The Biographic Portal aims to become the point of reference for biographical information about people from the Netherlands. It indexes existing biographical information that can be found on the internet, and digitizes and indexes printed works that are not yet available on line. At the moment, it contains information from 12 sources.
We have been involved in the development of the portal from the beginning, co-writing project proposals to obtain funding. We developed almost all of the technical aspects of the portal - from defining the data model and the format in which data are interchanged (an XML format called BioDes) up to and including the development of the website itself, which contains modules for data entry and the identification of persons, and a rather sophisticated search algorithm for searching for names in the collection.
The graphical design was done by Trilobiet
One of the strengths of the website is the search technology used. In Dutch, names of people are not always spelled consistently or even predictably. Therefore, search engine creates, for each name in the database, a number of phonetic representations that are particularly tweaked for Dutch personal names. Search queries are transformed in a similar way. In this way, a search for, e.g., "Uil" will automatically return results such as "Uyl".
An important part in the development of the website was the "back end" with which the biographical data are edited. Basically, the editors face two different but related tasks: that of adding and correcting meta-data, such as date and place of birth and death, and that of identifying different biographies of a single person. For the latter task, we created an algorithm that searches in the database for possible matching biographies, and presents the possible candidates for identification to the editor.