Monday, February 25, 2008

Linking to records in EDH

The Epigraphische Datenbank Heidelberg (part of the growing EAGLE federation) is a tremendous resource. It was designed as a searchable database, beginning in the 1980s and adding a web interface in 1997. Work on both the content and the database itself continues; in fact we're discussing ways to hook up EDH to Pleiades.

But, given its origin as a search-oriented database, the EDH is not set up for easy browsing (i.e., "stumbling upon" by clicking links) or with obvious, stable URLs that point to individual inscriptions. Happily, epigraphers have long preferred to assign stable ID numbers to inscriptions in specific publications. This practice maps well onto database IDs and -- fortunately for us -- EDH makes use of its ID numbers in its web-facing search interface. We'll have to peer under the hood of the main search page, but once we know what to look for, building links into the database is relatively straightforward.

The most obvious type of link a blogger might want is a link to a particular inscription. We need to find two things:
  1. The URL to which the search query is POSTed
  2. The proper field name to use for the ID number
The HTML <form> element carries an attribute (action) whose value provides the search target:


Then we have to look at the "name" attribute on the appropriate "input" element to figure out what variable we need to use. A bit of inspection turns up:

<INPUT TYPE="text" NAME="hdnr" SIZE="7" MAXLENGTH="6">

from which we need only the string "hdnr".

Now we're ready to construct our query string:

For web use, I like to construct these in a more human readable form, like: EDH HD000838.

You can use other variables to create URLs that point to other types of searches. For example, we can search for inscriptions attributed to the ancient city of Cyrene in Libya:

Now we can cite EDH as we need to on the web.

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