2 minutes to read Posted on Monday July 26, 2021

Updated on Monday July 26, 2021

portrait of Evelien Hauwaerts

Evelien Hauwaerts

Manuscripts curator , Public Library Bruges

portrait of Georgia Evans

Georgia Evans

Editorial Officer , Europeana Foundation

Professionals in Focus: Evelien Hauwaerts

Europeana Members Councillors have diverse jobs and wide experience across the heritage sector, but are united by their passion for digital cultural heritage. In our ‘Professionals in Focus’ series, we speak to Europeana Network Association Members Councillors about their roles, working lives and plans for their time on the Members Council. This month, Evelien Hauwaerts, Manuscripts Curator at Bruges Public Library, explores the joys of working in a library and her passion for IIIF.

Evelien Hauwaerts giving a tour at the exhibition Haute Lecture by Colard Mansion, Bruges.
Title: Evelien Hauwaerts giving a tour at the exhibition Haute Lecture by Colard Mansion, Bruges.
Creator: Evelien Hauwaerts
Date: 2018

How did you enter your profession? 

An internship in 2007 at the Rare Books department at the British Library was a complete game changer for me. Instead of pursuing a traditional academic career, I started aspiring to a career in a special collections library. In 2008 I started working as a manuscripts cataloguer at the Public Library in Bruges, in 2012 I finished my Ph.D., and in 2018 I became curator of the manuscripts collection. A library offers an environment with well-read and welcoming colleagues, physical manuscripts within easy reach, and wide and enthusiastic audiences. What’s not to like? And of course I try to pay it forward by welcoming interns at our library, knowing full well what the impact of such an experience can be.

 What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on two digital projects. The Art of Reading in the Middle Ages (ARMA) will deliver 20,000 items to Europeana, mostly manuscripts and early printed books, created between the years c. 500 and c. 1550. The project will show how medieval reading culture evolved and became a fundamental aspect of European culture. It is a collaboration between the Europeana Foundation, six libraries, and one museum.

Mmmonk is a project funded by the Flemish Government. It aims to unite c. 800 medieval manuscripts from four Flemish abbeys in a virtual library. About 680 of those manuscripts are kept in the project partners’ institutions in Bruges and Ghent, the others are spread around the world. We want to unite them via the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) and to build awareness about the possibilities of IIIF for end-users.

What are some of the challenges in your role? What are some of your favourite elements?

Finding a good balance between work to provide high quality digital access to cultural heritage objects, and my other responsibilities towards our collections and our readers! Another challenge is reaching and engaging diverse audiences, especially those who do not have easy access to culture.

Evelien Hauwaerts
Title: Evelien Hauwaerts giving a tour at the exhibition Haute Lecture by Colard Mansion, Bruges.
Creator: Steven Hauwaerts
Date: 2018
Evelien Hauwaerts

Variation is definitely one of the stimulating aspects of my role. Every project, be it a digital project, a publication or an exhibition, offers new exciting ways to broaden my horizon in terms of knowledge, expertise, and networks. From creating a large exhibition on incunabula, to uniting monastic manuscripts via IIIF, to welcoming students for a workshop on medieval chronicles, there is never a dull moment!

What was your motivation for joining the Members Council?

While I was working intensely on the Europeana ARMA project, a Council Member approached me and suggested I should stand for election. I am certainly grateful for that initial nudge. From my involvement with ARMA, I thought it could be valuable to bring my perspective of recent first-hand experience with the aggregation and educational side of Europeana. Another motivation for joining the council was because I felt Europeana could benefit from some more (diverse) voices urging for the adoption of IIIF. Through our library’s collaboration with IIIF pioneers at Ghent University, I have become a full blown advocate for IIIF. The Europeana Network Association and the Europeana Foundation have already made important progress in this field, but there is still a long way to go. As a Council Member, I would like to join the effort by offering a curator’s insight in addition to the already present IT expertise. 

And, in more general terms, I was motivated to join the Members’ Council because of the appeal of being able to contribute to an important European mission, working from my own strengths. I feel truly European at heart and wish to contribute to its noble cause in any way possible.

What do you plan to do as a Members Councillor?

Although I also have a soft spot for the educational role of Europeana, I have decided to focus my efforts on the expansion of digital capacity, specifically on the improvement of interoperability and discoverability via linked open data and IIIF. In my opinion high quality data is the foundation on which everything else is built. I am not an IT expert, but a curator’s perspective is necessary to bridge the gap between technology experts, collections, and end users.