The data hub consists of two elements: a Dataset Browser and a Research application. In the first quarter of 2023, their basic features and outlines were implemented. Over the consecutive months, these were further developed in line with the goals of the data hub.
The goals consist of two aspects. First, provide an environment in which datasets are brought together and examined for provenance research purposes and restitution. This will answer the main questions from countries of origin: what is present in The Netherlands? And how did it get there?
Second, the research application is a space in which communities and individuals can add information, perspectives, and context to objects and collections of objects. Thus, the data hub aims to make colonial collection data in The Netherlands more accessible. The current opacity of collection data is considered by many individuals and communities, a hindrance in seeking answers to questions about their heritage.
To achieve these goals the datahub team prioritises several milestones and tasks for this year. The main focus is the implementation of features related to: themes of perspectives, collections, data enrichment, input and communication, and open data(sets).
The most important feature of the data hub is the accommodation of multiple perspectives on the heritage of an object or collection of objects. The data hub will allow users to create communities of people. As a community, users can create their own collections from all the objects in the hub and share them with others. Together, users and communities can add comments, alternative data, sources, names, descriptions, and create the provenance records that show the (probable) history of an object or a collection of objects. These additions are moderated through a voting system. Users and communities can add their support for any existing or added information in the application.
The enrichment of collection data and the use of linked data advances allows the generation of new data. Users, data experts and automated systems together will start to relate historical events, people, and locations to objects in the museums. The resulting knowledge can be used to create more visual features in the user interface, and will be made available through an web-API. Users can query and retrieve the data from this endpoint and use the results for their own research and applications.
By the end of the year the data hub will provide access to the object catalogues of the National Museum of World Cultures, Bronbeek Military Museum for Dutch colonial history and the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL), Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. Moreover, integrated into the data we will add a guide to colonial heritage provenance research developed by the Dutch Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD), and the public registers of all Dutch military personnel serving in the Netherlands East Indies.
These features are a start. Enabling the ongoing conversation between (Dutch) heritage organisations and users (in the nations of origin) is an essential part of the project. There are many outstanding issues related to the ownership of the data, who controls it, and who decides which objects are - and are not - part of colonial heritage. What, for example, happens to data “owned” by Dutch museums on objects that have been returned to the nations of origin? Do we remove that if that is what the communities want? At the same time, we also have an obligation to researchers to guarantee sustainable and persistent data. What happens to the links in journals, or the reproduction of results?
These conversations provide us with continued input to improve the application and take a position in these debates. Additional requested features will be added over the coming months and years.