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November 29, 2010 / jmeuropeana

some personal favourites in Europeana

After starting at Europeana in March this year, some people in the organisation told me that while there is a lot of content to be found in Europeana, most of it probably wasn’t very interesting or exciting for the end user. Now I am an end user as well, and I beg to differ. I did a few searches on the things we all agree that most users search for, and each time I found something new, something exciting, something that prompted me to act on what I found.

I would like to share my 4 examples with you, and I think they are quite typical searches:

Searching for my home town of ‘Leiderdorp’ returned three items of real interest:
First several old maps, including one on which I could see a windmill that I see from my kitchen window. I didn’t know that windmill was that old.
Boterhuis polder gem. Warmond, Leiderdorp en Oegstgeest.
The second find was a political cartoon from the 1930s about Evhen Konovalec, a Ukrainian freedom fighter that was mysteriously murdered in Rotterdam of all places. On the cartoon the word Leiderdorp is written. Why? I researched on the web and learned a lot about the anarchist movement in Ukraine. Still haven’t found the link to Leiderdorp, though, but I will.
Surrealistisch Tijdsbeeld - (Een bijdrage van De Groene voor de tentoonstelling te Amsterdam)
Finally a picture of a vase made in one of Leiderdorp’s pottery factories that have now all closed. Interesting, I will go and visit the local history museum to find out more about those.

Searching for my own surname ‘Molendijk’ resulted, as I expected, in some pictures and maps of streets called Molendijk (literal translation is ‘Windmill-Dyke’, how Dutch can you get? So it is quite a common name, especially around the town of Rotterdam.) But also there were two newspaper clippings for people called Molendijk that stayed in their jobs a long time: a dustman from Rotterdam and a school teacher from Halselo in the east of Holland.
A. Molendijk J. Molendijk
Both clippings were from the early 1900s. One of these (most likely the dustman…) could even be a relation – I will ask my father.

Searching for my favourite author (Theo Thijssen), I found several pictures and one of his books form 1908 that is actually still in copyright (Thijssen died in 1942, so copyright on all his works expires in 2012).
The nicest surprise of all was a picture from 1916 of him with his family, and there were two people in that picture that I have actually met! I met his younger son and his daughter on a holiday in the late 1970s, when they were in their late sixties. I have shown this picture to my parents, who were there with me when we met these people.
Geertje Thijssen-Dade (unfortunately there is no thumbnail image – just click the image and then click on ‘view in original context’ to view the image)

Searching for my hobby, which is letterpress printing and collecting ‘stuff’ about mechanical typesetting machines. I’ll explain the fascination of these marvels of mechanical engineering some other time. Using the keyword ‘Linotype’ I found some pictures, always nice, and also a video about a newspaper Ouest-France, showing Linotype machines in operation, and showing the output of the machines being used to print newspapers.
Ouest France : la vie du journal..
There aren’t a lot of videos of theses machines available, so to me this is quite a find. I have forwarded the video link to the people that run a website dedicated to mechanical typesetters –  their slogan is “yesterday’s technology, today!” 🙂

So far I hit 4 out of 4: each of the searches we all agree on are the most likely that a casual user will try first yielded something interesting. So based on this ‘n=1’ research I conclude that contrary to popular belief Europeana does have a lot of interesting content – and I am proud to be a part of it.


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