Academy Job Shadow Days report

Eduard Drenth at IISH

Eduard Drenth, software architect/developer at the Fryske Akademy, shadowed Harriet Stroomberg, collection specialist at the International Institute for Social History (IISH).

After Harriet shadowed me at the Fryske Akademy, I shadowed her at the IISH. What an overwhelming experience, what a treasure-trove of information from here and abroad. I felt as if we were two tiny figures dwarfed by a Himalaya-scale mountain of information. Information that keeps the memory of people, periods of history and social transitions alive.

For example a simple tin can. IISH also collects objects, items that typify a tumultuous period in Indonesia’s history, but mainly it collects books, photographs, posters, caricatures and a lot of audio recordings on all sorts of media. All of this is routed to IISH and organised internally by its subject consultants, who oversee certain defined areas along with their networks and volunteers

Physical preservation

Collect, assess, sort, prioritise and, finally, archive. In this case, archiving means preserving the physical object. IISH has all sorts of special storage areas for that, and a whole lot of packing materials. Equally important is to describe and categorise the objects in systems, for example for stand-alone items. Cataloguing is Harriet’s job. She regularly comes across items that are interesting to her as an art historian, or even about her own family. Xmetal is used to catalogue groups of items in a format known as Encoded Archival Description (EAD). In addition, IISH will soon start using to archive digital material – something that’s becoming increasingly important with the growing stream of ‘digital-born’ material and advances in digitalisation, for example handwriting recognition and audio.

Grutte Pier

All catalogues are searchable from the IISH website. Unfortunately, we couldn't find Pier Donia (‘Grutte Pier’), a fifteenth-century Frisian freedom fighter. But they’re working to make all this wonderful material accessible in a way that makes it possible to link it to sources outside IISH, through Linked Open Data. For example, we spoke specifically about linking IISH’s EAD-encoded names and place names to TEI-encoded manuscripts in the language database and in hisGIS at the Fryske Akademy. Who knows what the future will bring…

Tech Day

After spending a very enjoyable morning shadowing Harriet, I spent the afternoon attending a CLARIAH tech day, where I gave a talk about our language database work. There was a lot software coding and discussion that day, especially about Linked Open Data. I have to admit that I didn’t always see how certain things could be beneficial for certain purposes. I started my return trip with a case of information-overload, but feeling very satisfied.

I hope I’ll get my raincoat back. I forgot it when I transferred trains in Zwolle because I was deep in conversation with a candidate civil-law notary about the automation of justice.

The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam, near the IISH headquarters.