Visual Research Data Management and Scientific Imaging in Arts and Humanities

Target audience

Members of the Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities and Law. The specialist course will be of primary interest to PhD students engaging with visual data, such as images of art objects and historical documents.
It will appeal directly to PhD students conducting research in the fields of art history and history at the Art History and History Departments of Ghent University, as well as to PhD students conducting research in related fields like archaeology and architecture.

Organising and Scientific Committe

  • Prof. dr. Koenraad Jonckheere (UGent, Vakgroep Kunst-, Muziek- en Theaterwetenschappen)
  • Collection manager Hendrik Defoort (UGent, Universiteitsbibliotheek)
  • PhD student Thijs Dekeukeleire (UGent, Vakgroep Kunst-, Muziek- en Theaterwetenschappen)
  • PhD student Astrid Harth (UGent, Vakgroep Kunst-, Muziek- en Theaterwetenschappen)
  • PhD student Elizabeth Vandeweghe (UGent, Vakgroep Kunst-, Muziek- en Theaterwetenschappen)

Topic and objectives

In this PhD specialist course, we wish to focus on Research Data Management (RDM) in Arts and Humanities as applied specifically to visual data relevant to the research fields of art history and history.
RDM is an umbrella term often used in various research contexts to designate those processes that, in short, make data more likely to be used. To date, however, gradual progress has been made in the management of Arts and Humanities data. Hence, in this course we aim to examine what visual data for Arts and Humanities may entail, how the needs for support, advocacy, training and infrastructure are being supplied and, consequently, what the strengths and weaknesses are of the current arrangements for data creation, processing, analysis, preservation and dissemination. In order to tackle these complex questions we will bring together a group of interdisciplinary specialists and practitioners from various academic backgrounds within the Ghent University community.
The digital has seen a veritable explosion of images. The statistics are dizzying, because for the first time in history more images are being produced than text and the growth of the number of photographs taken each year since the medium’s invention has been exponential. This evolution profoundly affects historians and especially art historians, whose field of study is by definition founded on the critical usage of visual data. While the proliferation of images opens up many new research avenues, it simultaneously presents a great many methodological and interpretative challenges, which touch upon anything from visual data collection to dissemination. How, then, can today’s scholars manage visual data in an efficient and responsible manner that leads to research excellence? A discipline-specific seminar seems more useful than ever, all the more so now that RDM is placed high on the international scientific agenda.
During this five-day, intensive course, we will address and elaborate on the methodological questions that the creation, collection, processing, analysis, preservation and dissemination of visual data raise for present-day scholars operating in the fields of art history and history. Consequently, the management of scientific visual data will be considered in keeping with six essential components of what is known as the ‘RDM lifecycle’. As such, the specialist course will allow both the creation of a theoretical frame of reference as well as the hands-on experimentation with images, thus thoroughly familiarizing PhD students with the current state of affairs.


  • Maximiliaan Martens is Professor of Art History at the Department of Art History, Musicology and Theatre Studies at the University of Ghent. He is member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Science and Art of Belgium, and Director of Ghent Interdisciplinary Centre for Art and Science. He received his PhD in Art History at the University of California, Santa Barbara (1992). His research focuses on Fine Arts in the Netherlands, 14th-16th centuries, and more particularly on artistic production in an urban context and on the interdisciplinary study of the arts and sciences (imaging techniques, image processing and mathematics, analytical chemistry). Currently, his research concentrations on the scientific research in support of the conservation of the Ghent Altarpiece, of which he has been one of the chairs since 2012. He prepares also a new catalogue raisonné of the work of Quinten Massys, which will also be presented in a large monographic exhibition (KMSK Antwerp 2020).
  • Robert Erdmann is senior scientist at the Rijksmuseum. He also assumes the roles of professor at the University of Amsterdam and Conservation Science chair and Visualization of Art History endowed chair at Radboud University. Erdmann’s research focuses on conserving and understanding visual artistic heritage and making it accessible. As a member of the Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP), he contributes to the development of a new generation of computer and visualization techniques that will be applied to the entire oeuvre of Hieronymus Bosch. Previously, he was Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and of Applied Mathematics at the University of Arizona, where he earned his PhD in MSE in 2006. He worked at Sandia National Laboratories researching multi-scale image processing and computational modelling of materials. In 2013, he was Fellow in Residence at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) and in 2014 he made a definitive move to Amsterdam. There, he fully dedicated himself to the combination of materials science and computer science to give the world access to cultural heritage, to help increase our understanding of it and to conserve it.
  • Timothy Naessens is director of Lukas Art in Flanders. Therefore, he is closely involved with the management of high-resolution digital imagery of Flanders’ artistic heritage at the behest of leading museums and heritage organizations (e.g. Bozar, the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp). Naesssens obtained a licentiate’s degree in Germanic languages from Ghent University as well as a licentiate’s degree in Theatre sciences from University of Antwerp. He previously participated in the coordination of Brugge 2002 Cultural Capital of Europe and was communication manager at Lukas.
  • Myriam Mertens is data management policy advisor at the Ghent University Library. As such, she devotes herself to facilitating open science and digital scholarship, notably through Research Data Management support. Mertens holds a licentiate's degree in History from Ghent University, a master's degree in International relations and diplomacy from the University of Antwerp, as well as a master’s degree in Medicine, Health and Society from Vanderbilt University. She was an FWO research fellow at the History Department of Ghent University in 2007-2011, and in 2014 completed a PhD at the same department.
  • Joris Deene is a juridical expert on matters of copyright and intellectual property. He obtained a licentiate’s degree in Law from Ghent University. After obtaining his licentiate degree, he has been working as a research assistant at Ghent University on the matters of information science law, intellectual property rights and international private law and completed a PhD in 2010. Currently, he is active as an external consultant and visiting lecturer for the course Copyright at Ghent University. Furthermore, Deene developed professional expertise in Copyright and intellectual property law for the cultural heritage field through his collaboration with Partnership for Copyright & Society (SA&S).
  • Hendrik Defoort is collection manager at the Ghent University Library and is responsible for its public services. Defoort studied History at Ghent University and University of London, and wrote a PhD at the History Department of the former. From 2003 to 2009, he was coordinator of Ghent’s cultural heritage and was involved with the realization of the Ghent City Museum STAM. In addition, Defoort has gained professional proficiency on data management in the cultural field by coordinating projects for the Flemish Unesco Commission and Lukas Art in Flanders. Today, he publishes on matters related to social history and cultural heritage policies.


Day 1 (12 Apr. 2016 - Photographic studio Gica&s): Creating data - Theory

Day 2 (13 Apr. 2016 - Photographic studio Gica&s and handschriftenzaal & Prentenkabinet): Creating data - Practice

Day 3 (14 Apr. 2016 - Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent / Citadelpark): Creating data - Practice

Day 4 (15 Apr. 2016 - Vakgroep Kunst-, Muziek- en Theaterwetenschappen): Processing data - Theory & Practice

Day 5 (18 Apr. 2016 - Vakgroep Kunst-, Muziek- en Theaterwetenschappen): Preserving data and giving access to data - Theory


Ghent University

Registration fee

Free of charge for members of the Ghent University Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities & Law


Please contact Astrid Harth at

Number of participants

Maximum 10

Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

100% active participation in all sessions and discussions