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Het Nieuwe Instituut has commissioned data-experience designer Jan Willem Tulp to create a visualisation of the metadata of the State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning.

A data visualisation is an alternative to the traditional way of searching a database whereby the results are presented as a list with links to more detailed descriptions. This is the method employed by the Search Portal, the tool that provides access to the collection. It is an effective method, but not one that answers all the questions that you can pose to a collection. And it is difficult to get an overview of and gain insight into the entire collection, both in terms of structure and content.

The demo below addresses two main questions: What does the State Archive look like in terms of content and which archives resemble each other? And: What is the structure of the State Archive? 

An analysis of all the archive descriptions has generated a list of nouns: on the left a list of the words they begin with and on the right a list of words they end with. Clicking on a word illuminates one or more archives in which that word appears. The size of the circles is determined by the number of elements (folders, files) in the archive. Archives that have similar content are grouped in clusters with the same colour. The closer they are, the greater the similarity.

The second image represents the structure. The curve shows the number of elements in an archive. Selecting an archive on the curve shows the structure as a point cloud. Each point is a single folder or file (inventory number), linked by a line to underlying elements (subfolders or files), thus visualising an archive’s hierarchical structure. The more the curve rises, the more extensive and complex the archive.

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Jan Willem Tulp

Jan Willem Tulp is a data experience designer and creates custom data visualisations for clients such as Scientific American, Nature, World Economic Forum, Philips and Schiphol Airport. In 2011 he founded his own studio: TULP Interactive. Commissioned by Het Nieuwe Instituut he is working on a data visualisation of the metadata of the Dutch State Archive for Architecture and Urban Planning. During Thursday Night Live! on 6 July, he presented the visualisation above. In the video, he elaborates on his project and approach.

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