Transcribus seminar 2019

The air was cloudy, but at the final days of the Transcribus project there was a seminar in National Archives of Finland (NAF) going through the outcomes of the project . After welcome words of Maria Kallio and Vili Haukkovaara we went onwards with presentations from the developers and users.

Panel participants of the seminar.

Günther Mülberg  from Uni of Innsbruck tells about READ-COOP , about what was the beginning. In the Consortia there were archives doing digitisation, but also universities, some who did manual transcribing and those who are expert in transcribtion and pattern matching.

Facts of Transkribus

  • EU Horizon 2020 Project
  • 8,2M eur funding
  • 1.1.2016- 30.6.2019
  • 14 partners coordinated by Uni of Innsbruck


  • research: 60% – Pattern recognition, machine learning, computer vision,…
  • network building: 20% – scientific computations, workshops, support,…
  • service:  20% – set up of a service platform.


Service platform:

  • digitisation, transcription, recognition and searching hisorical docs
  • research infrastructure

User amount has doubled every year.

In 4-11.4.2019

  • images uploaded  by users 98166; new users 344; active users 890, created docs 866, exported docs 230, layout analysis jobs: 1745, htr jobs 943
  • Model training is one major thing

Training data

  • Jan 2019: 228 HTR models trained by Transkribus user
  • Pages: 204.359; words 21.200.035
  • Value: about 120 person years, monetary value ca 2-3 Million EUR


Co-op society SCE presentation

  • enable collab of independent institution
  • distributed ownership and sharing of data, resources and knowledge in the focus

Main features of an SCE

  • Mixture between an association and a company
  • Members acquire a minimum share of the SCE – 1000/250 Eur
  • Open for new members, members can leave anytime

Foundation of READ-COOP 1.7.2019 : founding members are listed on webpage alreay.

“Every institution or private person willing to collaborate with Transkribus is warmly invited to take part”.

E.g. NewsEye project was seen as one collaborative project towards Transkribus in the layout analysis part. Also with NAF there is a name entity recognition effort where things continue.

During presentations from the developers of the Transkribus platform and the users it became evident that the software has indeed matured. The character error rates were at 10% of at best can be less than 3%, so system has evolved considerably. One interesting topic might also be keyword spotting (KWS), where even with poor OCR the search is still able to find the particular word of interest from the data.

Interesting also was the ‘text-to-image’ where it might/should be possible to “align” a clear text and its corresponding page image – this could help as in some cases blogs or even wikipedia can have corrected text but it is separated from the original collection.

Also the segmentation tool (dhSegment) looked promising, as sometimes the problem is there, and the tool supports diverse documents from different time periods. There via masks done to the page, the neural network can be thought to find anfangs , illustrations or whatever part in the page is the target. The speaker also told that if the collections are homogeneous they might not need even that much training data.

As of today, the Transkribus changes to a co-operative (society), so it needs to be seen how the project outcomes evolve after the project itself has ended.


At DHN18 conference

Digitalia was well represented in the Digital Humanities i Norden conference, which was held during 7-9.3.2018 in Helsinki.

Results and work of Digitalia was presented for example, in a short paper called: “Creating and using ground truth OCR sample data for Finnish historical newspapers and journals” (paper and slides). This paper was one of the few,  which was given the label of distinguished short paper. Also the notification of the ground truth material got some interests in social media, so maybe we will have others who are interested to improve OCRring methods to experiment with the base data. We got also some ideas on how to improve the data packages, which we can probably improve down the line.

Ongoing work was also visible in the poster session via poster, which describe all of the ground breaking work targeted to make next steps with processing the materials easier. The poster was titled: “Research and development efforts on the digitized historical newspaper and journal collection of The National Library of Finland”. Based on the amount of people who were using newspapers or especially Finnish newspapers, here is opportunity to do good improvements, which benefit many researchers all the way.

All in all whole conference was full of interesting topics and researchers of multiple fields, which shows the vitality of the “digital humanism scene” in Finland, but also in whole of Nordics. There were also many papers of note that related to the National Library of Finland via newspapers or other listed data:

  • Semantic National Biography of Finland  (paper)
  • Digitised newspapers and the geography of the nineteenth-century “lingonberry rush” in Finland. (paper)
  • Sculpting Time: Temporality in the Language of Finnish Socialism, 1895–1917 (paper)
  • Two cases of meaning change in Finnish newspapers, 1820-1910 (paper)
  • Geocoding, Publishing, and Using Historical Places and Old Maps in Linked Data Applications (paper)
  • A long way? Introducing digitized historic newspapers in school, a case study from Finland , which has continued from earlier project. (paper)
  • Local Letters to Newspapers – Digital History Project (paper)

Potentially interesting also for further development were for example, paper about Sentimentatior full title “Sentimentator: Gamifying Fine-grained Sentiment Annotation” (paper), which enables easy creation of learning data of sentences with annotated sentiments with number of predefined sentiment categorization. The talk “The Nordic Tweet Stream: A dynamic real-time monitor corpus of big and rich language data” (paper) utilized social media data and was preparing online tool for access while still keeping in mind the generic open data needs. The recently started Wikidocumentaries project (paper) is a interesting case as it could act as a bridge between local history endeavours and citizen or local scientists.

All in all very thought-provoking conference and it was super exciting that it was in Helsinki, so it was easy to visit by Finnish DH people and naturally from the Nordic countries. Discussions during breaks were lively and gave more details to the background to various  papers and presentations there were.


Brief intro to Tesseract

13.01.1844 Maamiehen Ystävä no 2 s. 4

13.01.1844 Maamiehen Ystävä no 2 s. 4

If you sometimes wonder all the tools that to relate to text recognition of e.g. digitized newspapers, you might have heard of a tool called Tesseract. Tesseract is a open-source tool for Optical Character Recognition (OCR).

In this post we go briefly through how to setup and use Tesseract.

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