Open Science Award for Historical Database of Suriname and Curaçao

On 1 September, the Historical Database of Suriname and Curaçao (HDSC) received an Open Science Award during the National Open Science Festival. The HDSC contains data of the population of Suriname and Curaçao between approximately 1830 and 1950 and can be used by anyone, for example foreducation, cultural projects and family history.

With the Open Science Awards the organisation of the National Open Science Festival recognises and rewards researchers who have used Open Science to make their research more accessible, transparent or reproducible. The focus was on social engagement, with collaboration between researchers and people outside academia being particularly important. Twelve databases were selected from the submissions, five of which received an Open Science Award on 1 September.

Slave registers

One of the five winners is the Historical Database of Suriname and Curaçao, a cooperation between Radboud University, the Anton de Kom University of Suriname and the National Archives of Suriname and Curaçao, under the leadership of Coen van Galen and Jan Kok of the Radboud Institute for Culture & History (RICH). Together with a thousand volunteers they work on an online open database with demographic data of the populations of Suriname and Curaçao between about 1830 and 1950, which previously could only be found on paper. The so-called 'slave registers' are full of details about life events of individual enslaved people. Not only is this information useful to answer scientific questions about the consequences of slavery and colonialism, the archive sources have also been made available to a wide audience, so that the information can be used for education, cultural projects and family historians.

Example of slavery register
Volunteers transcribed thousands of handwritten documents.

Fraction of time

Since 1 July 2018, the Surinamese slave registers have been available online and since 17 August 2020, the slave registers of Curaçao can also be consulted via the website of the National Archives. 'This whole project would not have been possible without the long-term commitment of our citizen scientists’, says Coen van Galen. Thanks to them, we have been able to create a high-quality research database and several public databases in a fraction of the time it would otherwise have taken.'

On 1 September, Minister of Education, Culture and Science Robbert Dijkgraaf presented the five Open Science Awards during the National Open Science Festival. More information about the National Open Science Festival, organised as part of the National Open Science Programme, can be found at

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