Connecting the dots – linking coin finds

S4: Poster session | Poster
  • Rahel C. Ackermann
    University of Basel
  • Jonas von Felten
    University of Bern
  • Margareth Warburton
    University of Basel

The Swiss Inventory of Coin Finds was founded in 1992 as a documentation centre that records and documents numismatic sources from Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein. With no physical collection of its own, handling digital data was a requirement from the start. The physical aspects of antique coins—a handmade, mass-produced, and precisely datable object— are ideally suited to being described in a standard way. After an increasing interest in ancient numismatics during the Renaissance, the Austrian numismatist Joseph Eckhel (1737–1798) detailed for the first time the basic elements of coins like metals, denominations, legends, type descriptions, etc. Afterwards, descriptions of coins were made in a standardised manner, with little change in conventions since, and the amount of available data is growing steadily.

Numismatists embraced digital databases as soon as they were invented, digitising massive amounts of index cards and lists. Naturally, the principles of early digital database design were based on existing analogue data. Furthermore, the digital databases were confined to a single institution, and their accessibility was not significantly improved over analogue data.

This held true even after the emergence of the internet. While an increasing number of institutions made their data accessible online, their databases stayed disconnected and barred from information exchange.

The important technological steppingstone was the advent of Web 3.0. The semantic web enabled the creation of an interface between disconnected databases all over the world. The organisation behind one of the interfaces,, is an international, collaborative project that consists of experts in the fields of numismatics, computer science, and Semantic Web principles. Since 2010, has been hosted and financially supported by the American Numismatic Society in New York. The Swiss Inventory of Coin Finds participates in its scientific committee since 2017, helping to establish international standards in numismatics.

In contrast to the participation in international endeavours, the databases of the SICF are not yet part of the Linked Open Data Cloud. Structural, political, and technical limitations are a hindrance to practical participation. Many obstacles have been overcome in recent years, and the road to joining the network is nearing completion.