Experiences of VU – Rijksmuseum collaboration – Invenit

Chris Dijkshoorn

Collection data provided by cultural heritage institutions is not always
sufficiently rich to support digital humanities research. The Vrije
Universiteit has a long history of collaborating with the Rijksmuseum
Amsterdam and the collection data of the museum has been converted to
support uses such as semantic search and recommendation. These
applications were created to be either used by the museum or the general
public. While the data that supported these applications can serve as a
basis for digital humanities research, often additional data is required
to answer specific research questions.

The INVENiT project was a collaboration between the computer science
department and the history department of the Vrije Universiteit, in which
we investigated how the data needs of digital humanities researches could
be accommodated. The project focussed on illustrated bibles,
investigating whether we could show a shift in the emotions depicted on
the prints included in bibles from different periods. In order to do so
we had to relate individual prints to bibles and annotate prints with
emotions. The Rijksmuseum views the prints as individual objects and by
relating them to objects of the Dutch Royal Library we were able to
partially reconstruct bibles. Crowdsourcing was used to annotate emotions
depicted on prints.

Although INVENiT ran for a short time, the project provided valuable
insights in how digital humanities research can be supported. Its
multi-disciplinary nature is largely responsible for the success of this
project, in which museum employees, digital humanities researchers and
computer scientists collaborated. In this presentation we advocate that
the value of cultural heritage datasets is increased at the moment
continuous improvements are made, considering all stakeholders. In
addition we outline open questions such as the management of data outside
the scope of cultural heritage institutions.