Thomas Smits


Hi there! I am an Assistant Professor of Digital History & AI at the University of Amsterdam. My work is centered on modern visual (news) culture and is located at the intersection of the digital humanities (history, memory, and visual culture studies) and social sciences (media and social movement studies). It has been published in top-ranking journals and recognized with travel grants, invited lectures, fellowships, and a book prize for my first monograph. Fascinated by the increasingly visual nature of modern societies, I pioneered the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyze large collections of historical digitized images. Convinced of the benefits of interdisciplinary exchange, I have used critical insights from the SSH (Social Sciences and Humanities) to further the development of culturally-responsive AI.


  • Currently, my own work focuses on using multimodal AI models (CLIP) to cluster large collections of historical photographs.
  • I'm always working on something with Melvin Wevers.
  • With Paul Fyfe, Ben Lee, and Julia Thomas, I'm exploring how we can use multimodal machine learning to explore the illustrated world(s) of the nineteenth-century press (funded by the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals).
  • With Samuel Merrill and Rik Smit, I'm examining how Large Language Models influence social/cultural memory.
  • With Wouter Haverals, Mike Kestemont, Loren Verreyen, and Mona Allaert, I'm exploring the potential of computational methods in analyzing vast corpora of historical picture postcards.
  • Together with Melvin Wevers, Willem-Jan Faber, and Simon Kemper, I'm applying open-source LLMs to improve access to digital collections.
  • I'm mapping the (imagined) geograhpy of the magic lantern medium with Margo Buelens-Terryn.
  • I'm proud to supervise the wonderful PhD projects of Eleonora Paklons and Loren Verreyen.


selected publications


  1. Distant Reading 940,000 Online Circulations of 26 Iconic Photographs
    Thomas Smits, and Ruben Ros
    New Media & Society, Dec 2023


  1. The European Illustrated Press and the Emergence of a Transnational Visual Culture of the News, 1842–1870
    Thomas Smits
    Dec 2020