My name is Emma and I am a fourth year Geology and Physical Geography student that studied at the University of Edinburgh.
Through my degree I have developed a background in Geographical Information Systems and working with different datasets. This summer I have the opportunity to work as an intern with the University of Edinburgh and Wikidata on possibly one of the most interesting intern projects that I have ever heard of: The Witchcraft Survey Database.
The Witchcraft Survey Database contains records of all of the recorded accused witches in Scotland from 1563 – 1736. The database also has lots of interesting information about these accused witches from name, residing location to trial sentence. My job is to use the data recorded within this database and find visually interesting ways to document the data for public viewing through the form of digital maps and Wikidata.
I am coming to the end of my first week as an intern working on this project and I would sum it up as a very busy week full of lots of ideas and many helpful people.
Working with the Witchcraft Database
For the first few days I have been trying to familiarise myself with the datasets that I will be working with. As there are over three thousand entries of accused witches within the dataset along with an abundance of records about these witches, it has taken some time to look through these records and begin to think about what is the most important information to visualise. There is so much interesting information within the dataset, it is obvious that I am going to gain a vast array of knowledge about witches over the summer.
From looking at the datasets, I have decided that the location of accused witches’ is key information that needs to firstly be recorded on a map and from that extra content from the database can be added. This will probably be one of my early steps with visualising the data that I will begin in the next few weeks.
Meetings, meetings, meetings
Aside from the database, I have also had countless meetings with people who are part of the Wikidata community and other Information Services staff. Everyone has had very different ideas for the project and happy to assist in many ways which has been a very useful starting point for the project. From these meetings it is clear that there are lots of alternative ways to tackle this project and the difficult part is going to be picking the best plan of action. It gives me a boost of confidence to know that there are so many helpful people who want to help guide me with parts of the project allowing for my project to develop to its full potential.
An intro to Wikidata
Apart from learning a lot about the witches’ dataset, I’ve also had a whirlwind introduction to all things Wikidata. Before starting this project I had heard of Wikidata but had no idea of all of the different uses and ways that data can be processed using this open source website. I have found that Wikidata is straightforward to use and the Query Service is very impressive.
The Query Service works by producing tables containing searched for information and can be narrowed down to just relate to what you are looking for. An example of the Query Service would be to produce a table of all of the actors that are female and their birth location. Then a location with coordinates can be added and the results can even be plotted on Open Street Map through the Query Service too. Check out examples here: https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Wikidata:SPARQL_query_service/queries/examples#Cats
Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon Event
A highlight of the week was taking part in my first Wikipedia Edit-A-thon at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on Wednesday. At the event I was able to learn how to edit and create my first Wikipedia page. The edits focused on adding new entries or adding to existing pages of women scientists who have been appointed fellowship for the Geographical Society of Edinburgh. It really shocked me to find out that woman are very poorly represented in comparison to men on Wikipedia. Therefore, it felt very beneficial to help add important scientific woman to Wikipedia.
To sum up, it has been an interesting and busy week with lots of gained knowledge of witches and Wikidata with many helpful people. I am excited to see what the next few weeks hold for this project. Next week I should be meeting with more people and by the end of the week I’ll hopefully have a full plan on how to tackle this project.
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