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Broad access

In order to achieve the broad access to the collection that is Het Nieuwe Instituut’s aim, digitising archival materials is a prerequisite because it eliminates the necessity for physical consultation of the materials, which means that the originals remain in better condition. It also enables and stimulates online use of the collection.

Digitisation is therefore linked to numerous projects within the Disclosing Architecture programme, such as the development of a new collection interface, the improvement of the current search portal, content donations to Wikimedia Commons, and making the collection available to other parties through linked open data. In addition, copyright and licensing declarations are linked to the files, so that it is clear how the materials may be used. Digitisation of the collection contributes to two important principles, diversity and network formation: items in the collection can be approached from a variety of perspectives and users can discover new connections between them.

It is not feasible to digitise the entire collection of several million documents, and neither is this our goal. As such, Het Nieuwe Instituut’s curators must decide which archives have greater priority. Various factors play a role in this, such as the physical condition of the materials, a particular archive’s social relevance, user demand and the relationship with other archives. These are questions that come together in the project Rethinking the Collection, which deals with the attribution of value and meaning, and which develops new ways of looking at the collection with the help of speculative, critical and artistic research.

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Atelier Nelly and Theo van Doesburg
Curators Koehorst in 't Veld on the importance of digitisation

An essential shift is emerging in the way we view digitisation, according to the designers. As Toon Koehorst says, “For the time being, the image of a purely technical task dominates. But we believe that the essential impact is linked to the cultural value it contains. Because digitisation provides access to all possible links and networks. Such a layer is indispensable to achieve fundamentally different access to heritage. We see Atelier Nelly and Theo van Doesburg as a plea to look for multiple voices in opening up archives, by establishing connections between collections and involving the public in the interpretation of the stories that then emerge.”