ICARUS Lecture: Digitized archival materials from different corners of Europe

On March 23rd, Dorottya Szabó – Senior Archivist and head of department of Digital Services National Archives of Hungary and Anabela Borges Teles Ribeiro, Head of Departments of Digital Contents Conservation and Restoration, at Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, supported by Maria dos Remédios Amaral, gave the ICARUS Online Lecture #5 on the topic: Digitized archival materials from different corners of Europe: birth of transmedia exhibitions of the European Digital Treasures project.

The exhibitions aim at telling the stories and experiences hold inside European archives across multiple platforms and formats using various digital technologies, working together with cross-platform media and involving new publics.

Anabela Borges Teles Ribeiro

Anabela Ribeiro and Dorottya Szabó described the process of “making the exhibition”: the choice of documents and scientific work of historians, the digitization, the designer’s work, the creation of merchandising products, videos and entertainment apps in the different environments of Hungarian and Portuguese archives.

Dorottya Szabó

They also addressed the topic of managing these activities during a pandemic, which greatly affected the event’s schedule and opening of the exhibitions. Thanks to the efforts of the archival staff’s this process was successful and the exhibitions are currently open. Exhibition catalogues and materials are available at this page & check the Exhibition timeline.

See the session here or on the ICARUS YouTube channel!

For general information about the EDT Project please click here.

Stay tuned for more ICARUS Online lectures!

Written by Stella Montanari, International Centre for Archival Research.

International Nurses Day: 12th of May

The Order of St. John was set up in ca. 1048 to assist pilgrims in the Holy Land. They opened both hostels and hospitals for this purpose and also started protecting these pilgrims hospital gaining a military character.

After settling in Malta, they started building the city of Valletta in 1566; 12 years later they finished the building of the Sacra Infermeria (Sacred Infirmary), a new hospital which was one of the best in Europe at the time.

The Supreme Head of this hospital was the Grand Master himself, one of whose titles was that of ‘Servant of the Sick’. Another high officer was the Grand Hospitaller, the senior among the French Knights who exercised over-all control in hospital matters.

Initially, the Sacred Infirmary was a male institution; female patients were not admitted. This was remedied by Catherina Scappi, a noble lady, who some time before 1625 donated a house in Valletta for the care of sick and destitute women. The Order realized that a hospital for women was an essential service, and the Scappi hospital was developed as a department of the Infirmary.

The nursing of the sick by the Knights of St John at the Sacra Infermeria in Valletta (Malta). An engraving by Philippe Thomassin (1562-1622) in the Statute of the Order of St John, NLM, Statuta Hospitalis Hierusalem, [Rome], 1586).

The Order of Malta was essentially a hospitaller Order.  Indeed, the Grand Chapter of the Order, convened by Grand Master Fra’ Hugues Loubenx de Verdalle in 1584 in the new city of Valletta, confirmed the early Statute and made hospitality mandatory to all Knights.

The new statutes include engravings by Philippe Thomassin (1562-1622), illustrating life in the Order; one of them is the nursing of the sick at the Sacra Infermeria by the Knights. (Ref NLM, Statuta Hospitalis Hierusalem, [Rome], 1586).

Written by Leonard Callus, National Archives of Malta

Digital geospatial data, a tool for interpretation of our past – by Gregor Završnik

How can the benefits of digital geospatial data be leveraged? How can the discoverability and accessibility of geospatial records in a uniform and accessible way can be assured? The workshop “New Digital Exponential Technologies Towards The Generation Of Business Models” discussed these issued in both the technological and also the archival world.

Gregor Završnik.

Bio. Gregor Završnik is an international consultant with more than 20 years of experience in the Geospatial field. His geospatial digital records preservation engagement started on the E-ARK project in 2015 and continues until today with his work on the CEF eArchiving Building Block. As a member of the E-ARK3 team, he is leading the development of specifications and training for the eArchiving Building block in the field of geospatial information. His clients range from archives to mapping agencies and digital preservation solution providers. He is also a member of the Digital Information LifeCycle Interoperability Standards Board (DILCIS) and a short-term consultant for the World Bank.

Abstract. Maps and modern geospatial records are a useful tool to understand better objects and phenomena. With the development of exponential technologies such as social networks, artificial intelligence geospatial data became a fundamental component in the development of the digital economy. However, the benefits of this technology can only be leveraged if the discoverability and accessibility of geospatial records can be assured in a uniform and accessible way. A lot of data is stored in different formats with different levels of documentation and is often only accessible in closed systems. Mr Završnik shows how, using both simple and advanced technologies, geospatial data can be used for visualisation and analysis to understand better and make more use of our past data and present.

He discusses what generally brings value to data and what challenges are being faced in the data-driven economy. He goes on to propose how the Common Information Type Packaging Specifications for geospatial records, developed in the EU eArchiving building block, can support creating an Interoperable and connected information platform that can facilitate innovation and generate new business models. The solution is based on international standards from the geospatial and archival domains. The use of eArchiving specification ensures an open and transparent approach that will be sustainable and will ensure legal compliance.

Watch the session on YouTube here and check the manuscript paper prepared for the workshop here.

Written by Leonard Callus, the European Digital Treasures Team & Gregor Završnik.

Opening of the exhibition “European Discoveries: From the New World to New Technologies” at the General Archive of the Indies

The third of the three transmedia exhibitions included in the European Digital Treasures project, European Discoveries: From the New World to New Technologies, was successfully opened at the General Archive of the Indies (Spain) on the 29th of April.

The exhibition, open to the public until the 29th of July, analyses the scientific and technological discoveries that have been vital engines for the material progress and wealth of Europe, through the documentary treasures kept by the European archives.

This exhibition tries to show that discoveries and inventions lie at the heart of Europe’s cultural heritage. Archives in Europe abound with documents and materials that witness the constant desire to explore and to discover, and these documents tell thousands of different stories. The three pillars of this exhibition –Medicine, Energy/Industry, Transport/Navigation– are an attempt to provide a glimpse of the multifarious variety of stories, events and personalities involved in discoveries of many different types, during the long history of Europe. It is thus an exhibition not only about the discoveries themselves, but also about their archival memory, recording one of Europe’s most distinctive cultural traits.

In addition to the documents, the exhibition is completed with transmedia tools to bring its content closer through experimentation and play.

The opening was chaired by Severiano Hernández Vicente, Head of the Spanish State Archives, by María Oliván, Head of the Transparency, Document Management & Access to Documents Unit of the European Commission, and by Esther Cruces, Director of the General Archives of the Indies.

Practical information:


Written by Spanish State Archives

Opening of the exhibition “Exiles, Migration Flows and Solidarity” at the National Archive of Torre do Tombo (Portugal)

The transmedia exhibition “Exiles, Migration Flows and Solidarity”, included in the European Digital Treasures Project, was opened in Lisbon (Portuguese National Archive – Torre do Tombo) on the 28th of April.

Nowadays, when Europe is facing serious migration crises, the present exhibition, the outcome of the European cooperation, analyzes issues like exiles and migration flows from a historical perspective, through 47 key documents spanning several centuries, kept in European archives. These documents are divided into three main categories:

  • work-related migration, encompassing stories of individuals and groups of individuals, but also of the transfer of expertise, vital to the economic and cultural development;
  • war-related migration, covering various types of conflicts, from rebellions and civil wars through to the world wars of the 20th century;
  • human costs associated with political uprising, turmoil and persecution.

All these documents are also included in the exhibition catalogue – have a look!

As in previous exhibitions, this one combines different technological tools that allow the public to get to know our written past through multiple channels. Visitors can interact with original documents, digital reproductions, quiz and video games, augmented reality experiences to explore parallel worlds and videos presenting the project.

On display are also the merchandising products, inspired by the selected documents for the three Digital Treasures exhibitions.

The opening was chaired by Silvestre Lacerda, General Diretor from the Books, Archives and Libraries of Portugal, by Severiano Hernández, General Subdirector of the Spanish State Arquives, by María Oliván, Head of Unit of Transparency, Document Management & Access to Documents of the European Commission and by Ole Gausdal, International Director at The  National Archives of Norway.

It also counted with the musical performance of the young entrants to the “Young Digital Treasures” contest.

Participants of the Young Digital Treasures contest framing the opening ceremony with their musical performance!

The exhibition can be visited until June 30th 2022 in Portugal.

Written by the National Archives of Portugal

Link-Lives – Building historical big data from archival records for use by researchers and the Danish public – by Barbara Revuelta-Eugercios

Barbara Revuelta-Eugercios.

The third presentation on September 3rd at the workshop in Alicante was held by Barbara Reuvelta-Eugercios. She is associate research professor with special responsibilities at the National Archives of Denmark and associate research professor at the SAXO Institute, University of Copenhagen. Her focus is on historical demography, mortality inequality and digital methods in history. After her doctoral studies in Spain, she has worked in research institutions in Sweden, France and Denmark in the fields of economic history, demography and history. She co-directs the Link-Lives project since 2019.

Abstract. The Link-Lives project is a cross-disciplinary research project. The aim is to take the difficult and time-consuming task of combining information from diverse archival sources relating to any given person, to build life-courses and family relations. The timespan for the project is from 1787 to the present. The results will be freely and easily available to everybody. The project will expand the scope of registry-based research from decades to centuries and open new avenues for intergenerational research in the health and social sciences. It will also ease the access to some of Denmark’s digital treasures to the average citizen. Link-Lives is a collaboration between the Danish National Archives, the Copenhagen City Archives and the University of Copenhagen. It is funded through two grants by the Innovation Fund Denmark, the Carlsberg Foundation and two small grants from the Ministry of Culture.

You can watch the whole session on YouTube here & read the manuscript paper here!

Written by Barbara Revuelta-Eugercios & the European Digital Treasures Team.

Automated Processing and Exploitation of Heraldic Data from European Archives. – by Torsten Hiltmann and Philipp Schneider

The European Digital Treasures team continues with the presentations of the experts who participated in the workshop “New Digital Exponential Technologies Towards The Generation Of Business Models” on 2nd and 3rd of September, 2021 at the Provincial Historical Archive of Alicante (Spain). 

The second speech on September 3rd was held by Torsten Hiltmann and Philipp Schneider. Torsten Hiltmann is a professor for Digital History at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin since 2020. His research focuses on the integration of Machine Learning and Semantic Web Technologies into historical studies and on the epistemological change of historical research through the application of digital methods.

Philipp Schneider is a research assistant at the chair of Digital History at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin since 2020. He works in a project called “Coats of Arms in practice”, where he is responsible for modeling and contextualizing heraldry as a historical source with the help of Semantic Web Technologies.

Abstract. The paper addresses the issue of reusing data from historical archives (and GLAM institutions in general) in data-driven research projects by presenting a catalogue of supporting factors. These factors center around the FAIR principles and how archives and other GLAM institutions can support research by implementing them in their data services. Mainly, historical data should be made accessible through APIs, be describable through its historical context, and to be as interoperable and reusable as possible. These preconditions for using archival data in data-driven historical research are presented by using the example of the research project “Coats of arms in practice”. It aims to study the development and usage of heraldry as a tool of visual communication in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. It employs a data-first approach by integrating data of coats of arms as well as the historical contexts of sources in which they were used into a single Knowledge Graph, built with Semantic Web Technologies. The coats of arms themselves will be described with the help of a specific ontology. Image detection methods based on Machine Learning are used to detect (and describe) coats of arms in image data of historical sources that have not yet been described. This paper focuses on the reuse of archival data from a research perspective. We would like to address the preconditions archival data and GLAM data in general has to meet from the point of view of data-driven research – especially when such research draws on data from multiple institutions. 

You can watch the whole session on YouTube here and read the manuscript paper here!

Written by Torsten Hiltmann, Philipp Schneider & the European Digital Treasures Team.

‘Hydro Andric machine or garment to cover a man inside water’

Underwater garment – 1720 in Spain.

Máquina Hydroándrica o vestidura para cubrirse un hombre dentro del agua’, a ‘Hydro Andric machine or garment to cover a man inside water’ is one of the Spanish contributions to the third transmedia exhibition of the Project European Digital Treasures, “From the New World to New Technologies”, held by the General Archive of the Indies (Seville, Spain) from April 29th 2022 to July 29th 2022.

Underwater exploration has a very long history. Freediving took place since early antiquity in the Mediterranean Sea and in many other regions and seas around the world. Pearl fishing was an economic activity developed by the Spaniards in America since the 16th century and an important source of income for the Royal Treasury. It was done by indigenous divers, and later by Africans. 

The idea of using a contraption such as a diving bell to allow someone to remain underwater for extended periods has been with us for a long time. The limitations of these devices were well known: the methods used to provide air to the diver were very primitive and frequently led to fatalities. 

In the 18th century, different models of diving suits with breathing systems were developed to achieve a greater permanence of the diver under water. One of those is shown here: a project for an underwater garment that was presented in 1720 in Spain. Actually, as the document explains, only the external layer is presented here, to be used over the whole body armour, with hood and iron breeches. Concept and fabrication are attributed to Alexander Durand.

This interesting document has inspired the Spanish designer Ángel Merlo to create an inventive merchandising product: a personalized waterproof cover for backpacks.

EDT designer creation.

You can find more info about the record and the designer here:
Máquina Hydroándrica o vestidura para cubrirse un hombre dentro del agua’ (ES.41091.AGI//MP-INGENIOS,248) on PARES or Archives Portal Europe

Written by Spanish State Archives.

Browsing through sealed historical documents: noninvasive imaging methods for document digitization – by Daniel Stromer


The European Digital Treasures team wants to disclose the various presentations held within the workshop “New digital exponential technologies towards the generation of business models” on 2nd and 3rd of September, 2021 at the Provincial Historical Archive of Alicante (Spain). For this reason, we are posting about each of the presentations.

Daniel Stromer.

One of the speakers was Daniel Stromer, who started to study medical engineering at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) in 2010. In 2019, he finished his PhD (Dr.-Ing.) in Computer Science with the title “Non-invasive imaging for Digital Humanities, Medicine, and Quality Assessment“. Daniel is now heading the Learning Approaches for Medical Big Data (LAMBDA) group of the Pattern Recognition Lab (PRL) at FAU. In parallel, he joined Siemens Healthineers as collaboration manager for Digital Health. He is currently project lead of a multimodal document digitization project as well as interested in research where pure image data is being enriched and correlated with new data sources.

Abstract. Historical documents are witnesses of history that provide us with valuable information about former times. Many of these relics are too fragile to open them, such that innovative non-invasive imaging techniques can help to reveal hidden contents. In this work, we present our research on Computed Tomography, Phase-contrast and Terahertz imaging. We use image processing methods to visualize the digital data for the naked eye. Our use cases are mainly books, but also Asian bamboo scroll data is shown. As an outlook, our future research will focus on hybrid imaging approaches combined with intelligent image processing. Our research aim is to gain insights, and based on them, provide guidelines for specific documents. Therefore, the space of documents and modalities is presented. We try to utilize advantages and counter disadvantages of certain modalities. Finally, the future of this highly translational research is discussed and possible considerations for potential commercialization are presented.

You can watch the whole session on YouTube here & read the manuscript paper here!

Written by Daniel Stromer & the European Digital Treasures Team.

Handwritten Text Recognition for the European Digital Treasures Collections.  Hands On workshop by Joan Andreu Sánchez and Enrique Vidal

The first day of  the workshop “New Digital Exponential Technologies Towards The Generation Of Business Models” was concluded by a hands on session led by Joan Andreu Sánchez and Enrique Vidal.

Joan Andreu Sánchez.

Joan Andreu Sánchez is assistant professor at Universitat Politècnica de València and the Director of the Pattern Recognition and Human Language Technologies (PRHLT) Research Center in this university. His main area of research is machine learning and formal languages applied to text recognition and math recognition.

Enrique Vidal is emeritus professor at the same university and former co-leader of PRHLT research center. For many years Dr. Vidal has focussed his research on handwritten document analysis and recognition leading the development of the probabilistic indexing technology.  Joan Andreu and Enrique are founders of tranSkriptorium, an AI spin-off company.

Enrique Vidal.

The contents of a massive volume of digitised handwritten records in archives and libraries all over the world are practically inaccessible, buried beneath thousands of terabytes of high-resolution images. The image textual content could be straightforwardly indexed for plain-text textual access using conventional information retrieval systems if perfect or sufficiently accurate text image transcripts were available.

However, fully automatic transcription results generally lack the level of accuracy that is required for reliable text indexing and search purposes. On the other hand, the massive volume of image collections typically considered for indexing render manual or even computer-assisted transcription as entirely prohibitive. Dr. Sanchez and Dr. Vidal explain how very accurate indexing and search can be directly implemented on the images themselves, without explicitly resorting to image transcripts; they present the results obtained using the proposed techniques on several relevant historical data sets. The results have led to a high interest in these technologies.

You can watch the session on YouTube here and the paper presented at the workshop here: Part I & Part II.

Written by Leonard Callus and the European Digital Treasures Team.