Golden Agents: Creative Industries and the Making of the Dutch Golden Age


The Dutch Golden Age is one of the strongest elements in the international reputation of the Netherlands. Within that context, the arts, or more generally Dutch creative industries, occupy a central place. When president Obama visited The Netherlands in 2014 he went to see The Nightwatch and allowed himself to be captured on camera saying "I love Rembrandt". It is possible he actually meant it. A lot of people love Rembrandt, and museums around the world hold substantial collections of 17th-century Dutch art. The Late Rembrandt exhibition welcomed, between February and May 2015, almost half a million visitors.
Painting, printmaking, book production and other creative industries of the Dutch Golden Age are also of continuous interest to Dutch and foreign scholars from various disciplines. Various research groups, institutions and individual researchers develop data repositories and analytical tools to study the Dutch Golden Age. Unfortunately, this often results in fragmentation and short-term solutions. The Golden Agents project will develop a sustainable infrastructure to study relations and interactions between producers and consumers of creative goods across the long Golden Age of the Dutch Republic. The project will link distributed, heterogeneous resources (both existing and new) on creative industries in the Dutch Golden Age so that researchers will be able to connect images, objects and texts from different sources in a new and meaningful way.
Consumption remains an under-investigated topic with regard to the creative industries in the Dutch Golden Age. The digitization of the enormously rich collection of the notarial acts in the Amsterdam City Archives, and more specifically the probate inventories contained within these records, will provide detailed and socially diverse data on the possessions of cultural goods by the inhabitants of what was probably the most important city of the 17th Century. The Golden Agents research infrastructure enables interaction between various heterogeneous databases by using a combination of multi-agent technology and semantic web solutions, that will be supported by ontologies developed together with domain experts.
The infrastructure is complementary to, and interoperable with the CLARIAH infrastructure. The linked key datasets and domain specific ontologies and standards will enrich the generic ontologies and SKOS standards of the CLARIAH infrastructure. Existing data mining techniques, topic modeling methods and network analysis tools of the CLARIAH platform will be offered to researchers to analyze, annotate and visualize metadata and textual/visual sources. Large datasets of images and text can be explored for a much deeper understanding of consumers responses to developments in styles, genres and fashions in the Dutch Republic.
The Golden Agents research infrastructure will also reach audiences outside academia and support the documentation on a wide array of objects preserved in cultural heritage institutions, many of which are major tourist attractions. It will thus contribute to NWO's role as the research foundation underpinning the Creative Industries top sector in the Dutch economy


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. C.M.J.M. van den Heuvel

Affiliated with

Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Huygens Instituut voor Nederlandse Geschiedenis

Team members

Drs. J. Baas, R. Burema MSc, V. Caretta Zamborlini MA, Dr. A.C. van Hulst, A.C. Kurtan MSc, C.R.R. Latronico MA, A.J. de Mooij MSc, J. Reinders MA, M. Shafahi MSc