Plants humanities

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This is the main documentation page for those looking to edit the Plant Humanities Knowledge Graph. Please look here for information associated with knowledge graph creation and updates about the Plants Humanities project.


In September 2018 Dumbarton Oaks and JSTOR Labs received partner grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to advance a Plant Humanities Initiative. These grants integrate elements of the digital humanities with scholarly programming, to set forth a new, interdisciplinary field that communicates the unparalleled significance of plants to human culture. The grant has three main goals: to provide innovative research and professional development opportunities for early-career humanists; to create a digital tool informed by the insights and needs of teachers and students as well as librarians and technical experts; and to supplement existing digitized resources with new primary source material, contextualize them, and disseminate them.

This knowledge graph aims to compliment that digital tool while extending current digitized resources. As such it employs Resource Description Framework (RDF) metadata standards that allow researchers to contribute to a semantic web architecture by cataloguing, navigating, and organizing data surrounding the cultural history of plants.

Knowledge Graph

The JSTOR Labs Plant Humanities Knowledge Graph emulates the technical and philosophical architecture of Wikidata. It is a collaboratively edited knowledge base committed to producing linked open data under a public domain license.


Conceptually, this graph grew from the seed of Dumbarton Oaks' vast collection of herbals. While initial conversations centered on defining networks of catalogued plants, they rapidly expanded into exploring and recording the people involved in the creation and amelioration of these books. Not wanting to limit ourselves to traditional cataloguing ontologies, we have included ways of expressing this data beyond modern taxonomies. Where available, we include the ability to record things such as traditional uses, Galenic properties, and historic names. We additionally grant the ability to link to modern plant taxonomies. The benefit of a linked open data architecture is that these ontologies are not set in stone. Please let us know if there are any other properties we should include.


The Plant Humanities Knowledge Graph is a document-oriented database focused on items, which represent topics, concepts, or objects. Each item is identified by a unique, "QID," number that enables basic information about an item to be stored without favoring any particular language. Fundamentally, an item consists of a label, a description, and some number of statements.

Editing and Contributing

Individual Knowledge graph entries can be updated or created manually once a username has been created. Please contact JSTOR Labs via email to create a username.

Explicit information about editing surface mention data can be found here.

Information about editing items (including herbals, people, locations, etc.) can be found here

Please remember that if referencing an entity, the thing must exist before it can be referenced & if the thing exists in the knowledge graph, refer to it as a QID rather than as an entity label.

Knowledge Graph Query Service

The JSTOR Labs Knowledge Graph Query Service employs the standard SPARQL language to retrieve and manipulate data stored in the RDF format. SPARQL allows users to write queries as triples, conjunctions, disjunctions, and optional patterns. For more information on querying the Plant Humanities Knowledge Graph along with sample SPARQL queries please see our Plant Humanities Knowledge Graph Wiki.

Project Updates

Stay tuned.

Further Reading

Dumbarton Oaks

Plant Humanities Initiative

Dumbarton Oaks and JSTOR Launch Plant Humanities Initiative

JSTOR Plant Humanities Page

Dumbarton Oaks and JSTOR award Plant Humanities Fellowships

Wikimedia language codes/lists/all