The Royal Society

Science in the Making
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The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society is the oldest continuously-published science journal in the world, and established the concepts of peer review and scientific priority. Since its first issue in 1665 it has published articles by Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking.

The pilot platform provides access to newly digitised archive material relating to the published articles: manuscripts, marginalia, illustrations, correspondence and other influential related documents that have so far only been available to people visiting the Royal Society.

This material is a rich resource for historians of science, students, schoolchildren and the curious public. The pilot explores ways of making this material available as a resource, focusing on user experience for navigation and search. Users can transcribe, tag and comment on the material, and provide new ways of linking items together.

In the pilot, three topics have been enriched with editorial content as case studies, with the aim of exploring how the platform can grow as a mixture of content from the Royal Society and the platform’s users.

Pilot users are able to explore the collection via a combination of automatically generated and manually curated topic pages. This approach allows users unfamiliar with the material to explore it through the web of connections of people and concepts, and discover new content and relationships. For those more disposed to searching through archival metadata, the pilot also supports advanced search use cases for users already familiar with the material that interests them.


Images are hosted by Digirati, to provide IIIF Image API endpoints for consumption on static pages and in deep zoom viewers. IIIF Manifests for each archive item are generated using archival metadata, ultimately from the Royal Society's CALM system. We then use Omeka S to enhance the archival item descriptions, and for editorial content.

All user-generated content is stored in the form of W3C Web Annotations in our annotation server. This approach means that both the digitised source material and the things that users say about that material (transcriptions, tags, comments, bookmarks) are available via open standards for later reuse - IIIF for the archive material, the W3C Web Annotation Data Model and Open Annotation for the user-supplied content.

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Read more about Science in the Making in this series of posts

Main image: Southern depot sledge party, 30 October 1902. From The Royal Society, NAE/5/612. Link