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An automated approach for geocoding tabular itineraries

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Abstract

Historical itineraries, often accessible as lists or tables describing places visited in sequence, are abundant resources and also important objects of study for humanities scholars. This article advances a novel method for automatically geocoding tabular itineraries, combining approximate string matching with a cost optimization algorithm based on dynamic programming. Experiments with a dataset of historical itineraries, with ground-truth geocoding annotations provided by domain experts and leveraging also the GeoNames gazetteer, attest to the effectiveness of the proposed method. The obtained results show that while approximate string matching can already achieve very low median errors, with many toponyms matching exactly against GeoNames entries, the combination with cost optimization can significantly improve results in terms of the average distance towards the correct disambiguations.