A World of Diamond: Diamond Workers in Belgium, The Netherlands and France (1895-2000)

The international cultural heritage project A World of Diamond will collect, describe and disseminate the dispersed heritage of the international diamond workers during the twentieth century and beyond. A consortium will be created bringing together partners from The Netherlands, Belgium and France. The project will study and test pilot strategies to digitally aggregate, improve and disseminate the digitized documents, images and testimonies of the worlds of diamond workers. 


A world union of diamond

On 23 May 1905, building on the international solidarity supporting an Antwerp diamond strike, the trade unions of The Netherlands, Belgium and France joined forces to found the Alliance Universelle des Ouvriers Diamantaires (AUOD, Universal Alliance of Diamond Workers). While the seat of the new world union was in France, in Saint-Claude in the midst of the Jura diamond region, it was agreed that the Dutch diamond union ANDB would take care of the AUOD presidency and the Belgian union ADB of its secretary. From then on the history of the diamond industries of Amsterdam, Antwerp and France became linked and intertwined. The historical heritage of the AUOD is a powerful testimony of the lives and struggles of the diamond workers. The world of diamond, with all its glamour and prestige is in more than one way a world apart and the cradle of some of the major social reforms of the twentieth century. 


Involving the community

Amsab-ISH has a long standing tradition of working on the history and the heritage of the diamond industry. In 1995 the institute published Adamastos, the first genuine history of the Belgian diamond union ADB. Since then Amsab-ISH has participated in several projects on the digitization and disclosing of diamond heritage, in co-operation with our partners IISH-International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam and La fraternelle in Saint-Claude, and with the communities of diamond workers and diamond industry leaders of Antwerp and Amsterdam. The project A World of Diamond proposes to build on such previous projects and take its results to the next level involving some of the latest information technology. Although much or even most of the archives and publications of AUOD, ANDB and ADB have already been digitized, there are still several gaps in the history of the world industry of diamond. We propose to add to the digital collections by presenting the diamond heritage to the diamond communities in Amsterdam, Antwerp and Saint-Claude and by recording their comments and testimonies. Consequently, we aim to add oral histories to the digital diamond collections, transcribed and available online. 


Involving technology

Further, we will launch two pilot strategies for a better dissemination of cultural heritage. Because much of this cultural heritage is already available in a digital format, we can explore new and unseen opportunities. First, although the digitized periodicals have been completed with digital text layers through a process of OCR, such is not the case with the archival documents. We now propose to test a number of new and highly advanced OCR and HTR technologies with samples of the archival heritage material in order to convert handwritten text and structured data (lists, tables) to a digital format. Second, although the digital files and their metadata have been online for some time, much more powerful services have been developing lately. The project aims to apply several IIIF technologies, such as an IIIF compatible image server and image viewer services that would allow users not just to view images but also to zoom, crop, rotate and so on, and IIIF compatible API services for making metadata and text layers available not just through a catalogue but also as linked data. Because this is cutting edge technology and as such unfinished, we do not expect the results to be immediately applicable to the whole of our collections. Instead we want to have pilot cases on data samples, and we want to share the experiences and resulting expertise with the heritage community in so-called 'transcrib-a-thons', and with the community of Flemish cultural heritage institutions in an expert workshop. 


The project A World of Diamond will be led by Amsab-ISH with the participation and contribution of IISH and La fraternelle. We will also contact several expert institutions such as the Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities, PACKED, the Kazerne Dossin, VIAA, the Briljante Kempen diamond centre and many more. A World of Diamond will complement and open up a world of heritage to the public in Flanders and abroad and will teach us new powerful and innovating ways of serving our target audiences.


Zie projectwebsite www.amsab.be/diamond

  • Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities
  • Archiefbank Vlaanderen
  • Briljante Kempen
  • DIVA
  • Diamantmuseum Brugge
  • WIE
  • Kazarne Dossin
  • Burcht van Berlage
  • Europeana: Europe at Work
  • and many more ...
Leden stuurgroep
  • Prof. dr. Geert van Goethem (Amsab-ISG) – projectcoördinator
  • Dr. Donald Weber (Amsab-ISG) – project manager
  • Paule Verbruggen (Amsab-ISG) – project management publiekswerking
  • Dr. Karin Hofmeester (IISG, Amsterdam) – project partner
  • Roger Bergeret (La Fraternelle, Saint-Claude) – project partner
  • Prof. dr. Christophe Verbruggen (UGent) – project partner
  • Ellena Franquet (Amsab-ISG) – projectmedewerker
  • Sofie Veramme (Amsab-ISG) – projectmedewerker
  • Cliff Beeckman (Amsab-ISG) – projectmedewerker ICT
  • Dr. Tecle Zere (Amsab-ISG) – expert Digital Humanities
  • Martine Vermandere (Amsab-ISG) – expert diamantgeschiedenis
  • Maarten Savels (Amsab-ISG) – expert Digital Archives

Praktische info

Looptijd van
Looptijd tot
Amsab-Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis
Sofie Veramme
Bagattenstraat 174,
9000 Gent
09 224 00 79

Vlaanderen, Departement Cultuur, Jeugd en Media. Afdeling Cultureel Erfgoed.

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