An Archaeologist’s Perspective
Dr Kate De Costa, an archaeologist from the University of Sydney, explains how Heurist differs from other databasing platforms she has used.
Brilliant. One of the things I like about Heurist is that in almost every situation, the best case scenario generally applies.
Western Sydney University
When we started our project — an ERC-funded advanced Grant — on the transformation of Chinese elites in modern China, we had planned to establish a biographical database. We took the time to examine and review all the existing databases that collected biographical data, and we surveyed the different systems at hand. Our main concern was to create a reliable and time-enduring database that would serve a very large international community of China scholars. Although we had quite some experience in the development of SQL databases, we chose not to “reinvent the wheel” when there was such a robust and flexible tool like Heurist. It was definitely the most compelling choice. Our biographical database was in place in no time thanks to the rich array of features available by default. Even without programming skills (but with some knowledge about designing a database), Heurist makes it possible to create very elaborate instruments for research. The Heurist team has been very responsive when we had questions or met with some challenges. The Modern China Biographical Databasenow runs smoothly and successfully on Heurist.
Christian Henriot, P.I., ENP-China Project (ERC)
Running Your Own Heurist Instance
While Heurist has several free servers, which allow anybody to create an online database at no charge, many organisations prefer to install their own instance of Heurist on their own servers. By running their own Heurist instance, organisations can integrate the software into their institutional website, provide additional computing power for their own staff, and develop a local network of Heurist users. There are now several Heurist instances around the world, and reports from service administrators are positive.
Maybe Heurist is not perfect yet, but for us it is by far the best solution that we could offer to our researchers: open-source, free, easy to install and use, get data in and out in open formats, modeling, storing, searching, and publishing of all kinds of data. Extending and changing any existing data model quickly and intuitively is the asset of Heurist which our researchers value most. Adjusting models is the daily business during most research projects in progress and it is this that takes too much time if done with any of the other solutions that we have tested.
Dr. Hagen Peukert
Zentrum für nachhaltiges Forschungsdatenmanagement
Reflections from our Greek User Group
Heurist has a flourishing community of users in Greece, who have built more than a dozen historical, archaeological and literary projects using Heurist.
I came across Heurist at a time when I was looking for funding to hire technical staff to develop a complex relational database for a project that involved a nineteenth century Greek medical census. After a brief acquaintance with the workings of Heurist, I was able to build and manage that database myself, with some initial training and occasional support from the Heurist team. Heurist offered everything an historian may need and easily manage on his or her own: easy ways to accommodate spatial and temporal data, structure vocabularies, describe relationships, formulate simple or complex queries, a supportive community and much more. I cannot too strongly recommend to become part of that community if you have any need at all for a database, and who doesn’t? You will not regret the move away from spreadsheets, desktop databases or programming a server.
Department of History and Archaeology
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
For years I’ve been trying to build a prosopographical database. I was continuously frustrated by the communication gap between myself, an historian, and the programmers employed by my institution to translate my requirements into a structure. Even worse, once the database structure had been ‘delivered’, it became virtually impossible to make any necessary changes. With Heurist I don’t have to worry about either. It is easy for humanists with no training in programming to build their own data base structure, either from scratch, or borrowing from the vast experience of other Heurist users. When changes need to be made, one can always edit the structure as needs evolve. Besides, at any point, a team of experts are ready to assist and to answer questions in a non-technical language that humanists can understand.
Historians in particular will welcome the built-in temporal module that allows for the use of many calendars and a very helpful map digitizer. But above all they will appreciate the consideration for uncertainty, both in temporal and spatial data and the flexibility in the description of relationships. I have been a Heurist user for the last four years and cannot recommend it highly enough.
Modern Greek History Research Centre
Academy of Athens
The Greek user group is growing all the time. In October 2021, an attendee at one of our workshops decided to migrate their projects to Heurist.
… thank you for this impressive tool and for taking the time to present it at the Humanities workshop organized by ResEFE in Madrid two weeks ago. I am in the process of migrating several projects to Heurist and I am very impressed with its ease of use and rich functionality.
École française d’Athènes
Heurist in Literary Studies
Students were working on exploration of various DH tools, and one of my students found your database system. It’s a really robust tool, and the best free database tool I’ve found so far. Thanks for providing this resource.
Susan Shelangoskie, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair of English
Director of Digital and Media Studies
Lourdes University, Sylvania OH
Je débute à peine avec Heurist, que j’ai découvert grâce à mon camarade Guillaume Porte, de Strasbourg. C’est tout simplement formidable. Merci de ce travail !
Dr Rémi Jimenes
Maître de conférences
Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance
Université de Tours
A huge Thank-You to you and the rest of the team for your work on the Roehampton Campus Project page!
The page looks great. It’s inviting and visually interesting straightaway. The lay-out looks user-friendly, and the functionality means it really is user-friendly – perfect combination.
It’s going to make a really big difference to the students taking the campus project course. Having the disparate data brought together and made searchable in this way will really open up their research options and hopefully inspire them a bit too. Gradually it will become something everyone on campus can make use of, and again, the easy-to-use interface means that even the tech-shy can will be tempted and able to use it to find out some of the amazing stories from the world around them which have hitherto been hard to access.
The campus project students will have some Heurist training and plenty of chance to experiment with using it, first to search, then to arrange data. The software is a great example of digital humanities and hopefully it will inform a pro-digital mind-set that will stay with them throughout their future careers.
We will certainly be encouraging other campus project developers to develop with Heurist.
Thanks again for your hard work and for making something so well-suited to its purpose,
with best wishes,
Sonya and Charlotte,
Roehampton Campus Project.
A solution based on PHP / MSQL / Apache. Installs on Linux (Debian etc.). So all this is close to Ishtar (Python / POSTGRESQL / Nginx) in mind.
You can probably do something close to Ishtar with Heurist, but you have to do it. I would test it further and tell you what it is.
Note also the presence of features that we do not have (yet , but we have others that did not):
To date I would advise Heurist for some research projects. Suddenly I recommend it for simple databases where Ishtar seems to be too complex, despite its modularity. It is then possible to import Heurist data into an Ishtar database and vice versa.
For complex bases, close to the uses of preventive archeology Ishtar remains more adapted, but it seems possible to test profitably Heurist-> Ishtar workflow for certain contexts, to see.
Ishtar is more oriented professional archeology (and conservation of heritage) and already integrates its standards and forms and tools (creation of compliant inventories, compliance with the standards of the Ministry of Culture, furniture and data management tools etc.).