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NWO Internationalisation in the Humanities Grant awarded to Signed, Sealed & Undelivered project

12 July 2016

Dr. David van der Linden (Department of History) and his co-applicant Dr. Nadine Akkerman (Leiden University) are thrilled to announce that the project “Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered 2.0: Revealing Hidden Letters” has been awarded an Internationalisation in the Humanities grant from NWO. This grant links an established public-private partnership – Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered – with important scientists and humanities scholars from six world-leading institutions: Groningen, Leiden, MIT, Oxford, Queen Mary University of London, and Yale. The collaboration brings together a group whose expertise ranges across history, languages, literary studies, material studies, conservation, curation, computational mathematics, and X-ray microtomography.

The Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered team was formed in 2014 to preserve, digitize, and edit the contents of a truly unique archive at the Museum voor Communicatie in The Hague: a 17th-century postmaster’s trunk containing 2600 undelivered locked letters – including 600 whose seals have never been broken. The team has no intention to break these seals; instead they will experiment with non-invasive scanning techniques to read the letters without opening them. Thanks to a grant from Metamorfoze, the Netherlands’ national program for the preservation of paper heritage, the team has digitized the opened letters. An NWO Added Value for the Humanities grant allowed the team to run test scans of the closed letters and to start the process of recording and interpreting the material features and contents of the opened letters – fascinating and unique records of everyday life from all over Europe.

The first NWO grant created the public-private partnership, allowing long-term work on the letters to begin. With the current Internationalisation in the Humanities grant, which will run for three years, the team seeks to further develop collaborative science and humanities methodologies for reading the 600 closed letters without breaking their seals, and to develop new international partnerships and cataloguing standards for complex collections of historical correspondence.

More information

The project website of Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered

Twitter: @dcvanderlinden, @misswalsingham, and @letterlocking
Last modified:13 May 2019 11.29 a.m.
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