Academy Job Shadow Days Report

Ilona von Stein at Huygens ING

Ilona von Stein, project coordinator/data manager for the Oral History dataset at DANS (Data Archiving and Networked Services, the Netherlands Institute for Permanent Access to Digital Research Resources) shadowed Charles van den Heuvel, head of the History of Science and Scholarship Research Group at the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands.

Return visit – different, and yet the same

Ilona von Stein (DANS) paid a return visit to Charles van den Heuvel (Huygens ING) on Friday 6 October.

Charles specifically wanted me to shadow him on that day in connection with a colloquium concerning the project Golden Agents: Creative Industries and the Making of the Dutch Golden Age. There’s a project colloquium every three weeks. Charles is the principal investigator. It was very interesting and inspiring to see Charles, his team (about 20 co-applicants) and their partners in the cultural heritage sector (for example Amsterdam Municipal Archives) have a constructive discussion of the project’s progress. Charles spends a lot of his time on this project, and he thought I might find it interesting, given my focus on research data management. And he was right!

Golden Agents project

The project commenced in spring 2017 and involves developing a sustainable infrastructure for studying the relationships and interactions between consumers and producers of creative works in the Dutch Golden Age. In practical terms, it uses semantic web solutions combined with ‘computer agents’. Linked open data will serve to connect various research sources.


The consortium participants are active in different fields (professors, computer scientists, metadata specialists, data providers, and so on). All these different roles were represented at the colloquium that I attended. The dynamics were very interesting, with the participants constantly debating important considerations, areas of tension and delineations. For example, the data providers – owing to the subject of the colloquium, household inventories, the data provider in this case was Amsterdam Municipal Archives – want their collection to be described and indexed as uniformly as possible. And that makes perfect sense, since the Golden Age household inventories comprise only a small part of their archives. The researchers and technicians, on the other hand, want the data on the names, places, objects and events listed in the inventories to be as detailed as possible, so that they interpret and analyse them properly.

I can relate!

I can relate to these types of discussions, because I come across them in my work as a project coordinator at DANS. I work with many different stakeholders who have many different interests, and my job as project coordinator is to see the big picture and to keep listening so that we achieve our shared goal in the end. During the colloquium, we naturally discussed long-term archiving and access to data during and after a project. Charles’ project is still in an early stage. He’s already thought about the long-term archiving of the data it generates and how to make the data available for follow-up research and replication.

Charles and I also talked a lot about what it’s like to head up a technically-oriented infrastructure project. He told me about his work as head of the ‘History of Science and Scholarship’ research group at Huygens ING. It was great that the Academy Job Shadow Days gave me an opportunity to peek behind a different curtain. On the one hand, I saw how Huygens ING and DANS differ. On the other, I saw even more similarities between them, in the approach to project leadership, interactions with ‘the field’ and the way in which Huygens tackles research data management. It was a worthwhile morning!