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.

Cultural significance is naturally subjective, however publications with a high print run and/or long publication period were received in their time by an extensive public and can therefore be rightly prioritized. Representative stocks otherwise are more of a mediocre cultural importance – like e.g. a regional newspaper or other publications with an average impact in society –, but are important for documenting the „normal“, ordinary manifestations of a culture within a certain time period or region. Masterpieces are somewhat ambivalent for digitization projects: if these are not unique and consequently to a certain extent endangered in their preservation, their digitization may not be necessary because the bigger digital libraries have already digitized them or are anyway planning to do so.

In contrast it can be stated that unique or endangered stocks are highly relevant for digitization – even if these are far from being masterpieces and have no higher cultural or scientific relevance for today’s researchers – for digitization can save copies of what could otherwise be lost in the medium term. A stock can be qualified as endangered when it is unique or only very few pieces are preserved and degradation has already occurred or is to be expected for all pieces, e.g. in the case of 19th-century newspapers with acidic ink. An endangerment is also existent when the stocks are not properly preserved within the responsability of a state institution and possibilities for a relocation are limited.

Despite all categorizations the selection of digitizable stocks will remain in many cases subjective and compromises will have to be negotiated with costs, expenditures, restricted access possibilities and the promoter’s guidelines and expectations.


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