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People and computers work together to unlock the treasures of the past

The University of Wrocław – University Library is a member of the European consortium selected for funding by the European Commission for the EnrichEuropeana+ project. This exciting initiative will combine citizen science and artificial intelligence to unlock handwritten documents from the 19th century and make them accessible to researchers, students, amateur historians and public users.

Irish, Dutch, German, Austrian and Croatian partner institutions will join us in this innovative project.

Project aims:

There is a wealth of information on 19th century history in archives and libraries. Most original sources are only available in manuscript form and are therefore not widely accessible.

To address this problem, the project will digitise important handwritten documents and use a combination of artificial intelligence and input from members of the public acting as ‘citizen scientists’ to transcribe these handwritten documents.

The project will use the Europeana platform, which supports the cultural heritage sector in its digital transformation by providing one common portal for cultural heritage content from across Europe. The current EnrichEuropeana+ project builds on previous EU-funded projects that have developed the Europeana platform, the Transcribathon platform for crowdsourcing transcriptions in Europeana and the Transkribus automatic transcription tool. The project will involve the application of natural language processing and big data analytics technologies to transcription analysis and translation, providing support for the enrichment, clustering and classification of semantic metadata. What would previously have taken days to decipher will be readable in minutes, saving researchers valuable time and opening up our history.

Our contribution:

University of Wrocław – The University Library will donate letters of University professors from the collection of the Manuscripts Division, minutes of the meetings of the Senate of the University of Wrocław (from the UWr Archives), accounts of the expedition to Siberia of prof. Stanisław Poniatowski (from the Library of the Polish Ethnological Society) and material from the State Archives in Wrocław (cooperation within the Lower Silesian GLAM). Over the course of the project, the University Library will encourage and organise members of the public to transcribe this historic handwritten material. The handwritten transcriptions will create training data for artificial intelligence data models. Federacja Bibliotek Cyfrowych, the Polish national Europeana aggregator will identify suitable digital collections for aggregation into Europeana and inclusion in the Transcribathon platform. After the transcription the materials will be integrated back into the local resources of the partner countries, in our case into the UWr Digital Library and presented in Europeana.

Siegfried Brie
Siegfried Brie
Siegfried Brie
Autograph by Siegfried Brie (letter to his uncle)
Alfred Hillebrandt
Alfred Hillebrandt
Autograf Friedrich Haase (list do Karla Lachmanna)
Autograph by Friedrich Haase (letter to Karl Lachmann)

Project details:

Full project title: Enriching Europeana through citizen science and artificial intelligence – unlocking the 19th century (Enrich Europeana+)

Grant awarded: 921 566 euro The project will run from 01.04.2021 to 30.09.2022.

The project website is:

Project partners:

  1. AIT Austrian Institute Of Technology – Austria
  2. Stichting Europeana – Netherlands
  3. Facts and files Historisches Forschungsinstitut Berlin – Germany
  4. The Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences – Poland
  5. Read-Coop SCE – Austria
  6. The Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars and the other members of Board, of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin – Ireland
  7. Dublin City Council – Ireland
  8. The University of Wrocław – Poland
  9. The State Archive in Zagreb – Croatia