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WarSampo to open up the data from the World War II to citizens and researchers

The new information service links over one million pieces of information with each other and sheds light on Finland's history in an unprecedented way.

The illustration presents the Tapahtumat view ('Events'), which describes the political and military events in the Winter War and the Continuation War in a timeline and presents the events of the five-day time window (the rectangular in the middle) on the map. The heat map in the background is calculated from the number of soldiers killed during the time window on the basis of the National Archives data on casualties of war. When moving the window on the time line, the events and the colour of the heat map indicating the number of casualties (red-yellow-green) change, which gives a general impression of how the events developed with regard to time and place. On the right, there are photos from the Finnish Defence Forces' archives related to the events chosen as well as information about the reasons for the casualties.

Researchers from the Aalto University Department of Computer Science and its wide collaboration network have implemented the WarSampo Linked Open Data service which joins together key national information material related to the Finnish Winter War and the Continuation War as linked open data. The aim of this service is to increase understanding of Finland's history with help of over one million interconnected pieces of information.

'There is a lot of information about the last wars in Finland on the Web, but it has not been available as data for researchers and applications to use,' Professor Eero Hyvönen explains the background of the service.

There is a lot of information about the last wars in Finland on the Web, but it has not been available as data for researchers and applications to use.

The information contents on the Web are usually presented in a form that is meant to be interpreted by people, not by machines. With help of Linked Data, it is possible to tell the meaning of the contents to search engines and other applications, which makes it possible to make heterogeneous data interoperable and develop intelligent applications. The WarSampo portal (http://sotasampo.fi) has been built on the basis of this data service and serves the end users such as citizens who are interested in war history. In WarSampo, it is possible to search, for example, events and materials related to one's own relatives who died in the war or to a specific officer.

'The service includes plenty of data from the National Archives, such as the information about those 95 000 people who lost their lives between 1939 and 1945, a total of 26 500 war diaries from the military units and hundreds of their organisation cards. The events of the military units can now for the first time be visualised on maps and timelines, in this case also by using historical maps of Karelia and location data from the Land Survey of Finland. It is also possible to complement the information with help of different data sources, such as the 160 000 authentic photos and film materials from the Finnish Wartime Photograph Archive of the Finnish Defence Forces,' says Development Manager at the National Archives of Finland Tomi Ahoranta.

Material from citizens

The computer science-related innovation in this project is that material from the different databases is used to enrich each other's material. This is done by linking them through networks of common events and concepts i.e. ontologies.

'In addition to citizens, WarSampo provides, for example, researchers of Digital Humanities with materials as well as programmers with data and tools to develop new applications similar to WarSampo,' summarises Hyvönen.

WarSampo publishes materials in cooperation with the National Archives, the Finnish Defence Forces, the National Land Survey of Finland, the Finnish Historical Society, the Finnish Broadcasting Company and other cooperation networks. The role of the cooperation partners has been to edit and open the data in the archives for everyone to use and to provide the project with expertise related to the data. What the research project will do next is investigate the possibilities to collect information from war history enthusiasts and individual citizens.

'We aim to crowdsource WarSampo between all parties involved. This may mean that users of the service can, for example, complement the existing information in the database by adding their own photos or letters,' explains Eetu Mäkelä, Postdoctoral Researcher at Aalto University.

WarSampo is part of the Open Science and Research Initiative of the Ministry of Education and Culture as well as part of the programme of the Prime Minister's Office for celebrating Finland's 100 years of independence.

For further information please contact:

Professor Eero Hyvönen
Tel. +358 50 384 1618
[email protected]

 

Portal (sotasampo.fi)
Project homepage (seco.cs.aalto.fi)
Introduction of WarSampo in Finnish (pdf)
Publication of data (ldf.fi)

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