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Launch of European project Time Machine at National Archives of Belgium

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01/04/2019 - Research - Events - National Archives of Belgium

“Cooperation, and even more so international cooperation, can be considered as a very positive factor in every regard”: With these words, National Archivist Karel Velle welcomed some hundred participants on March 18th to the launch event of the Time Machine project, a pan-European initiative and flagship project of the European Commission.

In late 2018, project Time Machine was retained as one of six proposals for large-scale research initiatives to be strategically developed in the next decade and that each were granted one year and €1 million in funding for preparing the detailed roadmap of their initiative. 

Time Machine aims to create a sort of “History Streetview” and build four-dimensional representations of cities thanks to data from the past.  Historical maps are of course particularly important for this purpose. One of the objectives of TM is the development of character and image recognition technology allowing us to automatically “read” historical maps, in order to fit them with geo-references and to link them to other data such as lists of possessions or paintings. Time Machine thus foresees to design and implement advanced new digitisation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies  to mine Europe’s vast cultural heritage and make it freely available to the large public through a website or applications.   

Local Time Machines are currently being developed in Antwerp and Ghent/Bruges, Venice, Rome, Amsterdam, Budapest, Paris, Naples, Utrecht, Dresden, Jerusalem, etc. And TM is expected to grow swiftly…

The initiative brings together 250 organisations from 33 countries,  including leading academic and research organisations, private enterprises and cultural heritage institutions such as museums, libraries, and of course archive services. Nineteen national/federal archives from across Europe, among which the State Archives of Belgium, are participating in the project. 

On the occasion of the launch event on 18 and 19 March 2019 at the National Archives of Belgium in Brussels, participants from all over Europe reflected upon the practical approach and the development of this ten-year project. They split up in working groups to elaborate content for the three pillars of the project:

  1. ‘ Science and Technology’
  2. ‘Time Machine Operation’
  3. ‘Exploitation Avenues’





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