Virtual Reality and Enhanced Publications as Interfaces to Historical Big Data

Activity: Talk or presentationAcademic


Although semantic web technologies are gradually introduced in the digital humanities and cultural heritage institutions the representation of linked data is still very abstract and hardly allows for interactions by researchers, curators or other users of the general public. The Semantic Web needs interfaces for critical, trustworthy readings of Big Data for history and for humanities research at large. Designers and researchers can collaborate in creating more accessible interfaces and reliable virtual research environments for the analysis of Big Data and meaningful interpretations hereof. This is the background of a recent application for funding, that Charles van den Heuvel submitted as p.i. of a consortium of the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, the University of Amsterdam (CREATE), the department Monuments and Heritage of the City of Amsterdam, The Netherlands Institute of Sound&Vision and Brill Publishers, with the title Virtual Interiors as Interfaces for Big Historical Data Research. This proposal builds upon the current NWO-large infrastructure project Golden Agents: Creative Industries and the Making of the Dutch Golden Age that aims at analysing interactions between various branches of the creative industries and between producers and consumers using a combination of semantic-web and multi-agent technologies and circa 2 million scans of notary acts, such as probate inventories, testaments etc. of the City Archives of Amsterdam. ( The Virtual Interiors project not only could be used for testing and validating intermediate deliverables of the Golden Agents infrastructure by research, but also for the development of critical spatial visualisations that can express uncertainties and multiple perspectives for applications beyond this project. With the creation of human-friendly virtual research environments on top of the SPARQL endpoints of the Semantic Web, that express uncertainties in data and that allow users to interact, the project not only intends to contribute to a more trustworthy and participatory exploitation of the Semantic Web, but also to contribute to the development of hermeneutic methods. In this presentation Charles van den Heuvel will discuss methodological issues prompted by the creation of virtual reconstructions and enhanced publications. Building upon the results of the experimental project: Dynamic Drawings in Enhanced Publications it will be demonstrated how historical research and education in museums can benefit from interactive, dynamic multi-dimensional visualizations in academic and cultural heritage institutions.
Period31 Oct 2017
Held atUniversity of Sussex; Sussex Humanities Lab, United Kingdom


  • virtual reality; big data; user interfaces; enhanced publications