Centre for Digital Humanities


Digitally unveiling the history of reparative justice in the words of a forgotten diary using Transkribus (lecture + workshop)

Event details

20 March 2024
13:00 - 16:00
Hybrid: Digital Humanities Workspace & Online

This session starts with a hybrid lecture by dr. Lorena De Vita and dr. Laura Fahnenbruck, discussing the unique Wording Repair project they are conducting using Transkribus. The lecture will be chaired by CDH affiliated member Pim Huijnen. The lecture is followed by an optional Transkribus workshop, offering participants the chance to learn and apply Handwritten Character Recognition (HCR). Both the lecture and workshop are open to everyone interested.


Lorena De Vita, assistant professor in diplomatic history, recently gained access to the personal diaries of the German jurist Otto Küster, who dedicated a significant portion of his professional career seeking reparations for Holocaust survivors. He did so while taking notes, on an almost daily basis from 1932 to 1989, and these notes have never been available to researchers until now.

Küster’s handwritten notes are hard to read, making them challenging to decipher. Through an NWO grant, De Vita initiated a project to utilize Handwritten Character Recognition (HCR) technology to decrypt the diaries. She collaborates on this project with postdoc Laura Fahnenbruck, research assistant Teresa Marx, the Digital Humanities (DH) team at the University Library Utrecht, as well as the support of Naomi Hoogenraad, a student assistant of the UU German Language and Culture Department.

Following an exploration of the historical significance of the diaries, the talk will provide a more in-depth explanation of what Tranksribus can do in this context and will discuss the innovative technology they are employing to delve into the promise and complexity of this recently unearthed source.


The lecture is succeeded by an entry-level workshop, during which Arja Firet and Coen van der Stappen from the DH team at Utrecht University Library will demonstrate the application of the Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) software of the Transkribus platform on printed collections and handwritten materials. After this demonstration, participants can engage in a hands-on session, either working with provided example texts or their own research materials, such as photos or scans of archival data. No prior knowledge of HTR is required to participate.

About Transkribus

Thanks to continuous improvements in artificial intelligence, computers can now achieve near-perfect reading accuracy for both printed and handwritten texts using advanced Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. These techniques enable the transformation of archives, books, and various texts into machine-readable data, enabling full-text searchability. Transkribus is a comprehensive tool for the digitization, AI-powered text recognition, transcription and searching of historical documents, accessible from any place, any time, and in any language.

Discount to Transkribus

The Centre for Digital Humanities has procured a subscription to Transkribus, offering a substantial discount to all UU staff members. For more information on the discount and its benefits, please visit this page.


13:00: Lecture

13:45: Discussion

14:00: Break

14:15: Transkribus demonstration

15:00: Hands-on part: try Transkribus on your own.

16:00: End

Registration options

  1. Online lecture only: Microsoft Teams
  2. In-person lecture and/or workshop:
    Complete the registration form below. You have two options:
    a. Attend the on-site lecture only
    b. Attend both the on-site lecture and the subsequent Transkribus workshop