All posts by Leon Wessels

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.


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.