The Cenotaph Database

The Auckland War Memorial Museum provides an online service called Cenotaph which allows the public to search and view details of New Zealanders who have served in the military.

Although it started primarily as a roll of honour of those who died as a result of war service, it now includes many personnel who have died since war service. Importantly:

“almost all of those who served in WWI are included”

The source of most of the WWI data that Cenotaph makes available are the Embarkation Rolls, and a search of Cenotaph for a given person will typically result in a page showing all the details enumerated in the Embarkation Rolls for the person, as well as details (such as pictures, or date of death after the war) gathered from other sources.

Identifiers

Usefully, the URL used for the details of a given person is of a form that (almost) allows it to be used as an identifier, or URI given we are working in the linked-data paradigm:

http://muse.aucklandmuseum.com/databases/Cenotaph/35181.detail?Ordinal=1&c_surname_search=abbot&c_firstname_search=kenneth+ferris

All we need to do to clean this up is:

  • remove the query parameters
  • lowercase it
such that we get a URL / URI like the following, which will still resolve to the correct record on the Cenotaph Database site:

http://muse.aucklandmuseum.com/databases/cenotaph/35181.detail

Ideally these identifiers will be persistent, but this of course depends on the policies and longevity of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Some careful consideration was given to the use of the URL as a URI during the digitisation of the Embarkation Rolls for use on Cenotaph, so this augurs well.

A typical page from the Cenotaph Database