Kruip in een oude kaart

De Kaerte van Tlandt van Waes en Hulster Ambacht … [etc.]. Uitg. Amsterdam, Claes Jansz. Visscher, 1640; UB Amsterdam, Bijzondere Collecties, OTM: HB-KZL O.K. 58.

In het werkcollege Kaartanalyse en Historisch GIS, onderdeel van het studiepad Historische Cartografie in de Master Boekwetenschap, gaan studenten aan de slag met oude kaarten en atlassen. Dat is kostbaar en fragiel materiaal dat wordt bewaard in bibliotheken en archieven, zoals de Bijzondere Collecties van de UvA. Een belangrijke vraag is hoe je die oude kaarten en atlassen goed kan bestuderen, uiteraard zonder ze te beschadigen. Voltstaat het om ‘gewoon’ naar een oude kaart te kijken? Of moet je ze op een bepaalde manier ‘lezen’? Neem bijvoorbeeld de zeventiende-eeuwse kaart van de monding van de Schelde en de Honte bij de Zeeuwse eilanden. Hoe ‘lees’ je deze kaart: van links naar rechts, van boven naar onder, diagonaal? Laat je je leiden door eye catchers zoals de rivierdelta, de compacte steden of de cartouche onderaan? Of zoek je specifieke details, zoals ’t Vincke gat dat bij laechwaeter drooch stond?

Oude kaarten als deze bevatten doorgaans talloze details. Verscheidene soorten gegevens worden vermengd: geodata, tekst, ornamenten, kleur, gebruikssporen, enzovoort. Hoe kan je omgaan met die overdosis aan informatie? Het blote oog schiet in elk geval te kort: zelfs wie dagenlang naar een oude kaart kijkt, blijft nieuwe dingen ontdekken. Bovendien leert de ervaring dat louter het bekijken van een kaart – of dat nu analoog of digitaal, lang of kort gebeurt – onvoldoende is om ze ten volle te begrijpen, analyseren en gebruiken voor historisch, archeologisch, kunsthistorisch, geografisch of landschapskundig onderzoek. Wie dat wil doen, moet een manier vinden om ‘in de kaart’ te kruipen en zich tegelijkertijd in het hoofd van de vroegere cartograaf trachten te verplaatsen.

Gelukkig bestaan er digitale technieken om kaarten diepgaander te ontleden. De studenten van het werkcollege analyseren oude kaarten via de ‘digitale thematische deconstructie’, een methode waarbij een oude kaart integraal wordt ontleed door alle afzonderlijke elementen (wegen, percelen, gebouwen, fonteinen, grenzen, cartouches, gebruikssporen, enzovoort) in GIS over te tekenen en op te slaan als vectordata. Op die manier leert men de volledige inhoud van de kaart kennen én wordt men verplicht na te denken over de betekenis van de weergegeven elementen. Tweede stap is de registratie van attribuutgegevens: over elk kaartelement worden enkele extra gegevens in een databank genoteerd. In eerste instantie zijn dat gegevens die uit de kaart zelf worden afgeleid: een typologie en enkele architecturale en landschappelijke kenmerken. In latere instantie kan ook allerlei andere informatie worden toegevoegd (bewoners/eigenaars, plaatsnamen, coördinaten, bouwkundige en landschappelijke gegevens, bron- of literatuurverwijzingen, enzovoort). Op die manier wordt het statische beeld omgevormd tot een dynamische onderzoekstool, die bevraagd kan worden.

Die vermaerde Coopstadt van Amstelredam … [etc.]. Amsterdam,  Cornelis Anthonisz, 1544;  UB Amsterdam, Bijzondere Collecties, OTM: HB-KZL W.X. 015.

De werkcolleges van de jaren 2017-2018 en 2018-2019 focussen op het bekende vogelperspectief van Amsterdam door Cornelis Anthonisz uit 1544. Studenten vertellen dat ze via de ‘digitale thematische deconstructie’ als het ware in de kaart kunnen kruipen en details tegenkomen waarvan ze het bestaan niet vermoedden. Via de digitale kaartanalyse komen ze dichter bij de kaart, bij de cartograaf én bij het zestiende-eeuwse Amsterdam en dat levert steevast nieuwe inzichten op. De digitale ontleding gebeurt via het open source GIS-programma QGIS. Duizenden muisklikken zijn weliswaar nodig om alle kaartelementen over te tekenen. Dankzij een Grassrootsubsidie is onlangs bij de UvA een digitaal tekentablet met pen aangeschaft, waardoor het overtekenen niet alleen ergonomischer, maar bovendien veel efficiënter kan gebeuren. Tekenen met pen op een plat vlak brengt ons overigens ook nóg een stapje dichter bij de werkwijze van de vroegere cartografen.

Tijdens de eerste fase van de Grassroot testte stagiaire Marissa Griffioen het Wacom Intuos 5 Touch Pen Tablet, dat ons ter beschikking was gesteld dankzij Jitte Waagen van de afdeling Archeologie. Zo leerden we de voor- en nadelen van zo’n tekentablet kennen. Het testmodel bezat geen actieve display en het formaat (48,7 x 31,8 cm) was te groot voor het tekenwerk in QGIS. Om die redenen werd een kleiner model met actieve display aangeschaft: de Wacom Cintiq 13 HD Creative Pen Display (formaat 37,5 x 24,8 cm). De werkhouding is aangenamer omdat de kaart zichtbaar is op het tabletscherm en met de pen direct op de kaart geklikt kan worden. De registratie van de attributen in de GIS-databank gebeurt op de laptop. Dankzij het kleinere formaat is het tablet ook gemakkelijker te verplaatsen.

Het tekentablet staat ter beschikking voor studenten en onderzoekers op de kaartenzaal van Bijzondere Collecties. In een volgende blog zullen we berichten over de resultaten van het werkcollege Kaartanalyse en Historisch GIS 2018.

Marissa Griffioen en Bram Vannieuwenhuyze

2018-09-21T21:13:51+00:00

About the Author:

Blogs van gastconservatoren, gastschrijvers en andere gastmedewerkers, van stagiairs en stagiaires, en van bibliotheekmedewerkers van andere afdelingen.

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