Transcribed CEF Medical Files as Linked Open Data on the Canada Open Data Portal


Word cloud from the transcribed contents of the medical case sheets

One of the collections that Library and Archives Canada has been digitizing and putting for access online has been the personnel records of the soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force sent to Europe during the Great War. A typical personnel file is a folder containing about 100 pages of documentation about the soldier himself and sometimes includes his medical records in the form of temperature charts, dental records and medical case sheets. In this project it was decided to focus on the contents of the "Medical Case Sheet" that is a lined form used by hospital staff to record information about their patient.

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The 100 year old April Fool's joke


Perhaps you think you're funny?

I'd like to see you pull a prank that still causes problems 100 years after the fact.

Take a look at this group of soldiers from the CEF. They pulled a prank on their enlistment officer about their date of birth. A good one.

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US Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms as SKOS RDF


US Joint Chiefs BadgeI have converted the US Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms into an RDF SKOS dictionary that can be used to link RDF documents into an authoritive term list or to disambiguate terms.

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Military Ontology Available


File Army-officer-icon.png from Wikimedia by RionThe Muninn Military and Organization ontologies have been released in OWL format on the Muninn RDF server and comments are welcome. These provide ontological terms for the markup of information about historical data and they provide more depth in terms of supporting changes to and the lineage of entities.

One of the ongoing problems with RDF markup and ontologies is that most of them are meant to support the expression of facts about the world as it currently is and not as it was or will be. This can create some issues in that most data is meant to be true at only one point in time.

The ontology includes support for military ranks, roles, organization types and service-specific chains of commands. Limited NATO rank equivalencies are provided and the country specific rank instances are being worked on. Any comments and suggestions are welcome.


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Authority, Statistics and RDF


The recent discussion on the LOD-LAM website have prompted me to begin writhing about some of the data available on Muninn and how it is generated. Creating a database from the contents of war archives nearly a century old presents some special challenges, some old some new. Jonathan Rochkind' flippant remark 'Sorry Linked Open Data people' was made in jest and drew a lot of responses. But it in the end you can't say that text-mining is better than linked open data anymore than apples are better than submarines as they don't perform the same function. Similarly, the problem of interpreting archival contents is central to Muninn's role as well as the question of what is an authoritative source (at least in the knowledge sense). There is no question that "applying statistical analysis text-mining ‘best guess’ type techniques, provides more relationships than dbpedia alone does".

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SPARQL and Linked Open Data


After a few hiccups with the SPARQL database and the web front end, the Muninn website will be undergoing some major re-work. I'll update this blog post as the new interface features go online. Update: Feb 23, 2012 - The SPARQL server at http://rdf.muninn-project.org/sparql is answering queries.

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