Brown Prosop Workshop: May 17-18

Prosop: a social networking tool for the past

Database development workshop

Historians and other scholars with large databases of historical person data are invited to workshops to test and populate Prosop, a project funded by the Office of Digital Humanities of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The first of these workshops will be held at Brown University (Providence, RI) on May 17-18, 2013, with the generous support of Middle East Studiesat Brown. The second will take place at Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) in August 2013.

What is Prosop?

Prosop is a collaborative database of details about individuals in the past. Although it maps networks and discovers connections, it is not just facebook for dead people. In particular, it aims to:

  • manage diverse types of data from different historical settings,
  • aggregate of large quantities of person data,
  • accommodate uncertain and conflicting information, and
  • facilitate data-driven study of historical systems of description and classification

For more detailed information, visit our website at

What kinds of data do we seek?

We’re looking for information about relatively large sets of relatively ordinary people from the past. Typically, this information is extracted from archival records used by microhistorians. For example, the database contains the name, age, address, and physical description of 700 criminal court defendants from 1880s Egypt. Prosop is meant to work for all kinds of historical person data, and we are especially interested in data in unusual formats (linguistic, topical, or otherwise) that will help us to develop the flexibility of the system. Also, we are looking for participants who are willing to share their data with the community of researchers using Prosop.

What will happen at the workshops?

Each participant will have time to present his or her data, describing its characteristics and the ways it might interact with other person data. All of the data will be uploaded to Prosop by the time of the workshop, and participants will discuss issues of categorization and comparison that arise. We will work to find ways to link data and to make the system more usable. The workshop will provide a chance for historians and developers to communicate.

What’s in it for participants?

Workshop participants will contribute to the design of a tool that will enable new research into global social history, and will have early access to its results. They should gain new perspectives on their own data and its place in the global history of person information. Their experience and input will help to refine the system towards its aim, which is to encompass all categories of historical person data.

Participant costs will be covered by the organizers.

How to apply?

Send a letter of application to prosopworkshop at gmail dot com. The letter should include a general description of the data which you wish to contribute to the project. Where possible, please specify:

  • the number of persons in the database
  • the categories of information recorded about each person (e.g. name, age, birthplace, occupation)
  • the geographical and chronological range of the persons represented
  • the type of sources from which the information is drawn (language, archives, genres).

Please also include a C.V.

What is the deadline for applications?

The deadline for applications for the first workshop is April 8, 2013. All applications will also be considered for the second workshop, for which a second call for participants will be circulated.

Are there other ways to participate?

Prosop is an ongoing project. In addition to future workshops already in the works, we are looking for beta testers. If you are not able to join this workshop, but might want to be involved in the future, please get in touch via our website ( )  and join our mailing list .