Gazetteers, also known as geographical indexes, are invaluable for spatial research in the Humanities. Despite the growing availability of FAIR data, spatial information from historical gazetteers often remains unavailable as Linked Open Data. This is caused by several issues, including the lack of automated methods for processing historical gazetteers, the need for an adequate ontology for historical geospatial data, and the difficulty of formalizing place in a database management context.
This PhD research investigates these issues by developing an urban gazetteer as a tool for spatial history using a digitized collection of city directories called Wegwijzer der Stad Gent. The Wegwijzer emerged at the end of the 18th century, appearing almost annually from 1770 to 1932 by different publishing houses. The growth of Ghent during this period created a demand for accurate information about trade, industry, and services within the city. The volumes contain a wealth of information, including lists of inhabitants, services, and industries arranged geographically, alphabetically, and/or by activity type. This makes the directories a suitable source for understanding the social, economic, and demographic evolution of the city.