User Comments

Testimonials from members of the Heurist Network.

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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.

Some Historians’ Perspectives

Professor Julia Horne, a historian at the University of Sydney, explains how Heurist made her Beyond 1914 project possible. After filming this video, Professor Horne extended the scope of her project considerably, leading to the Expert Nation database.

Prof Simon Burrows was impressed after migrating his long-running French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe project to Heurist. Previously, he had spent years working with custom-built MySQL databases.

Brilliant. One of the things I like about Heurist is that in almost every situation, the best case scenario generally applies.

Simon Burrows
Western Sydney University
August 2021

Prof Christian Henriot adopted Heurist for the Modern China Biographical Database after surveying the other systems available on the market. He is now a member of our Steering Group and group of Community Advisers.

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)
Aix-Marseille University

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
Universität Hamburg

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.

Katerina Gardikas
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.

Helen Katsiadakis
Researcher Emerita
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.

Julien Faguer
Membre scientifique
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

Dr Vinent Ventresque has experience with numerous book history databases. He has found that Heurist is the only widely-available tool that that cope with complex evolving data models, and has adopted Heurist for ROLi: Rey’s Ornament Image Investigation, a major book history and machine learning project funded by ANR.

De plus, il me semble qu’un des avantages majeurs d’Heurist est de rendre la création automatique de liens entre les données assez facile.

Pour tout dire, nous avions au départ envisagé d’utiliser Omeka-S mais bizarrement, malgré le design “semantic web”, il n’y a pas de système d’identifiant unique pour les enregistrements (on aurait attendu des URIs…), et la création automatique de liens n’est pas possible. Enfin, la structure reste calquée sur un modèle de “notices”, ce qui limite beaucoup les possibilités d’interrogation et d’agrégation, surtout si on compare à Heurist.

Dr Vincent Ventresque
Institute d’histoire des représentations et des idées dans les modernités & Université Jean Monnet

Roehampton Campus Project

(See Featured Project.)

Dear Ian,

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.


By Yann Le Jeune | ISHTAR Project
(Logiciel libre de gestion et d’inventaire en archéologie)
Original French-language review

A beautiful Australian project that allows you to create a database “on-line” according to your needs.

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 Smile, but we have others that did not):

Timeline and cartoons

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.).

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