National Archives of the Netherlands (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science)


The national research programme NWO/CATCH (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research/Continuous Access to Cultural Heritage) wants to develop methods and techniques to enable collection managers make their collections, the Dutch cultural heritage, accessible in digital form. SCRATCH – Script Analysis Tools for the Cultural Heritage - is a sub-project specifically concerned with unlocking large collections of scanned pages of handwritten documents.
Automatic recognition of handwritten text is still a formidable scientific and technical computing challenge. Old and historic handwritten scripts pose an even greater challenge, even for human readers. The use of computers in this field has a great deal of potential. Given the sheer amount of scanned material available, modern methods may even enable the discovery of otherwise unidentified regularities.  The project is not striving to build a machine capable of perfection; that is still too difficult. However, methods will be developed to enable searching (‘Googling’) across large collections of handwritten archives.
Other partners in the SCRATCH project are the NWO and the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (University of Groningen).