First Dutch E-RIHS Data Bootcamp, a combined view on research data in heritage sciences 

29 August 2022

During four intensive Bootcamp days in June-July at the Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE) in Amersfoort and Amsterdam, nine course participants studied the ins and outs of good data management in heritage studies. Under the guidance of a heritage data coach and a research data coach, the course participants, who come from different organisations, worked on data management plans and personal learning objectives. Speakers from collection management, research and policy provided the Bootcamp with an extra dimension of expertise and experience. The Bootcamp was a first training pilot of the Dutch node of the European Research Infrastructure for the Heritage Sciences (E-RIHS).

The heritage sciences are a new, interdisciplinary branch of science with unique data challenges. When you extract DNA from a medieval bone or analyse the paint layers of a “Rembrandt”, this is data from the natural sciences, but data that is inextricably linked to heritage objects, each of which has its own history and belongs to a larger collection. Participants from the Van Gogh Museum, the Public Information and Heritage Inspectorate and the RCE, among others, threw themselves into the specific challenges of this type of data together. Due to the diversity of the course members themselves, similarities and differences in terminology, standards and best practices regarding research data and (digital) collections became clear. Understanding each other better, and learning to speak each other’s data language, was an important outcome of the Bootcamp.

Transferring knowledge and building infrastructure

Training is a must for scientific infrastructures under construction. Not only to transfer knowledge, but also to build a community that works for and with the infrastructure. The Bootcamp therefore made use of different locations and speakers, relevant to heritage sciences. Speakers such as Daniel Steinmeier of the Royal Library and Ed de Heer of the National Archives shared their own specific thoughts on archiving and using research and heritage data. Jos Bazelmans of the RCE told the success story of archaeological research data in the Netherlands and Francesca Gabrieli, a chemist and researcher at the Rijksmuseum, took the course participants on the data adventure of Operation Night Watch. The training locations at the RCE in Amersfoort and in the Atelier building in Amsterdam provided the perfect backdrop for the Bootcamp.

Connection to the field

The coaches Tamara Van Zwol (Network Digital Heritage (NDE)) and Cees Hof (Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS)) also learned from the Bootcamp. Tamara and Cees are trainers of respectively “Learning to Preserve” of the NDE and “Essentials 4 Data Support” of Research Data Netherlands (RDNL), courses with a considerable track record. The Bootcamp was the first time that the content and exercises of both courses were combined, both in online homework and in the discussions during the Bootcamp. How complementary, or not, the combining of the courses works, the coaches are not quite sure about. With the help of the course participants’ evaluations, they are looking at how the training can be more specifically linked to questions from the field. In consultation with the team, a second training will be set up, probably in a different format than a short Bootcamp.

More about the content of the Bootcamp can be read on the website of DANS and of VHIC (Dutch only), the organisation that provided practical support for the Bootcamp. The Bootcamp was organised by DANS, as part of the funded project “Working with and on data: Digilab and FAIR” (Dutch only). Also read the report of the Digital Heritage Network (Dutch only) about the NDE input for, and experiences with, this special Bootcamp.

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Cees Hof Ph.D.

Data Station Manager Life Sciences & Physical and Technical Sciences