INVENiT² project presentation for the “Digital Humanities” course

On Tuesday, the 11th of April 2017, Cristina-Iulia Bucur, one of the previous academy assistants for INVENiT² gave a presentation about the project during the “Digital Humanities” course at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The presentation was titled “INVENiT II – New ways of opening up cultural religious heritage” and briefly described the experience of the project team throughout the period in which the project ran.

The presentation focused on why it is important to link data to research as a way to better support scholars and researchers in the humanities field, with emphasis on the cultural religious heritage at the UBVU, the University Library of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The workflow needed for this and the steps that were taken during the project were briefly described. First, two 18th century illustrated bibles from the “Special Collections” of UBVU were digitized, then Linked Data was used as a framework to publish this (meta)data and also link individual prints to bibles. Next, various crowd- and nichesourcing events were organized to further annotate and enrich the data about these prints. Finally, the new information was incorporated into the UBVU system. This way, the biblical prints have been enriched with new information and can better support the research of scholars.

The presentation slides can be found below.



INVENiT² team presents at Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

On Friday the 26th of June, the INVENiT² team held a presentation at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. The Rijksmuseum possesses a world renowned collection of art. Many scholars use the collection for their research. Cristina and Leon showed how the use of Linked Data benefits both museums and the Digital Humanities.

Firstly, Leon introduced the Digital Humanities as a relatively new field in which scholars use computational methods to solve research questions concerning human culture. Based on conversations with various experts during the INVENiT² project, he formulated a number of conditions that should be met in order to create an ideal research environment for the Digital Humanities. Linking data could help realizing such an environment.


Secondly, Cristina explained the technical aspects of Linked Data. She demonstrated how Linked Data helped answering research questions within our own project. Moreover, datasets are hardly ever finished. The creation of new (meta)data is an ongoing process. Thanks to Linked Data, institutions are better prepared for future technological development.


The presentation led to a lively discussion. Attendees – among whom curators, cataloguers, and data managers – were thrilled about the opportunities of Linked Data for future projects. Nevertheless, there are still some technical challenges to overcome before an ideal environment for Digital Humanities research can be created.

SIKS Course – Advances in Information Retrieval

On the 18th and 19th of June Cristina attended a course titled “Advances in Information Retrieval” organized by the Netherlands Research School for Information and Knowledge Systems (SIKS) in Vught, The Netherlands.

During the first day of the course, Theo van der Weide, professor at Radboud University Nijmegen, presented some basic approaches to Information Retrieval (IR), discussed about IR classic models (boolean, vector, probabilistic) and some computational aspects of these. He ended with implications of Big Data and with examples on how numerical stability while operating on large datasets is important. Next, Evangelos Kanoulas, assistant professor in computer science at University of Amsterdam, gave a presentation about search engine evaluation, focusing on two strategies of evaluation of search engines: one based on offline collected data and the other on online in-situ evaluation methods. He also described how to build and use a benchmark collection to evaluate the quality of a search algorithm and also other evaluation techniques like A/B testing and interleaving.

Prof.dr.Theo van der Weide: Foundations of IR
Theo van der Weide: Foundations of IR

In the second day of the course, Suzan Verberne, a professor at University Nijmegen, and researcher in the fields of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Information Retrieval (IR) gave a presentation about ways to model user behaviour and how to use these models for simulating user interaction such that this can be used to evaluate IR methods.

Presentation Suzan Verberne
Presentation Suzan Verberne

Finally, Djoerd Hiemstra, associate professor at the University of Twente, presented basic techniques for indexing very large document collections like inverted files, index compression, top-k query optimization techniques. On a practical side, attendees had to estimate indexing and processing times for these techniques. In the end, students were able to have not only a better understanding of the scale of the web, but also on how to build a large-scale web search engine. It was a crash-course on how to build a small scale Google in one afternoon.

Cristina would like to thank Lora Aroyo and the VU University Amsterdam for making it possible to attend this course.

Link: SIKS course – Advances in IR


INVENiT² team inspired by workshops

During the last two months, members of the INVENiT team participated in workshops that were inspiring for the work of the project. The workshops attended dealt with knowledge organization systems in general and with one in particular, an Early Modern bibliography designed by the Royal Library (KB). These two workshops are briefly presented below.

    1. KnoweScape Workshop, March 4-5, 2015 Amsterdam

On March 4 to 5, Cristina attended a workshop titled “Evolution and variation of classification systems – KnoweEscape workshop” organized by the eHumanities group of KNAW – the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. During the two days of the workshop, there were various presentations dealing with how knowledge organization systems (KOSs) are represented, how classification is made, and how KOS changes through time. The main theme for discussion throughout the workshop was how to create a Metadata Observatory where an atlas of ontologies, KOS and metadata schemes can be included and searched in all their versions. This is an ambitious goal as, until now, the current KOS landscape is comprised of isolated and heterogeneous systems that have different versions, are not linked together and are built for various scopes. The Metadata Observatory would allow the creation of not only a space where knowledge organization systems can be compared between one another throughout time but also accessed and searched in an unitary manner.

The keynote speaker of the workshop was Joseph Tennis from the University of Washington, Seattle, who gave an interesting talk about the various KOSs and their stability, mentioning as an example the evolution of the Dewey Decimal System – the world`s most widely used library classification system. He emphasized that by looking into the different evolution of KOSs, this would help in the understanding and future building of organization systems. Richard Smiraglia, from the University of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and one of the leaders in the field of Knowledge Organization, presented a few empirical methods for knowledge evolution across KOSs as a way to understand information systems better.

Aida Slavic from the UDC Consortium, gave a presentation about how KOSs can be managed considering the evolution of concepts and their representation in the particular case of the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) system. Valentine Charles from Europeana talked about the special case of the Europeana portal as a way of linking cultural heritage with KOSs, while Toby Burrows from the University of Australia gave an insight into HuNI, one of the biggest Australian cultural heritage database. Albert-Merono-Penuela (Data Archiving and Networked Services – DANS, VU University Amsterdam) had a presentation about KOS versioning based on his work on Dutch census data and Paul Groth from Elsevier underlined in his presentation some strategies on how data analysis can be performed in a rapidly changing environment, giving as an example databases from the field of bioinformatics. Almila Akdag Salah from the eHumanities group of KNAW gave an extensive and very graphic presentation on how classification systems can be represented and viewed in the form of different knowledge maps. The workshop ended with a presentation by Christophe Gueret (DANS, VU University Amsterdam) on WWW standards on publishing web data.

Andrea Scharnhorst from DANS and the eHumanities group presided over the entire workshop introducing speakers, summarizing ideas and creating an environment fruitful for discussions.

    2. STCN Workshop, April 13, 2015 The Hague

On April 13, Cristina, Leon, and Inger attended a workshop at the Royal Library of the Netherlands (KB). The renewed Short Title Catalogue of the Netherlands (STCN) formed the central theme of the workshop. The STCN is a so-called retrospective bibliography of books that were written in Dutch and/or published in the (Northern) Netherlands between 1540 and 1800. First off, Els Stronks and Marieke van Delft introduced the goals and the new features of the STCN. The renewed STCN is based on the Resource Description Framework (RDF) model. Juliette Lonij explained the basics of RDF models in general.

During the rest of the morning the participants tested the new STCN interface. Peter Boot gave an instruction on how to use the interface and guided the participants through different SPARQL exercises. The exercises included linking authors/publishers to titles of their works, grouping and ordering titles chronologically, and retrieving various forms of numerical information. At the end of the day, Leon gave a pitch about INVENiT. He showed the possibility of recreating a book historical context by combining the STCN and the Rijksmuseum dataset.

Pitch presentation of INVENiT² by Leon at KB
Pitch presentation of INVENiT² at KB

Both workshops were helpful and inspiring allowing the team to communicate with experts in the field and to gain precious knowledge that can help in the development of the project. The workshop about KOS proved to be very useful in the Crowdsourcing Launch of the project on April 1, while in the following weeks, the academy assistants will implement the knowledge they gained during the STCN workshop to solve search queries that may be important for the progress of INVENiT².


  1. KnowEscape Workshop:
  2. STCN workshop:


On April 1 the INVENiT² team hosted a meeting for the Foundation Friends of the VU University Library. The topic of this meeting was how Crowdsourcing could help scholarly research concerning the history of emotions and picture bibles. Below this text you will find links to videos of presentations that were held that day. The presentations were held in Dutch. The INVENiT² team is very pleased that prof. dr. Fred van Lieburg provided an interesting presentation.

Op 1 april organiseerde het INVENiT² team een bijeenkomst voor de Stichting Vrienden van de UBVU. Het onderwerp van deze bijeenkomst was hoe Crowdsourcing bij kan dragen aan wetenschappelijk onderzoek naar de geschiedenis van emoties en prentenbijbels. Onder deze tekst vindt u links naar video’s van presentaties die tijdens deze dag zijn gehouden. De presentaties zijn gehouden in het Nederlands. Het INVENiT² team is prof. dr. Fred van Lieburg zeer dankbaar voor zijn interessante bijdrage.

Research visit to the British Museum in London

During the last week of March, Cristina-Iulia Bucur and Leon Wessels, the academy assistants working for INVENiT², visited London. Cristina and Leon joined Chris Dijkshoorn  for a short research visit in the British Museum, where Chris is involved in the ResearchSpace project. The goal of the ResearchSpace project is to build a collaborative environment for humanities and cultural heritage research by using knowledge representation and Semantic Web technologies. Members of the ResearchSpace project are currently working with the British Museum datasets and making use of the CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CRM) semantic framework. Therefore, a short research visit of the academy assistants to this research group would prove to be quite beneficial in current and future stages of the project.


On Monday Cristina and Chris met with Lora Aroyo and Guus Schreiber. Guus is a professor in the Web & Media group of the VU department of Computer Science. Together they introduced the INVENiT² project to the ResearchSpace group and discussed the mutual benefits of Chris working with collections of the British Museum as well as the Rijksmuseum. The group participated in an extensive presentation about the MicroPasts project, a web platform that is focussed on CrowdSourcing for the public engagement of digital communities. Members of the MicroPasts project are presently working on a digital catalogue of the British Museum that contains objects from the Bronze Age. By means of CrowdSourcing, the MicroPasts project creates digital 3D models of objects that can then be further annotated by the public. For the INVENiT² team it was very interesting to learn more about the MicroPasts project. During INVENiT² the team plans to include multiple cultural heritage datasets and annotate prints and other works of art of the Rijksmuseum collection by means of CrowdSourcing.

On Wednesday Chris, Cristina, and Leon met with An van Camp. An is the curator responsible for Dutch and Flemish prints and drawings before 1880 at the British Museum. The INVENiT² team members briefly introduced the project. Afterwards, An explained the basic principles of Merlin. Merlin is the central curatorial database of the British Museum. It contains records of nearly two million art objects that have been digitised by the British Museum. Thereafter, An showed some of the prints and copperplates that can be found in the British Museum collection. Among these were some original prints by Rembrandt, including one original copper plate. At this point, Alan Outten, a user interface designer of the ResearchSpace project, joined the group, as he is very interested in Rembrandt’s prints and the story behind the production of such prints.


In the remaining days Cristina and Leon helped to improve Accurator, a website Chris designed for INVENiT’s upcoming CrowdSourcing project. Fortunately, there was some time left for the academy assistants to discover the extraordinary collection of the British Museum. Working for a week in the British Museum with a team of experts is very inspiring. The academy assistants are thankful for this incredible experience and for all the interesting discussions and presentations. In particular they would like to thank Alan, An, Barry, Chris, Daniela, Dominic, and Sarah for their hospitality during their visit.

Cristina and Leon’s trip to London was funded by the Graduate School of Humanities and the Network Institute of VU University Amsterdam.


UBVU bibles involved in CrowdSourcing project of INVENiT²

At the present time, the INVENiT² team is focussing on annotating emotions to eighteenth-century picture bibles that have been digitised by the VU University Library (UBVU). The UBVU possesses one of the biggest collections of Dutch protestant bibles. Among the UBVU Bible Collection are picture bibles that were illustrated by the world renowned artists Romeyn de Hooghe and Bernard Picart. Two of such picture bibles will be used for this project. The INVENiT² team is currently setting up a CrowdSourcing project to annotate illustrations in these picture bibles.

Before starting on this part of the project, the team met with several experts. On Friday, the 13th of March, Inger Leemans, Sebastien Valkenberg, and Leon Wessels hosted a meeting with VU professors Johan Koppenol and August den Hollander, experts in the field of Early Modern literature and the history of religious books, respectively. Both experts provided valuable information on how to use eighteenth-century picture bibles as sources for the history of emotions. On Monday, the 16th of March, Sebastien and Leon met with Nicoline van der Sijs, professor in variational linguistics at Radboud University and researcher at the Meertens Institute. Nicoline shared some of her experience in managing CrowdSourcing projects. The INVENiT team highly appreciates the input it receives from various experts and uses the input to direct the project.

Academy assistants Cristina-Iulia Bucur and Leon Wessels wanted to become acquainted with the picture bibles that will be used for the upcoming CrowdSourcing project. Therefore, they went to the Special Collections department of the UBVU where they studied the aforementioned picture bibles in the reading room. They found it very interesting to touch, admire, and analyse hundreds of years old picture bibles.

You can look at the digitised picture bibles that will be part of the CrowdSourcing project by using the following link.


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First Expert Meeting of INVENiT²

Monday the 16th of February the INVENiT team held an expert meeting in the Intertain lab of VU University Amsterdam. We are very happy several experts in the field of religious history, art history, linguistics, and library and information science attended the meeting.

Expert meeting 1

First off, the team presented project INVENiT. Inger Leemans introduced the results of INVENiT¹ and the goals of INVENiT². Leon Wessels showed some of the shortcomings of the well-known search interface of the Rijksmuseum collection. Cristina-Iulia Bucur explained RDF-based queries and gave a short workshop on how to formulate queries using the SPARQL ontology. Chris Dijkshoorn introduced two search interfaces in development: the Cluster search interface of INVENiT and the Research space interface of the British Museum. Sebastien Valkenberg discussed possibilities to use the results of INVENiT to digitally disclose the VU University Library collection of illustrated bibles.

Expert meeting 2

After the presentations, the experts tried out various interfaces. Both the INVENiT team and the invited experts discussed possibilities, shortcomings, and future improvements of the different interfaces. We are very glad with all the great advice we received to improve the interfaces. In the following weeks the INVENiT team will discuss and try to implement the experts’ advice.

You can visit the INVENiT interfaces by using the following links. Please note that the interfaces are still a work in progress.

Kick-off INVENiT²

INVENiT², the follow-up of INVENiT¹, has officially started. The goal of INVENiT is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the search functionality provided in various cultural heritage collections online. By creating improvements we enable more thorough analysis of online collections. During INVENiT¹ we connected the image database and metadata of the Rijksmuseum with bibliographical data of STCN – Short Title Catalogue of the Netherlands (1550-1800). We developed a demonstrator that allows engravings of the Rijksmuseum to be researched in their (book) historical context.

In INVENiT² we aim to test this novel semantic search approach and to use semantic patterns from linked cultural heritage data to cluster the search results for better semantic search. A panel of experts will provide feedback on the demonstrator and together we will discuss the possibilities for future research. Three different user groups will search and browse the Prints Cabinets Online of the Rijksmuseum, an important sub-collection of the Rijksmuseum. The user groups consist of scholars from the Amsterdam Centre for the Study of the Golden Age, experts and public interested in religious history and master students of the VU Humanities Faculty. We will use the data of this experiment to elicit the inherent complex search routes scholars typically use with existing search engines. Based on this input we will evaluate the needs of scholars and the feasibility of the implementation. The main hypothesis of INVENiT² is that we can define genre-specific relevance values for linked data patterns that would support not only better semantic search, but also the analysis process of humanities scholars.

On the 19th of January 2015 the research team met to start working on INVENiT². The new academy assistants gave a presentation on their backgrounds, their experiences and their future contribution on the project. The new academy assistants are Cristina-Iulia Bucur and Leon Wessels.

Cristina is a Master student in Computer Science and Bioinformatics. She is specialized in High Performance Distributed Computing. In the past she has used her skills to promote reading and the works of  W.F.Hermans to the younger generation using modern technology, while working on a project for a major hardware and software company in Amsterdam. Previously Cristina was an academy assistant in a project under the auspices of the Network Institute of the VU University Amsterdam. The main goal of the project was to analyze and draw a network map of the online networks of ethnic Chinese businesses in Southeast Asia. As part of the Computer Science team, Cristina contributes to the further adaption of the demonstrator for the experiments.

Leon is a Research Master student in History. He is specialized in Cultural history and Archival research. During his presentation he introduced some of the challenges and possibilities of digital sources based on his own studies. As a member of the History team, Leon is partly responsible for the user perspective to provide insights on the information needs, research questions and various interaction and interface requirements needed in the empirical studies.

Both the academy assistants and the rest of the research team are looking forward to collaborating on INVENiT².