Expertise from the crowd

The Rijksmuseum has hundreds of thousands prints to be annotated. Researchers are developing methods to harvest expertise from the crowd to help the museum’s curators.

In total, the newly reopened Rijksmuseum has over a million works of art of which about eight thousand are on display. Like an iceberg, the vast majority of the Rijksmuseum’s collection is hidden. Until recently that is, because the museum now runs a programme to digitize artworks and put them online.

Every year, says Henrike Hövelman of the Rijksmuseum’s online print collection, the museum aims to put another forty thousand objects onto the Internet. On that pace it will take less than twenty years to disclose the entire print collection of about 700 thousand items.

One of the problems with this pace of publication is that each year it would cost a curator about four years of fulltime work to annotate the items (if he took ten minutes work for each). Next to that, curators are oriented towards art history and lack domain knowledge to annotate specific aspects of the item, such as the name of a depicted bird or flower.  

In the SEALINCMedia research project (socially enriched access to linked cultural media) two teams led by TU’s Professors Alan Hanjalic and Geert-Jan Houben (EEMCS) aims to engage the crowd, laymen and experts alike, to contribute to the museum’s annotations. 

PhD student Jasper Oosterman (EEMCS) has now done a first trial run with eight-six prints of birds and plants. Oosterman develops strategies and software to identify potential contributors and to assemble them into a working crowd. 

This is one of over forty research projects that were presented on Delft Data Science New Year Event, held at the EEMCS building on January 13 2014


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