“Saxonica” – digitization project on the history of daily life of the Transylvanian Saxons

With support of the Institute for German Culture and History in Southeastern Europe (Munich/Germany, www.ikgs.de) a group of young historians from Germany and Romania is seeking to document the daily life of the German minority in Transylvania in the 20th century. The team will interview members of the minority in an oral history approach and search for personal materials like diaries and private letters which are suitable for digitization. Continue reading “Saxonica” – digitization project on the history of daily life of the Transylvanian Saxons

Teaming up for Wikipedia – organizing the public knowledge on minority communities

The presentation of knowledge on the culture and history of a population group should not be left to non-experts or complete foreigners of the respective cultural heritage. Unfortunately exactly this is the case with most of the Wikipedia articles – one of the most important sources for public knowledge – which are not written on a solid, concerted knowledge basis but more or less extracts from often randomly selected sources. Experts and members of the respective minorities should therefore consider to form qualified working groups in order to author articles which are comprehending the basic and referenced knowledge.

Continue reading Teaming up for Wikipedia – organizing the public knowledge on minority communities

“Vlogging” for presenting cultural heritage

Video portals respectively video-sharing websites like YouTube are more and more a substitute for the rigid TV program due to their easy and extremely flexible accessibility – you can watch the content whenever you want and literally make your own watch list – and the possibility to interact with the content and its creators by commenting, sharing or uploading your own contributions (“Web 2.0”). It makes therefore sense to consider “video blogging” as an efficient method to present, discuss, propagate and canonize knowledge on cultural heritage.

Continue reading “Vlogging” for presenting cultural heritage

Searching for the digital cultural canon – proposal for an online survey

As was discussed in a former post almost everyone’s cultural canon is substantially influenced by the internet and the informational knowledge, the born-digital or digitized materials it is offering to us. In order to be able to devise efficient digitization strategies for minority heritage it is therefore necessary to get an overview on the “digital cultural landscape” which is visited, used and so to speak cultivated by minority members.

Continue reading Searching for the digital cultural canon – proposal for an online survey

“Minority metrics” – measuring the cultural impact

The internet provides us with the chance to analyze the cultural impact of certain terms, topics, individuals and communities in numbers. It is therefore an obvious task to try to determine the cultural reception and influence of a minority and to answer questions like: what does constitute a successful reception of a cultural heritage? What are the reasons for a lack of attention and knowledge towards the cultural products of an ethnic group? What is the formula for initiating and maintaining the “digital motorics“?

Continue reading “Minority metrics” – measuring the cultural impact

Funding program “German Culture in Eastern Europe”

The Federal Republic of Germany faced in its early years a huge challenge by millions of displaced ethnical Germans from Eastern Europe and from former territories of the German Reich who fled to the west German occupation zones at the end of World War II. Beside the numerous material and social necessities imposed in the early postwar period the newly formed republic had to fulfill the obligation of incorporating these citizens into the new state. The legal part of the solution for this challenge was the enacting of the Federal Expellee Law (“Bundesvertriebenengesetz“, 1953). Article 96 of this law states the Federal Republic’s obligation to preserve the cultural goods of the communities of displaced Germans from Central and Eastern Europe.

Continue reading Funding program “German Culture in Eastern Europe”

Endangered heritage – the case of the Transylvanian Saxon fortress churches

With regard to the previous article about 3D reconstruction of destroyed or decayed historical buildings, there is unfortunately a recent case where such an application is necessary after all what is left of a historical fortress church tower is only debris:

rothbach_chelu_2016

Photo: Christian Chelu (http://www.siebenbuerger.de/zeitung/artikel/rumaenien/16428-kampf-gegen-die-zeit-erste.html)

Continue reading Endangered heritage – the case of the Transylvanian Saxon fortress churches

The “Google Cultural Institute” as a platform for presenting minority heritage

After the success of the Google Art Project where museums all over the globe can present their works of art in online exhibitions, Google Inc. further expanded the platform and provides now a multitude of content under the virtual roof of a “Cultural Institute”:

Viscri at Google Cultural Institute

Photo: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/browse/transilvania 

Continue reading The “Google Cultural Institute” as a platform for presenting minority heritage

Digital archaeology and the reconstruction of lost cultural heritage

Historical minorities have left behind many decayed buildings and ruins. Their digital reconstruction by means of computer animation technology should play therefore a basic role in documenting this lost cultural heritage. A small but impressive project on the ruin of Corfe Castle in Southern England shows in an exemplary way how such an undertaking can be realized:

Continue reading Digital archaeology and the reconstruction of lost cultural heritage

Artificial intelligence and its possible role in preserving cultural knowledge

Despite the incidents produced by Microsoft’s out-of-control experimental chatbot “Tay” which was caused by abusive manipulation from the internet community – the bot processed into its routines the information received by other Twitter users and formulated based on these its own, politically quite incorrect tweets1 – one should nevertheless consider the promising potential offered by this technology: an artificial intelligence which can learn by selected information and improve continously the complexity and quality of its output would be able to serve as a communicator and keeper of cultural knowledge.  Continue reading Artificial intelligence and its possible role in preserving cultural knowledge

  1. http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/03/tay-the-neo-nazi-millennial-chatbot-gets-autopsied/ []

Welsh Bible in the book-collection of Elbląg Library

The first Bible translations into Welsh have existed since at least the 15th century. The Welsh Bible presented in Elbląg Digital Library originates from 1689. It was published by London printer Thomas Newcomb. The Bible catches the eye with its fancy and  intricate cover, that is attributed to London bookbinder Robert Steel (1668–1710). As shown in the picture the binding is made of green leather and ornamented with golden pressings. Gilded are also the page edges what makes a book even more luxurious, although gilding was applied not only for decoration purposes but has also its practical dimension as it preserved the edges. The endpaper is made of marble paper (more information of the binding of Queen Marys’ Bible available on the blog Biblos run by the restoration team of Elbląg Library http://pracownia-konserwacji.blogspot.com/2013/09/biblia-krolowej-marii.html).

biblia biblia1biblia2biblia3

Continue reading Welsh Bible in the book-collection of Elbląg Library

How to turn visual materials, objects and buildings into “iconics”

The presentation of cultural materials in the internet is exposed to a tight competition: the critical reception by the internet community/public will decide about the success of their cultural impact in the digital world. This competitive situation demands that the presentation of photographed or digitized cultural heritage is done in an efficient, visually attractive, qualitative and yet universally acclaimed way. For minority heritage the situation seems clear: either iconic materials are presented in a way which makes a high reception possible and tags the minority in the perspective of the internet community with certain narratives linked to these materials, or the heritage will never push through and remain due to its lack of attractivity unobserved and unappreciated – maybe even by its members and descendants.

Bran Castle

A 3D model converted by aerial drone photography of the famous “Dracula Castle” Bran, built by Transylvanian Saxons in the Late Middle Ages. Screenshot taken from https://sketchfab.com/models/623f31b3d3314f8d8095eafc94fafaba  Continue reading How to turn visual materials, objects and buildings into “iconics”

Online Bibliography on German-language periodicals from Eastern Europe

In order to provide for the first time a complete overview and compilation of the German-language press from Eastern Europe, I started in 2012 to collect all available bibliographical data on newspapers, journals, popular calendars, almanachs and yearbooks which were published by members of German-language minorities in this part of the continent. Continue reading Online Bibliography on German-language periodicals from Eastern Europe

Online Lexicon on the Culture and History of the Germans in Eastern Europe

Providing referenced knowledge on minorities is the basis for future research progress and consequently for a successful, substantial cultural preservation – notably in the internet, where a considerable or even the biggest part of information is procured. Relying on the Wikipedia is not a viable solution: it is a huge platform for information with a strong mobilisation for crowdsourcing, but it still has many gaps and several flaws and is due to the lack of a scientific quality control not quotable. Especially regarding minorities the quality problem is quite severe: the Wikipedia articles on them are either written by authors who have limited knowledge of the culture and history of the respective minorities – mistakes or outdated theses are a common occurrence – or they are part of these and therefore influencing in a subjective, sometimes manipulative way the presented theses and perspectives. For solving this issue there are two possibilities: 1) digitizing older printed publications with referenced knowledge; 2) compose new ones. Continue reading Online Lexicon on the Culture and History of the Germans in Eastern Europe

Historical popular calendars as a valuable source

Related to my former post on the importance of newspaper digitization I’d like to additionally present a few theses on another type of periodicals which is still widely neglected despite its cultural value:

1. Popular calendars1 are of high relevance because they were very likely read by most people who were ordinary or occasional readers. Beside chapters on chronology and general information (e.g. the city’s addresses, market days, prizes of post offices, currency value etc.), these publications also provided essayistic or poetic works. Calendars thus served as reading materials for the higher and middle as well as for the lower strata of society because they were a very useful tool due to their calendarical as well as their socially important information which was presented in a readable, sorted and well-arranged way. Continue reading Historical popular calendars as a valuable source

  1. For numerous examples please visit my institute’s website: http://www.ios-regensburg.de/informationsinfrastruktur/bibliothek/digitale-bibliothek/volkskalender.html  []

Why we should digitize historical newspapers – theses on their importance for minority heritage

In the following I am discussing some theses on historical newspaper digitization which appeared during my projects on periodicals from German-language minorities at the Institute for East and Southeast European Studies:

I. Newspapers contain very diverse information, hence being an excellent source for various scientific disciplines and historical education. Being originally addressed to the public they offer information which was deemed relevant for a considerable part of a community or an entire society. Newspapers therefore provide a cross section through the knowledge which circulated in a certain time period and region. Because these do not demand an overly substantial historical knowledge and are chronologically structured, newspapers are excellent materials for student research projects. Beside documenting the history of knowledge and information delivery, reading newspapers is also an efficient training for information competence. However the scans need to be processed with performant OCR in order to enable an easier access to the huge amount of text. Continue reading Why we should digitize historical newspapers – theses on their importance for minority heritage

The Baltic Biographical Lexicon – digitization project of the Baltic History Commission

Based on the printed German-Baltic Biographical Lexicon the Baltic History Commission conducted the buildup of a database which contains all OCR-processed texts and scanned images from the lexicon as well as detailed metadata:  Continue reading The Baltic Biographical Lexicon – digitization project of the Baltic History Commission

Collection of the Armenian cultural heritage in Bucharest

The Digital Library of Bucharest (formerly “DacoRomanica”), operated by the Metropolitan Library, started a few years ago the buildup of a collection of the cultural heritage of the Armenian minority on the territory of Romania. As was stated by Florin Rotaru, the founder and former director of DacoRomanica and initiator of the portal of collections of ethnical minority heritage (“Bucharests Multiculturalism“), the project was triggered by a large, but finally unperilous fire in 2008 in the building which hosted the library and archive of the Armenian Church in Bucharest. Continue reading Collection of the Armenian cultural heritage in Bucharest

Online Survey on the digitization of German-language cultural materials in Eastern Europe

The Institute for East and Southeast European Studies conducted some time ago a survey among 50 national and regional libraries in Eastern and Southeastern Europe which are involved in major digitization projects. The survey’s main objectives were: Continue reading Online Survey on the digitization of German-language cultural materials in Eastern Europe

Online Document Book on the History of the Germans in Transylvania (1185 – 1531)

Funded by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (Bundesbeauftragte für Kultur und Medien)  the “Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte der Deutschen in Siebenbürgen”, originally published in a print edition in 7 volumes from 1892-1991, was digitized and converted into a freely accessible database: Continue reading Online Document Book on the History of the Germans in Transylvania (1185 – 1531)

Digitization project on textual materials of Finno-Ugric population groups

The National Library of Finland is conducting since 2012 until late 2016 a major digitization project on the cultural heritage of Finno-Ugric minorities:

“The project will produce digitized materials in the Uralic languages as well as their development tools to support linguistic research and citizen science. The resulting materials will constitute the largest resource for the Uralic languages in the world. Through this project, researchers will gain access to corpora which they have not been able to study before and to which all users will have open access regardless of their place of residence.” Continue reading Digitization project on textual materials of Finno-Ugric population groups

Determining the identity canon of a multicultural region – public online survey of the Borussia Foundation

The well-known Borussia Foundation (Fundacja Borussia Olsztyn / Borussia – Stiftung und Kulturgemeinschaft Olsztyn/Allenstein), dedicated to researching and conveying the culture and history of the historical regions of Warmia and Masuria, recently started a highly interesting and promising online survey. Continue reading Determining the identity canon of a multicultural region – public online survey of the Borussia Foundation

RomArchive – digital archive of the arts of the Roma

Finally a major and promising digitization project on cultural materials of Roma minorities receives substantial funding:

“The German Federal Cultural Foundation [Kulturstiftung des Bundes] supports the establishment of a digital archive of the arts of the Roma. RomArchive is to become an internationally accessible space that makes the cultures and histories of the Roma visible. From 2015 to 2019, an international collection of art from all disciplines will be gathered, enhanced by scholarly texts and historical documents and accompanied by a programme of educational and cultural events. Each section of RomArchive will have its own expert team of curators, responsible for that section’s contents. RomArchive makes no claims to completeness, but sees itself as a continuously growing platform featuring representative collections. With its curated contents, modern storytelling, and intelligent contextualisation, RomArchive differs from static databases in both aesthetics and methodology.” Continue reading RomArchive – digital archive of the arts of the Roma

Digitizing and presenting minority heritage – from the ,classical’ to the ,digital cultural canon’

The following paper was presented by Albert Weber (Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (Regensburg/Germany)) at the Conference „Regional Identity and Social Cohesion” on 25 October 2013 in Timişoara/Romania.

Abstract

In the past years digital national libraries have been founded in almost every European state. Despite their partially high technical standards these libraries often do not follow yet elaborated digitization strategies, a fact that displays itself especially in the selection of materials for digitization: most digitized materials belong to the state nation, i.e. the majority, while the heritage of the historical national minorities within the state as well as of the own minorities abroad is often neglected, or not properly presented by a clear separation from the majority’s materials. The present paper discusses the currently existing possibilities for efficiently digitizing and presenting the cultural materials of a nation and its neighboring historical national minorities as well as of multicultural regions populated by several ethnic groups. The paper concludes with a short analysis of the importance of digitization (“digital cultural motorics”) for individual, social and ethnic identities by theorizing about the relation of the classical cultural canon and the digital cultural canon, which is forming today and deeply influencing the future cultural development. Continue reading Digitizing and presenting minority heritage – from the ,classical’ to the ,digital cultural canon’

Coordinating the digitization of German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe – a concept proposal for an International Working Group

[Paper by Albert Weber (Institute for East and Southeast European Studies) at the International Workshop Digitizing German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe on April 28, 2015:]

I will present you in the following our proposal for the buildup of organizational structures which could serve the process of digitizing the German-language heritage in Eastern Europe.

The current situation presents itself as a multitude of single projects which in the best cases are conducted in quite selective cooperations, including often no more than two or three partners. Consequently many possible synergy effects are not being exploited, resulting in unused potentials. A strategic organization of the digitization process can surely achieve a more efficient investment of financial means, a higher technical standard, a better modality of presentation and a faster accomplishment of a largely completion of the digitization of this heritage. Continue reading Coordinating the digitization of German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe – a concept proposal for an International Working Group

500 gigabytes of history and culture – resources of Elbląg Digital Library as a part of Polish, German and overall European cultural heritage

1. Historical outline

The beginnings of Elbląg Library date back to the year 1601, in which the library of Elbląg Academic Gymnasium (the first school of its kind in Royal Prussia) was founded. The first purchase of the library was a book collection of the deceased Gymnasium rector Thomas Rotus bought due to the funds offered by the City Council. Later on the library stock was expanded by books purchased or bequeathed by former school professors, mayors, priests and other patricians. Continue reading 500 gigabytes of history and culture – resources of Elbląg Digital Library as a part of Polish, German and overall European cultural heritage

Presentation of digitized German-language cultural materials from Eastern Europe

[Contribution to the Strategy paper on the digitization of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe:]

An essential aspect for a broader general reception of the digitized stocks is their clear and structured presentation as coherent corpora. One of the most important objectives of the process must therefore be the buildup of collections within major regional and digital national libraries. Continue reading Presentation of digitized German-language cultural materials from Eastern Europe

Communication on the digitization of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe

[Contribution to the Strategy paper on the digitization of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe:]

Indispensable for a successful digitization process is the factor of communication between the digitizing institutions. A technical contribution for this desideratum is the buildup of a collaborative database for digitized German-language materials from Eastern Europe which could complement the aforementioned projected bibliographical database or even be based on it Continue reading Communication on the digitization of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe

Funding prospects for the digitization of German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe

[Contribution to the Strategy paper on the digitization of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe:]

Producing legitimacy for the costly undertaking of the process of digitizing German-language cultural heritage must be a basic objective for the contributing institutions. This purpose however cannot exclusively be fulfilled by presenting it as collaborative and internationalized. In order to successfully lobby for it, the issue needs to be connected with the general consideration that all historical ethnical minority communities do have the right to have their heritage digitized by their home state’s institutions. Continue reading Funding prospects for the digitization of German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe

Networking in the process of digitizing German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe

[Contribution to the Strategy paper on the digitization of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe:]

The formation of efficient organizational structures is essential for the coordination of the process which would otherwise be slowed down and miss the utilization of synergetic potentials like e.g. the division of labour and competences. The creation of an informal group as a think-tank on the digitization of German-language cultural heritage seems adequate for this purpose. Continue reading Networking in the process of digitizing German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe

Selection of digitizable German-language cultural materials from Eastern Europe

[Contribution to the Strategy paper on the digitization of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe:]

Decisive for a successful application for funding and for a project or program itself are conclusive criteria for the selection of the proposed stocks. If a digitization plan is not intended to serve the needs of a specific project, but furthermore to generally contribute to the cultural preservation of a minority, then the following regard should be given to the expected cultural impact level of the stocks, evaluating these as follows: 1) culturally significant; 2) culturally representative; 3) masterpieces; 4) unique; 5) endangered. Continue reading Selection of digitizable German-language cultural materials from Eastern Europe

Documentation of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe

[Contribution to the Strategy paper on the digitization of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe:]

A reliable overview on a cultural heritage is provided by an elementary bibliography which is indicating the digitizable sources. In a first step the already existing bibliographical publications are to be evaluated. If major gaps of important, bibliographically undocumented materials are identified, these should eventually be resolved. In a second step the bibliographical data is to be digitized, merged and transferred to a database which is finally giving the necessary overview on the sources which provably existed. The third step is to verify their present existence by confronting the bibliographical data with the physically confirmed stocks in libraries, archives and even private collections. Continue reading Documentation of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe

Strategy paper on the digitization of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe

The following scheme is proposing a series of general guidelines on the process of digitizing German-language cultural heritage in East and Southeast Europe and explicitly requesting a critical feedback or review; please comment on it or write a reply post in order to initiate a continued discussion on the topic. Continue reading Strategy paper on the digitization of the German-language cultural heritage from Eastern Europe

Digitization project on German-language Jewish periodicals from Eastern Europe

The Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS, Regensburg/Germany) is conducting a 12-month project for the digitization of 45 Jewish German-language newspapers, popular calendars and yearbooks from Eastern Europe, published in the time period of 1863 to 1940. Continue reading Digitization project on German-language Jewish periodicals from Eastern Europe

International Workshop: Digitizing German-Language Cultural Heritage from Eastern Europe

Conference organizer: Institute for East and Southeast European Studies

April 27-28, 2015, Regensburg

For several years the Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS) is conducting digitization projects on German-language cultural materials from Eastern Europe. Based on these experiences the IOS invited with funding from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media librarians and archivists from Germany as well as from Estonia, Israel, Austria, Poland and Romania to an international workshop with the following objectives: 1) discussion on the progress of the digitization of the cultural heritage of German-language minorities with presentations of current projects and programs; 2) assessment of the potentials and modalities for international collaboration; 3) possibilities of implementing minority heritage into digital national libraries; 4) potentials of new technological developments; 5) delineation of new concepts for a digitization strategy. Continue reading International Workshop: Digitizing German-Language Cultural Heritage from Eastern Europe

Minorities Records – a blog dedicated to the digitization of minority heritage

In the past years major regional and national digital libraries have been founded in every European state. Despite their partially high technical standards these libraries do not follow yet in the most cases digitization strategies which would serve the representation of the entire cultural heritage of their collection area: almost all digitized materials belong to the state nation, i.e. the majority, while the cultural heritage of the historical ethnical minorities within the state as well as of the own minorities abroad is mostly neglected or not properly presented by a clear separation from the majority’s materials. The result is a substantially reduced or even fragmentary presentation of minority heritage in the virtual world in comparison to the majority, similar to the situation criticized by Jean-Noël Jeanneney regarding the dominance of the English language and culture.

The proposed blog discusses the challenge of properly digitizing and presenting minority heritage by establishing a communication platform for the international community for cultural and information science, for the digital humanities as well as for librarians and archivists – and for the representatives of the minorities themselves.