Making Sense of Illustrated Handwritten Archives


I am the Project Officer for the project Making Sense of Illustrated Handwritten Archives. This is a 4-year joint enterprise of the Leiden Centre of Data Science (LCDS) Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Studies (LIACS), Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Groningen University, Twente University and Brill Publishers (as partner from the creative industry), funded by NWO. Starting, April 2016, the team aims to to develop a digital environment that will allow access to handwritten and illustrated archives and connect heterogeneous archival content to other digital sources. The researchers will use an advanced system for handwriting and image recognition (Monk), complemented with contextual information on species, locations and habitats. Naturalis’ taxonomic expertise, in combination with history of science methods, will be used to refine the system further. The outcome of the project will allow Brill to offer the system as an online service for the heritage sector. This will serve both curators of illustrated handwritten archives and researchers who wish to further the understanding of these collections. My tasks include to provide sets of documents from the digitized archive of the Natuurkundige Commissie (1820-1850) to the research team; to provide expertise and background knowledge on the taxonomy, nomenclature and research methods of the nineteenth century, and to coordinate the validation of the scientific data retrieved from the archive by the developed platform.

Het Veen, de vlinder en de openbaring, by Caspar Jansen.

In 2015 De Vlinderstichting celebrated the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the large copper, Lycaena dispar, in The Netherlands. This butterfly had been considered extinct since 1864 as a result of the draining of wet fenlands for farming and agriculture. The Dutch population belongs to a unique subspecies, batavus. The celebration acts for its discovery included a symposium, an exhibition, excursions and the publication of a book on the history of this discovery, by Caspar Jansen. I provided historical and biological information, as well as pictures of the first specimens collected in 1915, kept in Naturalis, and collection drawers.

The large copper is still gravely endangered because of habitat loss. More information can be found here (in Dutch): Grote vuurvlinder.