Different public means different websites: an examination of Vele Handen and the Groninger Archives

According to the chapter of Cohen and Rosenzweig, you must ‘go beyond passive “texts” such as websites and web pages and also think about active processes such as communication and interaction.’ They point out a view criteria with which you should take account if you want to build a digital collecting site. Why collect history online? What are good candidates for online collecting and what not? What are the tools for the online collector? How can you attract contributors to your site and how can you build trust? What are the qualitative concerns when you build a digital archive? We chose to examine two different online collecting sites, one from Velehanden.nl, and one from the Groninger Archive.

Velehanden.nl has a lot of different projects, from which you can chose to participate. The one we choose is about diamond workers in Amsterdam. You have the possibility to help with the member administration of the ‘Algemene Nederlandse Diamantbewerkers Bond’ and to discover where the diamond workers learned the trade, which professions they did, and where they lived. Right now, there are 44.526 scans and 231 contributors to the project. Of those 44.526 scans, 23.980 are supplied and 10.958 are approved.

We start with the first question, ‘why collect history online’. Vele Handen wants to enrich the supplied data. They want to know if it is about men or women, based upon the prenames of the diamond workers. In this way, they want to know what is the share of women in the industry and the Diamond federation. A link with the population register can teach them which part of the members was Jewish, so that the Digital Jewish Monument makes it possible to follow the fate of the Jewish members during the Second World War.

Considering the next question, we think that this is a good candidate for online collecting. Vele Handen has a larger goal with the project, then just collecting the data of the Diamond Workers.

The website provides a few different tools for contributors. You can download different PDF’s, such as an information guide to enter the project, and an information guide with control instructions. You can read tips, questions, announcements and comments about the project. You can sign up with your e-mail address, or you can apply with an existing social media account, such as Facebook and Twitter. Next to that, you can chat with other contributors about mistakes that you made, findings and interests. Vele Handen tries to build trust to show who are the project leaders. The project is also collaborating with different museums in combination with a point system. When you apply enough contributions, you will safe points to different exhibits of these museums.

When we think about the qualitative concerns of building a digital archive, the website must be clear and must have an easy access for all ages. We think that Vele Handen does a fairly good job in this.

The next website we will discuss, is from the Groninger Archive. Every now and then, they have a project called ‘Maak Geschiedenis’, with different subjects. This time, you have the ability to contribute to the Battle of Heiligerlee (Kloosterholt), a village near the city of Groningen. The first thing we noticed, is that this website is a lot less extended than the one of Vele Handen.

The reason why the Groninger Archive set up this digital project, is because the Battle of Heiligerlee was 450 years ago. They claim that you can ‘touch upon and make history by making the collection more accessible for the public.’ The archive let contemporaries speak who comment on the events we all know from history books. You, as an interested person, can contribute to this project.

This project is a good candidate for online collecting, especially on regional level. ‘Groningers’ want to contribute to the national story by adding their own regional events. Especially older people are interested in this contribution.

The Groninger Archive has one tool to contribute to the project, by sending an e-mail to vertaalslag@groningerarchieven.nl. They also organize meetings for the ones who need individual guidance in the project (building trust). Next to that, they provide a list of contents and literature and a timeline with hyperlinks. When you click on these hyperlinks, you can see scanned images of the archive pieces about the Battle.

The website is, in our opinion, especially focused on older people. It’s very clear, with little extra links and there is no focus on social media.

Taking the questions of Cohen and Rosenzweig into account, it is important to think about the public that you are trying to reach in your project. We think that in both websites this is worked out well.


Loes Knijn and Anna Helfrich