Initiated by the Cegesoma in the spring of 2021, the Wikibase Resistance project aims to provide a research tool on people who were involved in resistance activities in Belgium during World War II. Led by Fabrice Maerten, Anne Chardonnens, and a team of over 15 people with varied expertise, this long-term project is intended to collect and publish information from forms and personal files kept at the CegeSoma and other repositories of the State Archives. Hosting structured, multilingual, human- and machine-readable data, this knowledge base will allow searching among several hundred thousand descriptions of about more than 150,000 resistance fighters, starting from a name, a date of birth, a place of residence or the name of a resistance movement or network.
The objectives of the project are multiple: on the one hand, the WikiBase Resistance aims to centralize the data dispersed among different physical repositories and digital files, in order to improve access to the CegeSoma collections and other State Archives repositories, as well as their visibility. On the other hand, this optimization allows us to better take into account the requests of our public concerning individuals, while exploring new ways of querying data. Indeed, this pilot project is part of a larger context marked by the emergence of a new international standard for archival description Records in Contexts based on making data available in machine-readable formats.
The Wikibase Resistants knowledge base is based, as its name indicates, on the free software Wikibase, which ensures the functioning of the generalist knowledge base Wikidata.
It allows to store multilingual data in an accessible and easily reusable format, readable by machines. In this case: data about resistance fighters. At its creation, each Person entity receives a unique identifier, a description, and semantic fields used to endow the entity with properties. To allow its identification, each person is described using a minimum of eight properties:
- Last name
- First name(s)
- Date of birth
- Residence (in Belgium or abroad)
- Resistance movement and/or network to which the person belonged
- Reference of the associated archive
- Status of national recognition obtained or not
- Inventory number
- In some cases, the data will be enriched with other types of information such as gender, language, nationality, place of birth, civil status, profession, a date of arrest, a date of liberation or death, etc.
Currently, the data encoding is focused on the forms and personal files contained in the archival funds kept by CegeSoma and Archives Service for War Victims. Namely, the funds (complete or partial) of :
a. Archives managed by CegeSoma:
- Belgian Military Resistance Organization
- Group G
- Hotton group of the Secret Army
- Independence Front
- Kempisch Legioen
- National Royalist Movement
- National Union of the Clandestine Press
- State Security Service with regard to the agents of the Intelligence and Action Services
- Service D
- Witte Brigade
b. Archives managed by the Archives Service for War Victims:
- Status of resistance fighter through underground press activities
Later on, we will integrate the information contained in the individual files of civilian resistance fighters and political prisoners kept by the Archives Service for War Victims. Finally, the project should also include the data contained in the files of all armed resistance fighters produced by the Office of the Resistance and kept by the State Archives of Belgium.
Open and Linked data
The project also aims to interconnect these data with external databases, in order to offer more contextual information and to decompartmentalize the collections. Steps are thus taken to align people with possible corresponding Wikidata entities, while places (of birth, residence, or death) are associated with external resources such as Wikidata or GeoNames. These data associations allow the retrieval of other references, such as ODIS or SNAC (Social Networks and Archival Context) identifiers, which can help users locate other resources or archival collections in Belgium or abroad.
By moving from a logic of data in silo to one of data openness, CegeSoma is thus fully in line with the digital transition at work in the archive sector.
Follow the project behind the scenes and its progress on this page and on the institution's Facebook page.
At present (December 2022), 52% of the individual files have been described using at least the basic information mentioned above.
This long-term work is the result of collaborative efforts.
Many thanks to all the people taking/having taken part in the progress of the project:
Data encoding: Sirine Aki*, Roland Baumann, Dora Beullens, Zeyneb Buchal*, Bernard Burton, Marie-Hélène Calicis, Moritz Clodi, Emile Dejehansart, Yves Delvaux, Marc De Win, Jonathan D'Haese, Matthias Domsgen, Julie Douley*, Mathilde Fabri*, Clémentine Flament*, Samuel Frieling, Francesca Giuffredi, Julian Hagenauer, Hilde Keppens, Florian Kössler, Monica Lacanale, Zakaria Lamarti*, Francis Lambrechts, Adil Lasouad*, Fouzia Mahi, Yvette Martin, Mohamed Taieb Mokkadem*, Pierre Mortier, Felix Oberhüber, Maximilian Pröll, Hasna Richa*, Ilias Sari*, Julika Schulze, Jula Skomski, Alexandre Stroinovsky, Jacques Sweers, Nico Theunissen, Felix Thurner, Kathleen Vandenberghe
Data cleaning and alignment: Darren Manouvrier*, Clémentine Flament*, Eléonore Bastogne*
Follow-up committee: Anne Chardonnens, Annelies Coenen, Rolande Depoortere, Gert De Prins, Gertjan Desmet, Paul Drossens, Chantal Kesteloot, Yves Lardinois, Fabrice Maerten, Alexandra Matagne, Johan Van Der Eycken
Communication: Isabelle Ponteville, (Chloé Brault)
ICT : Peter Van Overveldt
Coordination: Anne Chardonnens and Fabrice Maerten
Are you looking for information about a resistance fighter?
- Please contact the scientific coordinator of the project, Fabrice Maerten. He will be happy to check whether there is a file under the name of the resistance fighter and, if so, will help you access the documents in question in the CegeSoma reading room.
Would you like more information about the technical dimensions of the project?
- Anne Chardonnens, co-coordinator of the project, can be reached by email.
Would you like to take part in the project as an intern?
- Anne Chardonnens will be happy to help you!
Would you like to take part in the project as a volunteer?
- Fabrice Maerten is ready to answer your request.