Boglárka Pap: Digital Access to the Portraits Collection


My name is Boglárka Pap, and as part of my MA programme in Book and Digital Media Studies at Leiden University, I started an internship at the Peace Palace Library in January 2015. Since then, I have been focused on the digitization and presentation of the Library’s special collections. In the course of 2014, the Peace Palace Library participated in a project – which was initiated by a collaboration of Dutch libraries, called WSWB, Werkgroep Speciale Wetenschappelijke Bibliotheken (Academic Library Working Group) –, in order to digitize prints from 17th-19th-Century books from its collection, and to donate them to Wikimedia Commons. The Library decided to photograph the prints, instead of the regular scanning, in order to produce high quality digitized images, and selected two professional photographers, Lilian and Bert Mellink, to carry out this task. The current outcome of the project is that all the digitized images can be found in the Wikimedia Commons repository, and some of them are linked to Wikipedia articles. Improving the description of prints on Wikimedia Commons is still in progress, and is maintained by Hans Muller, Wikipedian in Special Residence.

Concerning the main goal of digitization, namely easy accessibility, the aim of my project was to continue the work which started last year, by fitting the remaining images from Wikimedia Commons repository into Wikipedia articles, enhancing the existing metadata, and making approximately 500 engraved portraits from 83 books – published between 1603-1826 – available and searchable on the website of the Peace Palace Library. This selection of images covers one quarter of the whole collection of digitized prints of the former project, and now takes part of the Special Collections of the Library, under the name of Collection of Engravings. The greatest challenge of the project was to identify the portrayed people, and to find a suitable way of their online presentation. Accordingly, Kees de Man, Stacks Manager, and Aad Janson, Digital Library Developer assisted to achieve efficiency.

Personal Experience

Regarding the planning of the project, I needed a careful consideration since there were many interesting topics. However, my priority was to point out one project which is relevant, could be carried out in a specific time frame, and besides accomplishing the academic requirements of my internship, to bring about concrete contributions to the Library as well. When I first encountered the digitized old engravings, I was fascinated by their artistic value and digital quality, and I realized that it was urgent to bring them closer to the public. Therefore, two platforms, Wikipedia and the website of the Library, were selected for publication. On Wikipedia, the images can be found by searching for articles. This way of publication was favourable in order to reach users of wide interest randomly. However, the downside of it was that not every image could be linked to an article. For this reason, it was also important to make the complete collection of images accessible on a webpage where every item became searchable. By publishing it on the website of the Peace Palace Library – besides the search option – a relevant context could be added, supporting the collection with additional information.