50 cool new things you can now do with KB’s collection highlights - Part 1, Introduction

Latest update 16-06-2021

In this series of 5 articles I show the added value of putting images and metadata of digitised collection highlights of the KB, national library of the Netherlands, into the Wikimedia infrastructure. By putting our collection highlights into Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia, dozens of new functionalities have been added. As a result of Wikifying this collection, you can now do things with these highlights that were not possible before.

Collection highlights of the KB

Before I begin to unfold the bits & tools in the right hand knife one by one in the next four articles, let me tell a bit more about the collection highlights of the KB, and which things you can do with them on the native websites of the KB.

The more than 70 highlights of the KB are collection items that are of particular cultural or historical value. Ranging from the early Middle Ages to the 20th century, they comprise manuscripts, books, magazines, armorials, atlases, alba amicorum, childrens’s books and even photo albums. All objects have been digitised in high resolution and are presented as browse books on the KB website.

Sample gallery of KB’s collection highlights

Functionalities on kb.nl

Peeking at the left hand knife, I would like to look at the native KB webservices and the functionalities these offer for our highlights, before we decided to Wikify them. So let’s make a list. Some screenshots below show Dutch language web interfaces, due to the KB not fully offering all interfaces in English.

1) Request an alphabetical list of the highlights, in HTML format. This overview is not available in CSV, XML, JSON or any other standard stuctured format.

Overview of KB collection highlights. Screenshot KB website d.d. 30-03-2021

2) View the works as browsable books, in high resolution, using an image viewer. See for example the Zweder Book of Hours or the Album amicorum of Jacob Heyblocq.

Album amicorum of Jacob Heyblocq presented as a browse book in a high resolution image viewer. Screenshot KB website d.d. 30-03-2021

3) For some highlights, transcriptions, translations, annotations and/or guided tours are available as part of the presentation, such as with the Heyblocq album.
Transcription (top yellow box), translation into English (middle) and annotations in English (bottom) for page 7 of the Album amicorum of Jacob Heyblocq . Screenshot KB website d.d. 30-03-2021

Guided tours in Dutch in the Album amicorum of Jacob Heyblocq. Screenshot KB website d.d. 30-03-2021

4) For specific highlights - the alba amicorum - you can request the separate images as downloadable jpgs, such as this page from the album amicorum of Petronella Moens or this poem from the album of Samuel Johannes van den Bergh. But these are exceptions, for the majority of highlights the individual images cannot be downloaded from the browse books.

Downloadable jpg : folio 3r from the album amicorum book of Petronella Moens

5) Read contextual information about the highlights. See for example the introductions to Atlas Ortelius or to Naenia en Jan Toorop

Contextual information: introduction to Naenia en Jan Toorop on kb.nl. Screenshot KB website d.d. 30-03-2021

6) For a number of highlights browse indexes are available, such as for Nederlandsche Vogelen (Birds of the Netherlands), a film title register of the ASTA theatre or a place name index for Atlas de Wit. However, these indexes are not searchable and only available in HTML format (ie. as web pages).

Place name index for Atlas de Wit. Screenshot KB website d.d. 30-03-2021

7) If you are interested in the metadata of the highlights, you can find them in the KB catalog. For instance, Buiten! Waar de vogels fluiten (Outside! Where the birds are singing), the Egmond Gospels or Hot printing by H.N. Werkman.

KB catalog record for Hot printing van H.N. Werkman. Screenshot KB catalog d.d. 30-03-2021

8) Finally: if you prefer to have that metadata in a structured format, you can request it via our jSRU service, eg. for Wat is er op de kermis te zien? (What can be seen at the fair?). Please note: this metadata is only available as whole records (eg. you can’t request only the dc:title field), and only in XML (you can’t request it in JSON).

XML response for Wat is er op de kermis te zien? from the KB SRU service. Screenshot d.d. 30-03-2021


These functionalities offer decent ways to interact with the objects, but they have their limitations. For instance, if you

… then the KB websites can’t help you. But thanks to a recent project to Wikify our highlights, these kinds of functionalities - and many more - have now become available.

New audiences for our highlights

If you are a classical heritage consumer and want to simply discover, view or read KB’s collection highlights, the ‘read/view-only’ functionalities offered on KB’s native websites are probably good enough for you. In many cases you won’t be bothered by the types of ‘technical’ limitations mentioned above.

However, if you are a creator/developer and want to actually reuse or build upon our highlights you are probably looking for ways to interact with these objects in more flexible, targeted, automated or programmatic ways. Ideally, you would like the highlights to be ‘decomposable’ into individual building blocks (like LEGO® bricks) which you can then rearrange into new custom apps, services, products or data streams.

This reuse-centric approach was at the core of the WikiProject Collection highlights the KB ran in the second half of 2020. This project represents a new way of thinking about our collection highlights: in addition to the regular view/read-only functionalities for classical audiences (consumers), we are now also focusing on reusability of our highlights, providing building blocks and added value for creators: developers, app builders, digital humanities, data scientists, hackathons, LOD communities, GLAMs, Europeana, AIs, Big Tech etc.

In other words, we are increasingly thinking about our set of collection highlights as a richly filled LEGO Technic® box, with many sorts of building blocks, components and connectors that creators/reusers can pick and combine for their own purposes.

Wikifying KB’s collection highlights

If you look closely at our LEGO® box, you’ll notice that its ‘powered by’ Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia. This is no coincidence, as many of the building blocks we were looking for were readily available in the Wikimedia infrastructure. Think for instance:

Furthermore, the contents of this box are

All considerations combined, Wikimedia offers a pretty complete and reliable infrastructue that enables us to greatly improve the reusability of our collection highlights at very limited costs & resources. This improved reusability will eventually lead to improved uptake into apps, sites, services and channels of 3rd parties, which will result into improved visibility & findability for general audiences (consumers).

In the next 4 articles

So far for this introduction. In the next four articles I want to share no fewer than 50 new possibilities that have become available as a result of the WikiProject Collection highlights. To make it somewhat digestable, I’ll split them up into pm. 10-13 functionalities per article.

In Part 2, Overviews of all highlights I’ll talk about all sorts of useful overviews & listings that can created from the LEGO® box for all highlights combined.

About the author

Olaf Janssen is the Wikimedia coordinator of the KB, the national library of the Netherlands. He contributes to Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata as User:OlafJanssen

Reusing this article

This text of this article is available under the CC-BY 4.0 license.

Image sources & credits