So… MusicBrainz uses "XG as the ISO 3166-1 code for East Germany (DDR), rather than “DD”, and it seems that since the ISO officially deleted the “DD” code from ISO 3166-1, it’s available for reuse. (Contrasted with a “Transitional” registration, where they won’t reuse it for at least 50 years. (Netherlands Antilles or Yugoslavia, for example))
So… That makes sense… But I started wondering how MusicBrainz handles events, and releases from countries which no longer exist. And, I can’t seem to find any official documentation or style guild policy of anything about it. Examining the actual data in MusicBrainz, usage appears to be inconsistent. Most of the time the current, Gregorian year 2020, area name is used, rather than the name of the area at the time of the event.
MusicBrainz does have artists and events in “East Germany”, and “East Timor”, and a bunch of countries which no longer exist. But it also uses current locations for stuff prior to WWII.
For example, Antonín Dvořák was born on September 8,1841 in the Austrian Empire… but MusicBrainz says that he was born in the Czech Republic AND that the Czech Republic began in 1993
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born January 27, 1756 at No. 9 Getreidegasse in Salzburg… in the Holy Roman Empire. Musicbrainz says he was born in Austria, which isn’t exactly the same thing as the Archduchy of Austria
Even in recent history (my lifetime) there’s a lot of this kind of stuff going on. The breakup of the USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, etc. Here’s a list of some: http://www.statoids.com/w3166his.html
(And here some more stuff about trying to keep ISO 3166-1 up to date https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_3166-1_alpha-2 in fact… Whenever a country needs a new code, because it changed names, split up, or merged, it goes into ISO 3166-3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_3166-3 )
So… because countries are just a made up thing that doesn’t really exist…
I think the way to simply this, is to store the space-time coordinates, a center point and radius, of an event, and then look that up in a gigantic table of place names, to see what humans called it at that time.
So, Mozart was born at 47°48′0″N 13°2′36″E plus or minus 24 meters, on 1756-01-27Z plus or minus 24 hours. You look this up in your big GIS database, and out pops “Holy Roman Empire”.
(And I checked, this area was using the Gregorian Calendar by the 1750’s)
If you only know a country, then you can point to its approximate center, and say, it’s here plus or minus 123 km, or however large the area is.
Existing place and area stuff can just do the reverse transform to get WGS 1984 coordinates.
There’s got to be an existing database like Open Street Map with most of this data already… right?
Update: Being able to enter GPS coordinates for an area (not place) helps if the particular town or village doesn’t exist in MusicBrainz yet, and so you need to file a bug report to add it, or just leave it as the next largest named area that does exist in MusicBrainz. Then MusicBrainz can catch up later and put a human recognizable name on the coordinates.