ArchiMediaL proposal granted by Volkswagen Stiftung

Volkswagen stiftung letterI received a good news letter from Volkswagen Stiftung who decided to award us a research grant for a 3-year Digital Humanities project named “ArchiMediaL” around architectural history. This project will be a collaboration between  architecture historians from TU Delft,  computer scientists from TU Delft and VU-Web and Media. A number of German scholars will also be involved as domain experts. The project will combine image analysis software with crowdsourcing and semantic linking to create networks of visual resources which will foster understanding of understudied areas in architectural history.
From the proposal:In the mind of the expert or everyday user, the project detaches the digital images from its existence as a single artifact and includes it into a global network of visual sources, without disconnecting it from its provenance. The project that expands the framework of hermeneutic analysis through a quantitative reference system, in which discipline-specific canons and limitations are questions. For the dialogue between the history of architecture and urban form this means a careful balancing of qualitative and quantitative information and of negotiating new methodological approaches for future investigation.

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Clarin video showcases Dutch Ships and Sailors project

The CLARIN framework commissioned the production of dissemmination videos showcasing the outcomes of the individual CLARIN projects. One of these projects was the Dutch Ships and Sailors project, a collaboration between VU Computer Science, VU humanities and the Huygens Institute for National History. In this project, we developed a heterogeneous linked data cloud connecting many different maritime databases. This data cloud allows for new types of integrated browsing and new historical research questions. In the video, we (Victor de Boer together with historians Jur Leinenga and Rik Hoekstra) explain how the data cloud was formed and how it can be used by maritime historians.

CLARIN Dutch Ships & Sailors from CLARIN-NL (Dutch, with Dutch or English subtitles)  See also other DSS-related posts on this website.


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Dutch Ships and Sailors in 1st issue of the DHCommons journal

DHCommons journal logoA while ago, we submitted a project description of our Digital History project Dutch Ships and Sailors to the DHCommons journal and this week the first issue of the journal was published containing our paper “The Dutch Ships and Sailors project“.

This is a nice companion piece to the more technical description of the dataset which was published in the proceedings of ISWC 2014. The new version highlights more the general setup of the project and the considerations and innovations of the project from a historical point of view.

New datacloud
New datacloud
Since submission of this ‘mid-term project description’, the DSS data cloud has been expanding, and the ‘development’ version of the triple store now hosts six datasets thanks to the work of Jeroen Entjes (see the datacloud figure).

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Msc. Project: Linking Maritime Datasets to Dutch Ships and Sailors Cloud – Case studies on Archangelvaart and Elbing

[This post was written by Jeroen Entjes and describes his Msc Thesis research]

The Dutch maritime supremacy during the Dutch Golden Age has had a profound influence on the modern Netherlands and possibly other places around the globe. As such, much historic research has been done on the matter, facilitated by thorough documentation done by many ports of their shipping. As more and more of these documentations are digitized, new ways of exploring this data are created.

Screenshot showing an entry from the Elbing website

This master project uses one such way. Based on the Dutch Ships and Sailors project digitized maritime datasets have been converted to RDF and published as Linked Data. Linked Data refers to structured data on the web that is published and interlinked according to a set of standards. This conversion was done based on requirements for this data, set up with historians from the Huygens ING Institute that provided the datasets. The datasets chosen were those of Archangel and Elbing, as these offer information of the Dutch Baltic trade, the cradle of the Dutch merchant navy that sailed the world during the Dutch Golden Age.

Along with requirements for the data, the historians were also interviewed to gather research questions that combined datasets could help solve. The goal of this research was to see if additional datasets could be linked to the existing Dutch Ships and Sailors cloud and if such a conversion could help solve the research questions the historians were interested in.
Data visualization showing shipping volume of different datasets.

elbing graphAs part of this research, the datasets have been converted to RDF and published as Linked Data as an addition to the Dutch Ships and Sailors cloud and a set of interactive data visualizations have been made to answer the research questions by the historians. Based on the conversion, a set of recommendations are made on how to convert new datasets and add them to the Dutch Ships and Sailors cloud. All data representations and conversions have been evaluated by historians to assess the their effectiveness.

The data visualizations can be found at Jeroen’s thesis can be found here: Msc. Thesis Jeroen Entjes

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Dutch Ships and Sailors in E-Data and Research magazine

DSS article in E-Data and ResearchThis year’s third issue of E-Data and Research magazine features an article about the Dutch Ships and Sailors project. The article (in Dutch) describes how our project provides new ways of interacting with Dutch maritime data. So far, four datasets are present in the DSS data cloud but we are currently extending the dataset with two new datasets. More on that later…Me presenting DSS and Dive

In the same issue, there is an article about the workshop around newspaper data as provided by the National Library. This includes a picture of me presenting the DIVE project.

You can read these articles and much more more in the june 2015 issue of E-Data and Research.  And the backlog at

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Two TPDL papers accepted!

Today, the TPDL (International Conference on Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries) results came in and both papers on which I am a co-author got accepted. Today is a good day 🙂 tess_algThe first paper, we present work done during my stay at Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision on automatic term extraction from subtitles. The interesting thing about this paper was that it was mainly how these algorithms were functioning in a ‘real’ context, that is within a larger media ecosystem. The paper was co-authored with Roeland Ordelman and Josefien Schuurman.

Screenshot of the QHP toolOn the second paper, I am one of the co-authors. In the paper “Supporting Exploration of Historical Perspectives across Collections”, we present an exploratory search application that highlights different perspectives on World War II across collections (including Verrijkt Koninkrijk). The project is funded by the Amsterdam Data Science seed project with Daan Odijk, research assistants Cristina Gârbacea and Thomas Schoegje, VU/CWI-colleagues Laura Hollink and Jacco van Ossenbruggen and  historian Kees Ribbens (NIOD). You can read more about it on Daan’s blog.

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Verrijkt Koninkrijk at the Soeterbeeck E-humanities workshop

The Soeterbeeck monastery with two e-humanistsLast week, I presented our work on the Verrijkt Koninkrijk project at the E-humanities workshop in the Soeterbeeck monastery which was organised by the university of Nijmegen and the e-humanities group of KNAW.

It was a very pleasant get-together with some nice talks and hands on sessions. Alice Dijkstra from NWO  presented a number of opportunities for getting funding for e-humanities projects. She mentioned some obvious candidates (vernieuwingsimpuls,…) and some less obvious ones (the hopefully upcoming CLARIAH programme, which would continue CLARIN and DARIAH).

The two hands on sessions were nice but showed that there is a more general issue with e-humanities that ‘nice tools’ are being developed but that these tools remain solutions to a single problem. Next to that they are either nice from a computer science or from a historical science viewpoint but it is hard to do exciting and historical science at the same time. This is reenforced by the issue that historical scientists rarely know what type of tools they want at the beginning of a project. A more interactive and cyclical approach makes sense for both parties. The BiographyNet idea of putting the researchers from different backgrounds in the same room would be one solution. The other in my view is the development of more general-purpose query environments .

In my poster presentation I showed how I tried to do that with Verrijkt Koninkrijk and I think for a more or less generic data analysis interface is also a good idea.

You can download the VK poster Abstract as well as the actual Poster.

Links to some of the web-demo’s we tried:

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