AEZEL started in Sittard in 2009 as the Algemein Eesjte Zittesj Eige Lexicon translated as The First Authentic Sittard’s Dialect Lexicon. A partnership between creator and initiator Martin Pfeiffer and the Euregional Historic Centre Sittard-Geleen/City Archivist Peer Boselie. This merger proved to be a formula for success. The original name has since been slightly changed in meaning yet keeping its original abbreviation AEZEL – now spelled out in English as Archive for Heritage for Southern Limburg Properties and Communities.
By cooperating with many partners from historical societies and associations a full blown collective has evolved. Collectively it has realized a dazzling figure of historic data entry now available for research, in particular by including the scans of the Initial Cadastre Register (OAT in Dutch) the land- and plot registry system introduced in the Napoleonic era. And now available to all.
In 2017 the genealogical database ‘All Limburgers’ created by LGGI in close cooperation with the Limburg Archives was added to AEZEL. This resulted into now being able to display the authentic source of who/what/when/where/ in the form of a scan of the original source document. Context and authenticity are key factors in the AEZEL project. Because of our innovative data structure we are now one of the leading projects in Europe. From Iceland to Italy and from France to Bulgaria the project has been received with great enthusiasm and is now one of the 15 available EUROPEAN TIME MACHINES (see http://timemachine.eu). AEZEL.EU is internationally known as Limburg Time Machine.
Infrastructure and software
Details about software and infrastructure used in our project is made available through this website and described below. LGGI uses its own server for AEZEL for this purpose, where partners can individually manage their own data if so desired. The LGGI software is based on a freely available Open Source Framework. The particular framework used connects the various open source software parts with each other. The main component is a relational database with a minimal structure that can, however, be used universally. A GIS (Geographic Information System) is part of this. This is an easy-to-use graphical user interface that provides management and publication functions for large collections of related historical information. The user can choose between various maps from 1809 to now, including OpenStreetMap. The additional information, which is drawn on transparent layers, can be displayed as an overlay on the map.
Although the software is suitable for all operating systems, a special Linux version, tailored specifically for this project, has also been created: the AEZEL OS.
AEZEL is a collective cooperation. The ‘front office” / web version of AEZEL is hosted by the LGGI and supported by De Domijnen Archives and many affiliated archive services, associations and societies. We exchange detailed information with HISGIS involved with Cadastral Investigations in other Dutch Provinces and will remain a close partner for future activities. CEL, the Heritage Cooperation Limburg provided financial support in 2019 and 2020.
The AEZEL Project is fully maintained by volunteers and supported by the archives. AEZEL is active in the whole of Limburg. The province has therefore been divided up into 6 regions with each region being represented by a city archive. In every region there is an archive representative available at the archives who can answer questions or pass them on to relevant person or authority.
The organizational structure of AEZEL opts for a regional coordinator who manages one or more project leaders who in turn lead one or various project teams. The project teams consist of a group of volunteers working at an archive or from home. Not every region has opted for this way of working. Sometimes a project team is formed by a local heritage association or by a municipality. In addition some project teams have been started by enthusiastic volunteers working on a theme. At the moment approximately one hundred towns and villages are involved in the AEZEL.EU Project.
A future development plan for AEZEL is currently being prepared. Its content will have to fit in with the Limburg Heritage Digitization Plan which CEL (the Heritage Cooperative for Limburg) is developing. The plans should be finalized by November 2020. Our vision on AEZEL.EU in the heritage landscape is as follows:
- The Limburg Heritage Cooperation aims to connect and unite the expanded heritage field, doing justice to the individual qualities of existing heritage organizations, reinforcing and where possible complement each other.
- The expertise of AEZEL / LGGI is a tool that bundles fragmented heritage information by means of an open source programme and offers it to a wide audience in a user-friendly way.
- Its basis is genealogical and Cadastral data, which are interconnected. The database is filled up with entries from the original sources through manual efforts of many volunteers (including municipal participation projects) with the cooperation of various AEZEL partners, including archives.
- AEZEL offers heritage organizations (including the many local history societies) the possibility to digitize source material and link the digital source material to one central database, which in many cases makes the development of individual databases and / or duplication of data superfluous.
- AEZEL has the potential to develop into a central and unique infrastructure for both the professional and amateur interested in exploring or researching heritage. By means of easy access and extensive data AEZEL is able to strengthen and connect these two fields of interest. Ultimately this ambition coincides with the objectives of CEL and our aim to become embedded within the CEL organization. An excellent ambition!
New participants and projects
AEZEL / Limburg Time Machine is a collective. This means that the archives, historical associations and all the volunteers working together are the key to success. At present approximately 250 volunteers are actively involved.
The archives facilitate the volunteers by providing scanning equipment and offer general facilities. Ultimately, a lot of manual input, such as scanning, transcription, drawing, photo recognition and other activities are required. This combined effort allows information to be viewed and mapped.
In short: it is a joint effort to be able to now display information that was previously fragmented and "analogue" (often on paper), linked by digital means on the internet.
AEZEL is completely documented in terms of software, packages, presentations, directories, manuals, queries, views, etc. All in all anything an IT manager would need to keep the system manageable. A free demonstration can be booked via the representative of your local archive.
New projects are always carried out under supervision of experienced AEZEL-members. Costs for your own account are the required hardware facilities, if not present, and possibly a financial contribution based on the initial negotiated agreements made in this regard at the start of the project.
It is also possible to start your own project. Provided this fits in with the aims and scope of AEZEL. One of the requirements is that the proposed project provides applicable formats and shows similarities with existing projects and that you share your data with AEZEL. You remain the rightful owner.
Naturally we are very pleased with any initiative suggested. Whether you want to become a volunteer or would like to become a team/project leader. By joining the AEZEL you actively contribute to your town/city and its citizens. Interested? Please get in touch with the representative of your local archive.
Volunteers and Vacancies
AEZEL’s major strength is its volunteers. There are many tasks to choose from. For example:
- Data entry
- Describing photographs or geo-referencing maps
- Working on a specific theme or project
- Drawing digital maps (GIS skills required)
- Employing digital techniques or skills
- Supervising and supporting project groups
There is plenty of flexibility within AEZEL. You can either work at set times at the archives or you can choose to work from home at times which are convenient for you. A simple PC with internet connection is all that is needed for most of the tasks at hand.
Overall no specific skills are required. If you can read well and are an accurate typist most tasks can be performed easily. On the other hand if you have specific historic knowledge skills this can be of great benefit to other volunteers. For example by categorizing photographs.
Age is not relevant. For every age group there are plenty of challenges to found within AEZEL!
Many volunteers opt to work for their own town or village. For AEZEL.EU this is an added bonus, as very often these locals can disclose a true treasure trove of historical insights of their habitat. By combining all that inside information over time all these tiny pieces of the puzzle will result in an even more breathtaking image of Limburg!
In short: AEZEL.EU is looking for YOU! We count on you to have a broad knowledge and interest and will do our utmost to meet your personal wishes and optimize your talents. Together we stand and leave a legacy for posterity.
Information about how to become a volunteer for AEZEL.EU can be obtained from your local representative at your regional archive. He or she can tell you if an AEZEL project group is active within your area or can direct you to the central AEZEL spokesperson.
At the moment we are advertising for a few specialized vacancies in order to relieve the technical core group. If you are interested in one of these positions please send our board member Corry de Koster a short resume. Should you require more information or know a suitable candidate please do not hesitate to contact her.
- Inspector Cadastral Entries. With the help of control programs in Excel, the Cadastral data entered by volunteers must be checked and adjusted if necessary. This is a list of Initial Cadastre Registers (Oorspronkelijk Aanwijzende Tafels, known as OATs) and associated maps (Minute Plans). It is an important final check before the data is displayed on the website and requires great accuracy and independence. Advanced knowledge of Excel and, if possible, of a computer drawing package is desirable.
- GIS cartographer. For a large part of Limburg, the Cadastral maps of 1842 have been converted into accurate digital maps, but a number of maps, mainly of South-East Limburg, still have to be Geo-referenced and drawn. The aim is to place all Limburg plots on the current maps and thus be able to retrieve the initial /original owners of 1842. Following on from this, we will also reconstruct the maps from 1843-1970. This vacancy requires knowledge of a computer drawing package, preferably QGIS.
- Technical Content Coordinator. At Archives De Domijnen in Sittard-Geleen, about 50 volunteers work on various heritage projects. A volunteer coordinator guides and assists these volunteers in their daily work. However, we are also looking for a Technical Content Coordinator. The coordinator determines and plans in consultation when to work on which projects and how the activities must be carried out. He/she also provides training sessions. Empathetic leadership skills are essential for this position.
Our technical core group is also in urgent need of support and expansion. This requires advanced technical skills, long term commitment and sustainability. The AEZEL website now has a basic functionality that we are very happy with, but we and our users clearly want more. Large-scale custom applications need to be developed for a variety of assignments.
AEZEL is a low-budget project in which volunteers, with support from archives, invest a lot of time and effort. AEZEL also uses free open source software. However, this does not mean that AEZEL can work completely free of charge. The major cost factor is the hardware: PCs and servers, necessary to make the gigantic amount of data (now several terabytes, eventually many hundreds of terabytes) available to the public.
Sponsorship packages are available. In return your company name will be published on the AEZEL.EU website.
Donations are also very welcome. Large or small. LGGI has an ANBI-status which means contributors can benefit from a tax refund. If you wish to make a donation you can do this by bank transfer made payable to LGGI on NL83 INGB 0004 0074 39 stating Donation AEZEL.
Other means of support
AEZEL is very happy with any means of support. Whether is a suggestion, an offer to help out or a donation.
We would welcome your older ICT equipment for refurbishment or a small server to store location details.