Four Dutch researchers receive funding in international programme on Digital Heritage.

14 December 2017

Eight transnational research projects in the JPI Cultural Heritage programme will receive around 4 million euro and start in 2018. Dutch researchers are involved in four of these projects.

Funerary ritual (Shutterstock)Four Dutch researchers receive funding in international programme on Digital Heritage, for example how the Dogon funerary ritual can be made available digitally (Shutterstock)

They will study which new perspectives on European history and identity/ies can be developed by looking at digital curations and appropriations of audiovisual heritage, how our digitally archived linguistic heritage can be made available in a stable and enriched way, what digital data can teach us about how and why Europeans read from the 18th century onwards, and how the transfer of a part of the Dogon funerary ritual, the baja ni song cycle that is attributed to the 19th century prophet-singer Abirè, can be safeguarded, made available and analyzed through digital means.

JPI Cultural Heritage is a European network in which amongst other things joint calls for research on cultural heritage are developed. The call Digital Heritage intends to address grand challenges and new developments on the terrain of research into digital heritage. The eight projects that will receive funding approach this theme from a variety of perspectives and scientific disciplines. They produce theoretically, methodologically and technologically innovative research outcomes, as well as output that is relevant for stakeholders and policy makers inside and outside of Europe. The eight transnational consortiums that will carry out the projects are being financed by science funders from eight countries that are involved with the JPI Cultural Heritage.

More information about the four projects with Dutch researchers can be read below. All projects that will receive funding, the call Digital Heritage and more information on the JPI Cultural Heritage can be found on the website of the JPICH.

CADEAH: European History Reloaded: Curation and Appropriation of Digital Audiovisual Heritage
Prof. dr. E. Müller, Universiteit Utrecht, dr. A. Gjuričová, Academy of Science of the Czech Republic, prof. dr. P. Snickars, University of Umeå

During the past decade, a massive body of audiovisual heritage has become digitally accessible, on websites of archives, through initiatives such as and, and on platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. The proposed project is the first to research the online circulation and appropriation of audiovisual heritage using an integrated and interdisciplinary approach. It combines state of the art tracing and tracking technologies, critical cultural analysis and ethnographic fieldwork to answer the questions: How do strategies of curation shape the appropriation of digitized heritage? What new perspectives on European history and identity do digital curations and appropriations of audiovisual heritage create? How can audiovisual archives better foster the re-use of Europe’s audiovisual heritage? The project's case studies highlight European History from the Cold War to the Fall of the Berlin Wall and Migration in Europe—both urgent topics within debates about Europe's past, identity and future. The project brings together interdisciplinary expertise in the curation of digital audiovisual heritage (Utrecht University, The Netherlands), contemporary European history (Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Republic) and Digital Humanities (Umeå University, Sweden). It collaborates with leading stakeholders in the field, as—and its main audiovisual aggregator—as well as the attached 35 audiovisual archives across Europe. To reach out to users of audiovisual heritage, the project will also co-operate with the European Association of History Educators and The project's outcomes will contribute to a better understanding of popular interpretations of European history circulating online. It will foster critical engagement with audiovisual heritage in a participatory media landscape, including the consequences of digital historiography. Based on outcomes, the project will advise heritage institutions about best practices of user-engaging curation. Outcomes will also provide history educators with accessible material to engage students working online with Europe's audiovisual heritage.

DigiDogon: Digitizing Dogon heritage. The legacy of Abirè, the Dogon prophet
Prof. dr. J.B. Gewald, Universiteit Leiden, prof. dr. M. Rowlands, University College London, dr. Eric Jolly, Institut des mondes africaines

The project aims at digitally recording and safeguarding part of the immaterial cultural heritage of the Dogon in Mali, the baja ni, a major song cycle that forms an integral part of the funeral complex. The Dutch principal investigator, who has been studying baja ni performances since 1980, has collected many hours of recordings, and has recently prepared a manuscript text which, together with the recordings, will serve as the starting point for this project. Due to Islamization and Christianisation, traditional funerals are becoming rarer, and the transmission of the baja ni is in peril. The current jihadist troubles present an immediate and even violent threat to this heritage.     The songs are attributed to a blind Dogon poet/prophet, Abirè, probably from the 19th century, who also delivered a string of prophecies on the area. The aim of the project is first to widen the empirical knowledge on the prophetic song cycle, and to further analyse and contextualise the performances. Second, the recordings will be digitalized in such a way that they become accessible to the Dogon themselves, set in a digital framework which contextualizes the songs inside their material setting. Third, the goal is to initiate processes and institutions that may keep the heritage alive, independent of traditional funerals. Research activities on the ground will be done by Dogon researchers, guided by the consortium which is based in Leiden, London and Paris. Project partners in Mali are the National Museum in Bamako, the UNESCO office in Mali and Ginna Dogon, the association that represents the Dogon in cultural matters.

DReaM: The Dictionary/Grammar Reading Machine: Computational Tools for Accessing the World’s Linguistic Heritage
Prof. dr. H.D. Hammarström, Uppsala University, prof. dr. M. Klamer, Universiteit Leiden, dr. S. Robert, Langage, Langues et Cultures d’Afrique Noire

The diversity of the world's 6,500 languages embodies a wealth of information on human cognition and the history of populations. As languages go extinct, the linguistic heritage of human kind increasingly resides in grammars and dictionaries, which are rapidly accumulating. Accessing this heritage entails that the descriptions are available and that they are read by someone. Availability is a problem because publications are often difficult to access. In this project we aim to enhance access to the world’s linguistic heritage by making an existing collection of more than 9,000 PDF documents no longer protected by to copy-right available in a stable archive enriched by added metadata and computational tools developed to search information within the texts. Moreover, a number of dictionaries will be converted to apps for mobile devices that can be distributed to speakers of minority languages, handing back to these speakers some of their linguistic heritage. The next step, that of reading language descriptions, sounds trivial, but when all relevant publications are taken into account a researcher who would like to access information on all the world’s languages is literally faced with hundreds of thousands of publications. Therefore, another aim of the project is to develop information-extraction tools specifically tailored to the task of dealing with language descriptions. Using cutting-edge methods from Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing we intend to build a system that can extract millions of snippets of information and link them in ways such that it is possible to construct individual language profiles from a variety of sources and to output comparative databases for the purpose of typological and historical linguistics. The applicant team combines proficiency in Natural Language Processing with expertise in linguistic diversity and is supported by an institution with decades of experience in developing and storing archives of linguistic information.

Prof. dr. B. Ouvry-Vial, Université du Maine, dr. S. Towheed, Open University, dr. J. de Kruif, Universiteit Utrecht, dr. M. Wögerbauer, Institute of Czech Literature of the CAS, dr. G. Gravier, Institut de Recherche en Informatique et Systèmes Aléatoires

READ IT is a transnational, interdisciplinary R&D project that will build a unique large-scale, user-friendly, open access, semantically-enriched investigation tool to identify and share groundbreaking evidence about 18th-21st C Cultural heritage of reading Europe. This Cultural heritage is a rich ‘human archive’ in multiple media and languages depicting a transaction between reading subjects and reading material. Yet it is currently scattered and insufficiently tagged. Without gathering, describing and structuring, it remains unknown. Innovative tools are also needed to leverage community and critical engagement with this crucial common heritage, thereby preserving and enriching it. State-of-the art technology in Semantic Web and information systems will provide a versatile, end-users oriented environment enabling scholars and ordinary readers to retrieve information from a vast amount of community generated digital data leading to new understanding about the Why? and How? people read in Europe. The interdisciplinary collaboration between established digital humanists, human & social sciences scholars and computer researchers will investigate innovative ways of gathering new resources through crowdsourcing and webcrawling as well as linking and reusing preexisting datasets. Extracting descriptors from a sample of multilingual textual sources will contribute to a robust ontology as well as to multiple thesauri of invariants accounting for the lowest common denominator of reading experiences in Europe across times and space. READ IT will maximize research outputs on the digital heritage of reading Europe and foster further active engagement with it through ‘beyond the state-of-the-art’ smart APIs and user interfaces designed for the co-curation of customized collections and personal narratives and memories of reading. Thus it raise awareness about the well-being associated with the cultural heritage of European print culture and shed light on the societal impact of digitally mediated knowledge.

Source: NWO