The History of Nomisma

The project was founded in 2010 by Sebastian Heath and Andrew Meadows, both then working at the American Numismatic Society in New York. Its original aim was to provide stable identities for numismatic concepts or ‘a common currency for digital numismatics’ as we put it then. It was built on earlier work to create a common Numismatic Data Standard (NUDS). Fairly quickly, Ethan Gruber joined the team and took over the major development of the platform, transforming the site from a simple wiki by building out the back and front ends. Initially, the front-end was Apache Cocoon serving XHTML fragments embedded with RDFa. This was later migrated to Orbeon for an XForms back-end for linked data creation and maintenance and a front-end middleware based on XProc and XSLT for transforming RDF/XML and SPARQL query results into various HTML representations or machine-readable APIs.

Simultaneously, a partnership was built with David Wigg-Wolf of the RGK in Frankfurt and Karsten Tolle at the University of Frankfurt, who had independently been working to develop a Linked Open Data ontology for the descriptions of coins.

From these roots, the project grew to become what it is today. In 2014 nomisma was formally recognized as the preferred Knowledge Organisation System for numismatics, through the grant of patronage from the International Numismatic Council.

Otherwise, the development of the project has proceeded on a more informal footing. In the early years we benefited from the generous support of the late Rick Witschonke, who funded the first nomisma meeting in Frankfurt in 2012. This meeting thereafter became an annual event, and has been combined since 2013 with a meeting of the European Coin Finds Network (see Table).

Past ECFN and Nomisma Meetings:

  • 1st meeting (nomisma alone), Frankfurt, 2012
  • 2nd meeting, Carnuntum 2013
  • 3rd meeting, Basel 2014
  • 4th meeting, Nieborów 2015
  • 5th meeting, Caen 2016
  • 6th meeting, Copenhagen 2017
  • 7th meeting, Valencia, 2018
  • 8th meeting, Messina, 2019
  • 9th meeting, Viminacium, 2021
  • 9.5th meeting (nomisma alone), Oxford, 2022
  • 10th meeting, Sofia, 2023

The need for a steering committee became apparent early on, and this has remained the organisational center of the project, meeting online monthly since 2013, with occasional changes of membership. Also in 2013 a google discussion group was established to allow conversations to take place between meetings. Since 2020 nomisma has been cooperating closely with the DARIAH-EU Digital Numismatics Working Group.

Today, nomisma URIs serve as the building blocks, and data exchange formats between dozens of typological and catalogue projects based across Europe and North America, linking hundreds of collections across the world. In a 2016 review of the state of Archaeological Linked Open Data commissioned by the Ariadne project, Nomisma was cited as a leading example among specialist fields, noting (p. 68) ‘more LOD KOSs for research specialities, such as the Nomisma ontology for numismatics, are necessary.’ Nomisma today remains at the forefront of such efforts.

Some current and recent numismatic projects utilizing LOD and nomisma concepts are:




Collections and coin find databases utilizing LOD/nomisma URIs in their cataloging and recording include: