Building a system which allows to search a very large database of document images requires professionalization of hardware and software, e-science and web access. In astrophysics there is ample experience dealing with large data sets due to an increasing number of measurement instruments. The problem of digitization of historical documents of the Dutch cultural heritage is a similar problem. This paper discusses the use of a system developed at the Kapteyn Institute of Astrophysics for the processing of large data sets, applied to the problem of creating a very large searchable archive of connected cursive handwritten texts. The system is adapted to the specific needs of processing document images. It shows that interdisciplinary collaboration can be beneficial in the context of machine learning, data processing and professionalization of image processing and retrieval systems.© (2008) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.