Nederlands | English

How are images, objects and texts from the Golden Age connected?

Huygens ING is granted a NWO large subsidiary for Golden Agents: creative industry and the creation of the Dutch Golden Age


When president Obama visited the Rijksmuseum in 2014, he allowed himself to be captured on camera saying “I love Rembrandt”. He felt proud to be surrounded by all these Dutch grandmasters of the Golden Age, about whom he had learned so much in school. The Dutch Golden Age is world famous. Dozens of monographs have been dedicated to this period, but we still know very little about the factors that can explain the success of its creative explosion.  This NWO large infrastructuresubsidiary will make it possible to investigate the history of the Golden Age creative industry by using digital research methods and tools on a large amount of newly digitised and accessible archival resources.

To date this research is fragmented into specialisms. We know a lot about Dutch painters in museums. We know less about what artifacts people had in their homes or who the famous actors were. In art or literature historic studies on the Golden Age researchers comment on the developments in style, taste or genres that would have led to its worldwide success. These comments however, are based on separated sub-studies.  There are digital sources on the production of the creative industry available, but these are mainly accessible via separate databases. Digital data on the consumption, and only the consumption of the cultural elite, was lacking. This combination made it impossible to systematically test presumptions regarding the dynamics and interactions that attributed to the success of the Golden Age.  The long expected digitisation of the rich notarial deeds of the Amsterdam city‐archive –recently proposed for the  UNESCO Memory of the World list – now makes this possible. For the first time it is possible to investigate how style, genre, and taste related to the different layers in the Amsterdam society, the most important city of the seventeenth century.

Semantic Web technology makes it possible to unite existing and new data-sets in Linked Open Data and make them accessible worldwide.  This enables researchers to analyse the interactions between different areas in the creative industry as well as interactions between producers and consumers. This Semantic Web technology will be combined with multi‐agent technology,  designed to simulate interactions between different data-sets and between data-sets and users. Computer agents will not only help researchers in their search through this enormous amount of data from the Golden Age creative industry, but will actually learn from this. Golden Agents will provide their own suggestions to allow researchers ultimately understand the dynamics of the Golden Age. Patterns that explain the success of the Golden Age will possibly lead to relevant insights for the creative industry today.

Press release english

Prof. dr. Charles van den Heuvel
Huygens ING Head Science History
University of Amsterdam
Professorship: Digital Methods en History Sciences

Project partners:
Huygens ING (KNAW), Meertens Instituut (KNAW), UU, UvA, VU, Stadsarchief Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, RKD-Nederlands Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis, LAB1100