At first, they may seem like opposites; artificial intelligence and handwritten books. However, within Dr Shari Boodts's research, nothing could be further from the truth. She actually has been combining the computer and the manuscript for some time already. The PASSIM project, for which Boodts and her team won the Radboud Team Science Award just last year, studies the medieval reception of Latin sermons using a digital network of manuscripts.
Her new research project, ManuscriptAI, also focuses on manuscripts, but especially on how they can be made more accessible. Most manuscripts are kept in heritage institutions and described in catalogues. “Catalogue data are increasingly available digitally, but in such a way that they are difficult or impossible to connect,” Boodts explains. “However, this connection is necessary if we want to preserve and access our heritage in a safe, sustainable and usable way.” ManuscriptAI therefore aims to use machine learning to build a tool that can automatically convert manuscript catalogue data into Linked Open Data. Such data is structured in a way that it can be easily queried and integrated.
The benefits of this automatic integration of catalogue data are plentiful. Boodts: “There is an enormous wealth of data ‘trapped’ in obsolete and closed systems. If these data become available, medieval manuscripts can be used in new ways in research, but also in the cultural sector.” In addition, the integration of catalogue data ensures that heritage is better protected. Because it can be expensive to make collections sustainably accessible digitally, currently only large heritage institutions have the resources to do so, leaving smaller organisations behind. “All these problems can be fixed - if the tool works well enough, that is.” Boodts will start ManuscriptAI in April 2024 with an international team of researchers. Want to know more about the research? Check out the research project page.
ERC Proof of Concept grant
The Proof of Concept grants are specifically intended for researchers who see an opportunity for commercial or societal innovation stemming from their research. The grants can therefore only be applied for by researchers who have already been awarded an ERC grant, such as Dr Shari Boodts for her PASSIM project. The Proof of Concept grants amount to €150,000.