Several attendees at Sigdial 2007, e.g. co-chair Harry Bunt and local chair Simon Keiser, were from Tilburg University. The list of Tilburg people included Piroska Lendvai, who gave a talk on dialogue processing. Piroska also told me about a project she’s just started working on, called MITCH, for Mining for information in texts from the cultural heritage. Piroska et al. are looking at textual and semi-textual data related to animal and plant specimens, as well as stones and minerals, available at Naturalis, the Dutch National Museum of Natural History. The Naturalis collection comes from bilogists and geologists who have travelled the planet (Holland had a great trade fleet), and it’s accompanied by handwritten documents created by these biologists and geologists. MITCH aims to create tools that will let scientists
search search and query the handwritten documents transcriptions of the handwritten documents in digital form (the transcriptions are the work of researchers at SCRATCH). Having the ability to search the documents and understand the relations between these documents, will empower research on the specimens.
I really like this project. It’s a multi-disciplinary effort with huge potential payoffs in multiple fields. Clearly, MITCH would be a powerful tool for biologists and geologists, as well as historians. At the same time, developing MITCH will requre new ideas in language processing, machine learning, etc.