PROJECT 1: Digital Infrastructure to disclose and network illustrated handwritten archives
I am currently involved in the project Making Sense of Illustrated Handwritten Archives (2016-2020) which aims to develop an advanced and user-friendly online environment to search and interlink handwritten and illustrated archive collections. Core use case of the project is the archive of the Committee for Natural History of the Netherlands Indies (1820-1850). The project is financed by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the publisher BRILL in Leiden. It also involves natural history experts from Naturalis Biodiversity Center Leiden and computer scientists from the universities in Leiden (LIACS, LCDS) and Groningen (ALICE). In the past, I have undertaken various collaborative efforts to disclose this archive for historians, biodiversity researchers and a broader public.
PROJECT 2: Edition of the diaries and drawings of Pieter van Oort (1804-1834)
A neigboring project works on a integral edition of the diaries of Pieter van Oort. Born in Utrecht in 1804, Van Oort was one of the most talented Dutch draftsmen of natural historical objects in the early nineteenth century. Until his death in 1834, Van Oort visited not only Java, but also the islands of Timor and Sumatra. During his stay in the area, Van Oort produced a voluminous diary and produced stunning watercolor drawings which are now stored in the archives of Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden. In particular the drawings offer a fascinating insight in the historical flora and fauna of the Indonesian Archipelago. For instance, many of the bats which Van Oort drew are now endangered. In order to prepare a searchable digital edition of Van Oort’s diaries and drawings, I use MONK, a state-of-the-art software designed for the recognition of handwritten illustrated corpora. MONK has been developed by Lambert Schomaker (ALICE Groningen) and his team. Eventually the diary and the drawings will also appear in book form in 2020.
PROJECT 3: Materials at work (monograph project)
Moreover, I am working a monograph with the working title Materials at work: Governing nature and society in the early nineteenth century Dutch Empire. The book consists of four biographies of materials and instruments (among which hydrometers) which allow to shed fresh light on how chemical and natural historical expertise tacitly shaped the relationship between insular Southeast Asia and the Netherlands in the early nineteenth century world. In the context of this project, I have co-curated an exhibition on the history of recycling and chemistry at Museum Boerhaave, the Dutch National Museum for the History of Science and Medicine. The exhibition has received an “honorable mention” in the competition for the Dibner Award of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT). The Dibner Award is an annual award for excellence in museum exhibits.
Figure 1 and 2: Drawing by Pieter van Oort / NCB Naturalis.
Figure 3: Photograph taken in the depot of the Belastingmuseum in The Hague.