Digital Humanities at the KB

As promised, a blog about our poster at DHBenelux, but I didn’t want to simply publish the poster, so here is the explanation that goes with in. The abstract we submitted was a very general story about what happens in the KB with regards to Digital Humanities and the poster we developed out of this is one we hope you’ll see more often, because we love talking to you and promoting our stuff! But what was on this poster and what is actually happening with DH in the KB? In our strategic plan for 2015-2018 we refer to the Digital Humanists as the top layer of our user pyramid:

The top layer is formed by a relatively small, but growing group. They are researchers and developers who use the large textual data sets that the KB has built up with its partners during the past few years. More and more humanities researchers use tools to extract information and visualize data, to get a grip on data sets that can no longer be analyzed in the traditional way (big data). The KB actively supports this form of Humanities, Digital Humanities. (p. 10)


That active support for these Digital Humanities, what does that entail? Well, we’ve been providing researchers with our data for quite some time (if you want to know more, ask @sclaeyssens!). However, we do not only want to give you our stuff, we’d also like to know how you use it and whether there is something we can help you with, so that the data gets used in the most optimal way. To do this, the Research department and Collections department teamed up in a Digital Humanities-team (reach us via dh @ kb . nl). Together, we make sure that all DH related activities in the KB are adapted to your needs and that you get the best support for your project.

Still from a video about the KB, big data and Digital Humanities with Prof. Julia Noordegraaf . Video is available here:

But what are these activities? Well, you can read all about them on the official KB website at, but given that you’re here now, I’ll quickly explain them and include some behind the scene stuff that isn’t on our website. Of course you can get our data for research! We have more than 1 million digitised books, newspapers, journals, etc. We have sets that have a CC license and we have sets with copyright that you can only get once we OK it. We’re very happy when you want to work with the data, so we’re only concerned with copyright and won’t criticise your ideas or anything :) To find out more, ask @sclaeyssens, e-mail dataservices @ kb . nl or go to

We have a Research Lab! This means that we have a server on which we can experiment with tools, data and configurations, but you can also check out what we do and have on our website Here you can find examples of how certain tools can work with our data, such as ngram viewers, or tools that we’ve made especially for our data or one of our researchers, such as NER software and training data. But when do we work with those researchers?

KB lab

The Scancion generator from our KB-fellow Marc van Oostendorp is available at

Well, we have two residency programs where we invite researchers to join us for a short period. For the more renowned researcher, we have the KB-fellow program and for early career researchers, we have the Researcher-in-residence program.  Together, these two initiatives help us understand how DH researchers work and where we can help. And of course, we learn so much from the researchers, which gives us nice ideas for new experiments and collaborations that are beneficial for all our users.

Steven Claeyssens at the Historical Newspapers Day in February

Steven Claeyssens at the Historical Newspapers Day in February

We also organise events and workshops around our data. In February, we brought together all parties working with our historic newspapers and explained how they’re made, what we do with them and what the possibilities and limitations are with regards to OCR and copyright. We also had a workshop about topic modeling, with Marijn Koolen and Samuël Kruizinga. We hope to have a public event for each Researcher-in-residence, so keep an eye out for any news on our website and via Twitter.

And what do we do behind the scenes? Well, we have our regular chat with the team to discuss any work we’re doing, that is coming our way and all other business that is related to DH at the KB. We also discuss incoming questions about the data and try to answer them as best we can. So if you want to know something about the formats, best way to harvest a selection or which newspapers titles contain colour images, we’re happy to help! You can contact us via dh @ kb .nl or leave a comment below.

Marijn Koolen at MALLET workshop

Marijn Koolen at MALLET workshop

Apart from this, we organise a working group for the KB where we invite someone from the DH community to explain what they’re doing (not necessarily with our data). This way, we learn what is happening in the DH world outside the KB, which is very valuable. Do you want to come and present your work? Yes, please! With everything put together, we hope to have the best ingredients in place to be thé perfect partner for your research project! We’re here to help and we’re happy to do so!

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