Knowledge Base stores biographical information about women’s work in archaeology, history, and heritage in Britain between 1870 and 1950, information gathered during the course of our AHRC-funded research. We create information in the form of semantic triples, machine and human reading statements that describe the relationship between two things: the Miss Hemming lived in Uxbridge, that Louisa Elizabeth Deane was a donor to the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1887, that Harriet Loyd Lindsay destroyed the Yew Down barrow in 1906.

Wikidata, which celebrates its 10th birthday this Autumn, is the pre-eminent knowledge base for machine readable linked data describing the relationship between people and things. Whilst we are adding and enriching wikidata, and whilst we use it as a source of information we choose not to duplicate, we maintain our research on a separate knowledge base because we need to describe relationships that are too particular to us to represent on Wikidata, and because we diverge from the Wikidata community in how some concepts – such as gender expression – should be described.

If you visually compare our knowledge base with Wikidata you’ll notice that they look remarkably similar. This is because they use the same underlaying software – Wikibase – to create, maintain, manage, and query semantic triples. Since June this year, our Beyond Notability Wikibase instance has been hosted by Wikimedia Deutschland via their service. enables people who want to run a Wikibase but don’t have the (technical or financial) capacity to run their own instance, to create a Wikibase on a shared hosting platform with minimal configuration.

This post describes how to get started, key points to consider, and some basic things to do to make your work with easier.

Create an Instance

At the time of writing, is in a closed beta, which means they are not accepting account requests. However, you can sign up for early access and join community mailing list.

Once you have a login, you can create a new wiki by choosing a site name, deciding a prefix to, and then creating your wiki. From there you have a few important configuration options:

  • to set a site logo;
  • to edit your site skin from three options (ours is “Vector”);
  • to select whether users of your Wikibase can create accounts and edit straight away, or require your approval (we have the latter);
  • whether or not to map your properties to those on Wikidata (we don’t, for reasons).

Editing pages

Editing a page – e.g. a landing page or a list of queries – on your instance is the same as editing a page on Wikipedia in that both use the same syntax: so, ==HEADING== for a heading, * for a bullet, [ My Website] for a link, etc.

If you aren’t sure where to start, hit the View source link on another Wikibase – like ours! – borrow the code, and start playing around. Anything you get wrong can be reverted via the View history tab, so little can really go wrong.

Note that to make a new page, there is no new page button of the kind you might be used to on WordPress or similar sites. To create a new page you need to manually enter the URL you want for your new page – such as – in your browser, and then hit the create this page button to create the page from scratch.

Give your collaborators edit access

Once you are logged into your Wikibase, you will see a Special pages link on the left-side tower. Here you can find lots of useful pages for maintaining your site. One is the Create account page. Use this to add new people who will be collaborating with you on the Wikibase. Their user privileges can then be maintained via links in the Users and rights section of Special pages.

Create some linked data

Linked data is made up of Subject-Predicate-Object triples. These are both human and machine readable, meaning that – on our Wikibase – Margaret Sefton-Jones (Subject) was a member of (Predicate) the Royal Archaeological Institute (Object) is the same as bnwd:Q507 bnwdt:P67 bnwd:Q35.

Subjects and objects can change position (so, the Royal Archaeological Institute (Subject) has archives at (Predicate) the Society of Antiquaries of London (Object)). On Wikibase – as on Wikidata – both subjects and objects are represented by Q numbers and called “Items”. Predicates are the glue in the middle, represented by P numbers and called “Properties”. A Q-P-Q triple is known as a “Statement”.

To make a new item, hit New Item on the left-side tower. To make a new property, hit New Property on the left-side tower. Note that you must select a Data type for new properties otherwise they can’t be used to make statements. In most cases, the Data type will be Item, meaning that the property takes a Q number as its object. Common alternatives are Point in time or EDTF Date/Time (used for dates) and Monolingual text (used for adding free text).

Once you’ve made two items and a property you can make them into a statement. To do that works as follows:

  • Go to the item page for the item you want to be a subject, hit add statement, type in your P number (note that you can start typing the label for a P or Q in this box, but new items and properties won’t appear immediately because the search index for refreshes occasionally – usually daily at the slowest – to minimise resource use/impact) and click it.
  • Add your Q number in the next box and hit save to create your statement.
  • For more complex statements, create qualifiers to add detail to your statements and/or references to show where you got the information from. Qualifiers work the same way as statements so should feel intuitive (even if the logic takes a while to figure out – dig around our Wikibase and look at pages for individuals such as Margerie Venables Taylor if you need some guidance).

See who has been making what

Special pages are your friend. One really useful section is Recent changes and logs, which can give you a sense of what changes have been made recently, who has been doing what, and the new items that have been created in your Wikibase. If you are planning quality assurance work on your Wikibase, these logs are the place to start.

Use the ‘what links here’ pages

On the left side of each item and property page is the link What links here. This is an incredibly useful resource for navigating your emerging knowledge base, getting reports on usage of particular properties, and spotting quirks (and errors!) in the implementation of your data model.

For example, the What links here page for Margerie Venables Taylor gives you a quick sense of all the items – mostly for people – that link to her, in most cases because of her role in putting other women forward as Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries.

Equally, the What links here page for Oxford gives a sense of that place as hub for women’s intellectual communities in our period.

And the What links here page can also be useful for properties. For example, the What links here page for the property Archaeology Data Service person ID gives a list of all the people with ADS IDs in our Wikibase. That the result (at the time of writing) is 304 of 489 women in our Wikibase indicates the way our sources are revealing voices thus far unrecorded on other canonical services and persistent identifer infrastructures.

Write your first query

You can query your data with your ‘Query Service’, which can be accessed from the left pane. The Wikibase query services uses a query language called SPARQL, a standard query language for linked data. I have had a long and painful relationship with SPARQL – it isn’t all that easy to get your head around. Thankfully there are amazing resources out there to support query writing, notably Bob DuCharme’s book Learning SPARQL, and the Wikidata community maintains a range of example queries which give a sense of what is possible. Because a lot is possible.

We use SPARQL queries not only for analysing our data (for example, a query that returns people in our knowledge base sorted by the number of places they lived, including the number of cites/towns/villages in which they lived in), but also for auditing our data: for example, to return lists of people whose gender we’ve been unable to assign or people in the knowledge base listed alongside the external identifiers – e.g. Wikidata IDs – that we’ve been able to find. These connections with external IDs enable our linked data to link to other linked data, and are particularly powerful in enabling us – for example – to recover familial connections from Wikidata (where people have Wikidata IDs, and to the extent to which their familial connections are listed on Wikidata).

By building up our data, and connecting to external sources, we hope – in time – to be able to write more complex queries that support our research, including queries that return lists of women who undertook work within two years of having their first child, or those people who used their position in the field to bring women into the profession (a hacky version of which we’ve made a start on), and so on.

Join the community

When I run out of SPARQL talent (which happens often), Bob’s book and the examples of Wikidata often help me realise how to write the query I want. But if I’m totally stuck, I’ve also found that the Wikibase community is full of wonderful people willing to offer advice and guidance. Questions on Twitter are responded to. The Wikibase community on Telegram are a constant source of support and insight. And public tickets on Phabricator – where fixes and feature additions are proposed, prioritised, and tracked – help reveal which problems are your own, and which are shared; as well as being a space to log problems and suggest features. Like many such open source communities, the Wikibase community – as well as the wider Wikidata – are welcoming to beginners, full of expertise, and provide sustainability to the technology – software is, after all, about people. So, if you are thinking of using the Wikibase, join the community, dig around the community activity, don’t be afraid to ask the community and when you have insights to share or wish to contribute to the community.

License your data

People need to know how they can use your data. So make it easy for them. Good linked data enables data to be connected, queried across, and assembled from various sources. So clearly state your terms of use (data on Wikidata is available under the Creative Commons CC0 License) so that it can be used. Better still use your Wikibase to document your data so that people using it get a sense of the decisions you’ve made, the absences you are aware of, and the uses you think would be inappropriate or might cause harm. If you are not sure where to start, see Timnit Gebru, Jamie Morgenstern, Briana Vecchione, Jennifer Wortman Vaughan, Hanna Wallach, Hal Daumé III, and Kate Crawford’s wonderful ‘Datasheets for Datasets’ (2020) – you don’t need to follow every suggestion, but given that you will be creating machine readable data on your Wikibase, it is sure to provide inspiration.

Modelling Excavations with Wikibase

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator)

A fair few women in our database were involved in excavation. Their work spans a spectrum between informal digging, directed by one person who may or may not be ‘trained’, to a larger scale affair organised by multiple groups such as local excavation committees, learned societies, training institutions, and/or universities; including both paid and volunteer labour; and supported financially by public subscription, patronage, grants, or a combination of the lot. In order to indicate effectively both the potential complexity of archaeological sites in terms of staffing, and to provide ways to document the full range of ‘work’ on site, we have come up with a model for representing excavations as organisations.

James’s early handwritten first draft of our excavations model, Feb 2022.

We have two main properties that (at the moment) serve as the gateway to our excavation model: [member of excavation during archaeological field work] and [director of archaeological fieldwork]. The first excavation we modelled using these properties was the dig that took place over multiple seasons in the 1930s in Colchester. We used the excavation report Camulodonum: First Report on the Excavations at Colchester 1930-39 (an item on our database) as our main source.

The Introduction to Camulodonum provides the staff list for our model. In it, authors Mark Reginald Hull and Christopher Hawkes acknowledge by name a myriad of paid and unpaid men and women who worked on site. We created an item [Excavations at Colchester] and used the Introduction to provide a skeleton staff list and organisational framework for the excavation (Please note: the staff was absolutely larger than the number explicitly named in Hull and Hawkes’s Introduction).

The Introduction names 4 Directors (all men), 21 “voluntary assistants” (11 women and 10 men), and 4 “charge hands” (all men). The men listed as “charge hands” were most likely managing a other men (not named and credited for their labour in the final report) who were undertaking the heavy digging. The “charge hands” and the men who they managed were probably all paid for their work, though only access to the paylists from the excavation will tell us how much.

The Colchester dig was organised by the Colchester Excavation Committee and the Society of Antiquaries Research Committee – we have used a property [organised by] to link to entries for each group. The President of the Colchester Excavation Committee was Annie Pearson, Viscountess Cowdray. She served alongside various Colchester notables, and representatives from the Society of Antiquaries. The Society of Antiquaries Research Committee also provided funding out of their designated pot for the Colchester dig.  

The excavation model that we have used for Colchester is expandable. If, for example, we find the names of other people working (either as paid or unpaid labour) on site, we can add them using the property [member of the excavation team]. We can adjust job titles for any of the individuals listed, should we find more specific information elsewhere. We can add specifics about where people were working within the area being excavated, which could be useful if particular areas of the excavation are now designated archaeological sites with individual entries on Wikidata. If a particular named individual is associated with the discovery of an artefact in a museum collection, and the artefact is discoverable through a museum collection database, we could add a link to the artefact to their entry.

The model works for smaller-scale excavations as well. In 1904, the artist Jessie Mothersole, who is on our database, worked as a “lady artist” copying tomb paintings at Saqqara, Egypt, an ancient Egyptian necropolis and (both then and now) an archaeological site and tourist attraction. We created [Excavations at Saqqara 1] (because there were multiple seasons with slightly different staff) as an item and linked it to her entry. The director of this season at Saqqara was Margaret Murray, whose report on the dig provides details on some staff.  But one of the most valuable sources for outlining the staffing of this excavation is a short article written by Jessie Mothersole for the popular illustrated magazine Sunday at Home.   

In this article, Mothersole outlines that eleven Egyptian men and boys were clearing the tombs (digging out sand) to lay bare the tomb paintings so that they could be copied: “eight basket boys, two turyehs, and a reis”. She does not name any of these men and boys. In order to include them with what little information she provided, we created an item for [name unrecorded] which we could use to indicate the existence of each person, and give them a job title.

There were two Egyptian men that both Mothersole and Murray named in their writings on this season of work at Saqqara: Reis Khalifa and Reis Rubi, two experienced foremen who were based at Saqqara during the time. They were father and son. Both are also mentioned in the Service des Antiquities journal. Mothersole also names the servant who attended the three women on site, Ibrhim Abd-el-Karim. We added him and his job title to the members of the dig team.

We hope that this model for excavations helps to emphasise the critical factor on any dig: people. We may not know who they are, or even what exactly they were doing, but if we view any excavation as an organisation we can begin to give people the credit they are due for their work to reveal the past.

More Working Lives at the Society of Antiquaries

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator)

The Beyond Notability team has been busy going through records at the Society of Antiquaries. Among the lot are the Society’s Council Minute books. Alongside fellowship administration and the scholarly agendas of the day. the Council Minute Books also reflect the day-to-day logistics of running the Society.

Keeping my eye out for mentions of women in the Council Minute books, I came across one woman whose work for the Society was integral to its day-to-day functioning in the Victorian era. This woman is Mrs Baldwinson, who was married to the Society’s Porter, Mr George Baldwinson.

The minute noting her work at the Society was made as part of a Council Meeting in June 1874. George Baldwinson had asked for a raise for himself and his wife (whose first name is, sadly, not recorded), and the minute included information on their work and pay. Mrs Baldwinson’s rate of pay was quarterly, with an annual sum for making tea, in contrast to her husband’s weekly salary. After her death a few years later, a Mrs Knight took over her duties. Another very recent find was a reference to “two girls” (unnamed) who were to help with the Library Catalogue in 1884.

As I tweeted on our launch day, The Antiquaries Journal also includes brief references to other staff who helped the Society function on a day-to-day basis. There we can find acknowledgement of the work of Louisa Hurren, the Society’s housekeeper, who retired in 1945 after 40 years working at the Society.

In 1935, another staff member’s departure was acknowledged in The Antiquaries Journal – this was Miss Warrand, who was leaving the post of ‘Library-cataloguer’ at the Society after 10 years of working. It appears from the Journal that she was one of two cataloguers employed, and that her post was not to be filled because the cataloguing work had been so thoroughly done it was felt that the Society could manage with only one catalogue from that point.

We want to acknowledge the lives and work of these women in the Society’s history, and make sure that their work is recognised alongside the contributions of the Fellows to the Society. We hope that this brief post is a start.

Building the Beyond Notability Knowledge Base: 4 reasons why we chose Wikibase

By James Baker (Co-Investigator, Beyond Notability)

For all that people like to moan about the things that are wrong on Wikipedia (and there is much that is wrong on Wikipedia), it is the place people go to when they want to know something: together with the other sites run by the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia is the knowledge infrastructure of the web. Since 2010 cultural institutions have formally contributed to this ecosystem through Wikimedian-in-Residence programmes, typically resulting in digitised material appearing on Wikimeda Commons, the home for every media artefact you encounter when browsing Wikipedia.

More recently a number of those Wikimedian-in-Residence programmes have directed attention towards Wikidata, a multilingual knowledge graph that is a common source of open data used on Wikipedia. More significantly, every time you search Google and a little info box pops up on the right side of the screen containing useful – typically biographical – information, that is probably drawn from Wikidata. In turn a person without a Wikidata page is unlikely to get a box. And so if less than 20% of Wikipedia Biographies are about women, and if most Wikipedia biographies have a corresponding Wikidata page, then it follows that enriching Wikidata with otherwise neglected histories of women active in archaeology, history and heritage is something worth attention. Hence, our project.

Wikidata is a wiki (a collaboratively edited hypertext publication) whose technical infrastructure is based on a combination of the software MediaWiki and a set of knowledge graph MediaWiki extensions known as Wikibase, the workings of which are explained in the ’Introducing Our Database’ post. We have built the Beyond Notability Knowledge Base on the same infrastructure, using Wikibase-as-a-service, first via WbStack (with amazing support from Adam Shorland) and latterly via the Wikimedia Deutschland hosted Wikibase Cloud (with thanks to Mohammed Sadat). In this blog we list the Top 4 reasons why we took this approach.

1. Aligning Biographical Approaches

We can’t record the evidence we find directly onto Wikidata because many of the women we encounter in our research do not meet Wikidata’s ‘notability threshold’ – in some cases because evidence for their work in archaeology, history, and heritage is fragmentary, in other cases because the evidence needs to be assembled first to get over that threshold. Despite this, it wouldn’t make much sense for us to design from scratch a biographical database. And so we align our approach with Wikidata because, in part, it gives us an ontological platform to build on, a template for how to represent things like familial relations, office holding, and residences.

2. Beyond Notability as a Trusted Source

It made sense then to use the same technical infrastructures as Wikidata for our knowledge base. But whilst alignment is useful we cannot – as discussed in our recent blog ‘On Working with Gender – faithfully follow the Wikidata model for representing biographical information: the historically-specific circumstances in which women were working in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century are an awkward fit for a data model orientated around modern ways of being in the Global North: indeed, our project is a test of the capacities of data models like Wikidata to capture and represent these women’s lives. Given this need to diverge, given the choices we are making to diverge from Wikidata-as-canon, using the same software platform as Wikidata, the same visual and ontological aesthetic, supports our ambition for the Beyond Notability Knowledge Base to be regarded as a trusted source of biographical information. This is important because we think our work can make vital contributions to Wikidata. Take as an example Gwenllian Morgan, the subject of our previous blog. Prior to our project she was not listed on Wikidata as being a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (the construction of which on Wikidata uses the’award received’ property). But now she is, with the amended Wikidata entry using Beyond Notability as the source of this information.

3. Querying Between Knowledge Bases

Recording Gwenllian Morgan as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA) means that any queries that use Wikidata to return a list of FSAs will now include her, as one of the many people that link to the Wikidata item Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (Q26196499). These queries can be made through the Wikidata Query Service, a SPARQL endpoint, “SPARQL” here meaning the query language used to interrogate graph databases. Building the Beyond Notability Knowledge Base on the same technologies as Wikidata means not only that we too have a SPARQL Query Service but also that both sets of data are organised using the same underlying principles, allowing us to more easily write queries that simultaneously interrogate both knowledge bases (and, indeed, any other knowledge bases that take a similar form).

We are already doing this kind of cross-querying to help our data entry. For example, we are using this..

PREFIX bnwd: <>
PREFIX bnwds: <>
PREFIX bnwdv: <>
PREFIX bnwdt: <>
PREFIX bnp: <>
PREFIX bnps: <>
PREFIX bnpq: <>
PREFIX wdt: <>
PREFIX wd:  <>

SELECT ?person ?personLabel ?item ?WD_DOB ?WD_DOD
  ?person bnwdt:P16 ?isFSA . #select FSA
  FILTER NOT EXISTS {?person bnwdt:P4 bnwd:Q12 .} #filter out project team
  ?person bnwdt:P14 ?url . #look for wikidata URL on person page
  BIND(IRI(REPLACE(?url,"","")) as ?item ) 
  SERVICE <> {
        ?item wdt:P21 wd:Q6581072 . #select women
        OPTIONAL {?item wdt:P569 ?WD_DOB . } #recall date of birth
        OPTIONAL {?item wdt:P570 ?WD_DOD . } #recall data of death
  SERVICE wikibase:label { bd:serviceParam wikibase:language "[AUTO_LANGUAGE],en-gb". } 

..query to return a list of all woman on our knowledge base with corresponding Wikidata entries and – where present – their dates of birth and death as listed on Wikidata (and yes, it could be a better query, I’m still learning). This is important to know, because we intend to use Wikidata to run queries that rely on this information – for example, return all the women who became Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries before they were 40 – for those women on Wikidata (for those who aren’t, we will record that data on our knowledge base).

As we develop more research orientated queries, using a comparable infrastructure to Wikidata gives us more example queries to draw on for inspiration and guidance. One such query is helping to develop our understanding of the interpersonal connections that women relied on to get recognition for their work, and who were key allies for women in the period. Other queries we are starting to imagine and this is helping shape the data we include in the Beyond Notability Knowledge Base. For example, in order to successfully run a queries that returns a list of all women in our knowledge base who undertook professional activities within 3 years of becoming a mother, we need a record of when their children were born, data which only exists in Wikidata for women whose children are all considered ‘notable’. We therefore have started to formulate plans for how to record information about motherhood, and other life events, in a way that preserves our imperative to centre women in our data.

4. A Community

Finally, we choose Wikibase because it isn’t just a piece of software, it is a community. The Wikibase Stakeholder Group is providing a space where we can gain expertise, share ideas, and demonstrate our commitment to trustworthy linked open data infrastructures. Our particular thanks go to Adam Shorland, Laurence ‘GreenReaper’ Parry, Lozana Rossenova, Maarten Brinkerink, and Maarten Zeinstra. We look forward to continuing to work with you over the next few years of our project.

Working with Gwenllian Morgan

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator, Beyond Notability)

As a team, we have been talking a lot about work lately. In order to test out our evolving ontology for cataloguing women’s work, we’ve started to create quite detailed entries for a few women in our database. These detailed entries are based on the initial archive research we have done over the past few months, and associated desk-based research in primary and secondary source material. 

Working through the source material and figuring out how to catalogue what we are finding about women’s work most effectively has highlighted the need for us to construct a flexible and contextually relevant framework to represent what can be quite complex forms of activity into statements that work as linked data.  

We are using this framework to reflect the wide range of activities we are seeing in the records. And where possible, we are noting whether or not “positions held” – which we are deliberately separating from employment – are paid or unpaid, with salary specifics where we have them. To that end, we have decided to pull all these together by making a new item “public or professional activity”, each work-related property we create will now be united, and queryable, through the statement that it is an “instance of” a “public and professional activity”. 

Let’s take the example of Gwenllian Morgan, one of the women in our database. She was elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in the 1930s, toward the end of her extremely active life. Her blue paper reflects the wide range of her activities – beginning with her name, after which are the letters J. P., indicating that she was a justice of the peace.  

The “Addition, Profession or Occupation” field on the blue paper reveals that she held the position of Mayor in Brecon, Wales, where she lived, in 1910, and that she was Governor (equivalent to a Trustee position) of the National Library of Wales.  

The “Qualification” field introduces yet more areas of “public and professional” activity that Morgan undertook: her co-founding of the Brecknock Society and Museum, her role as Correspondent (effectively local reporter) in Brecon and district for the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments, and her association with the “restoration” of the Cresset Stone in Brecon Cathedral.  

This last detail took a bit of time and research to unpack. On first glance, it might look like Morgan had a role in conserving the stone, which had been found in a nearby garden. But in fact, courtesy of the National Library of Wales’s digitised newspaper collection, the “restoration” refers to Morgan’s purchase of the stone and (presumably) her donation of it to the Cathedral. As an aside, I’d highly recommend watching this beautiful film of a specially composed piece of music played near the Cresset stone, which is illuminated with candles. 

Turning to secondary source material, we find yet more evidence of Morgan’s activities in local government beyond her positions as J. P. and Mayor as indicated in her blue paper. An article in the Review of Reviews, published to coincide with her inauguration as mayor, notes that she had further positions as a town councillor and a poor law guardian

It remains to be seen how far Morgan’s local government work fed into her antiquarian interests. But it is clear that Morgan felt very strongly about championing women’s work in local government. She outlined her thoughts on the matter at a meeting of the National Union of Women Workers, which took place in Manchester in 1895.  Her speech there was published as a pamphlet, which is now accessible through the LSE Women’s Library digital collection.  

Alongside this local work, Morgan took part in national and international campaigns for temperance, holding positions in the World Women’s Christian Temperance Association and the British Women’s Temperance Association in the 1890s. As Superintendent of Petitions and Treaties for the WWCTA, she led on the collection of signatures of Great Britain and Ireland for the Polyglot petition, which called for governments to prevent trade in opium and alcohol. The founder of the WWCTA, Frances E. Willard, noted in her announcement of Morgan’s appointment that Morgan owed the role to her friend Lady Henry Somerset – an indication both of the role of patronage in these appointments and of Morgan’s social network. 

Morgan’s public and professional activities encompass some key areas we are planning to highlight through our database, including the intersection of proto-feminist campaigning with heritage-related and philanthropic activities. We won’t be able to cover every woman in our database in this much detail, but Morgan’s active life gives us a useful template for thinking through how we represent various aspects of women’s work through time.  

References/Further Reading 

Brecon County Times, 1913. Builth Wells Naturalists At the Priory Church, Brecon, 31 July, p 6. 

Chapin, Clara, 1895. Thumb nail sketches of white ribbon women. Chicago: Women’s Temperance Publishing Association. 

Morgan, Gwenllian E. F. 1895. The Duties of Citizenship: The Proper Understanding and Use of the Municipal and Other Franchises for Women. 

Willard, Frances E. 1890. A New World’s Secretary. The Union Signal, 4 December, p. 12.