Web application: Utrecht in perspectief

Utrecht skyline online

What did the 17th-century skyline of Utrecht look like? What buildings took up a prominent spot? And in what way were these buildings depicted in the prints and drawings of that period?

The web application Utrecht in Perspectief (‘Utrecht in Perspective’), launched in 2020, provides an answer to these questions. The application shows the beautiful profiles of Utrecht, which are linked by means of linked data to georeferenced old maps, archive records and Wikipedia.

The interactive website was developed thanks to a collaboration of the Utrecht Archives, the Kollektief Hic Sunt Leones and Utrecht University Library. The Mondriaan Foundation granted a subsidy for the project. The Special Collections team of the university library came up with the idea of the web application. The library also contributed by providing digitised and georeferenced maps.

The exhibition of the Utrecht Archives about the ‘reborn’ Catharijnesingel was the reason for this project. More than 40 years after parts of the canal that encircled Utrecht’s old town were concreted over, water is running again around its 900-year-old moat. The exhibition Utrecht aan de singel runs until 10 January 2021.

The Catharijnesingel can be seen on many Utrecht city profiles from the mid-16th century onwards. These profiles show the development of Utrecht’s skyline. In the web application the focus is on the profiles from 1669 and 1684 made by Herman Saftleven. By means of a locative component, various buildings on these digitised panoramas are linked to scans of contemporary early printed maps from the university library and the Utrecht Archive. There are also links to Wikipedia pages, containing extensive descriptions of the buildings. The attractive design and intuitive interface of the website invites the visitor to make a visual journey of discovery through 17th-century Utrecht.

It is the intention to expand the website with city profiles, old maps and prints from other periods. In this way an interactive time-space model of the city of Utrecht will be created, in which the development of the skyline and the city map can be followed between 1550 and the present day, by means of a detailed timeline. At the same time the application offers visual, geographical access to relevant image collections of the Utrecht Archives.

Buurkerk Utrecht