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. Because most of these libraries are currently under construction, the installing of collections within these is not a short term aim, the libraries being presently simply occupied to invest their resources on very basic issues. Once however the collections are installed as part of the digital libraries, these will have an interest in expanding them quantitatively by digitizing more materials from their collection area and qualitatively by improving the technical standards. Obtaining these collections is consequently marking major milestones for the process because it links and commits important libraries to it – and provides maybe the best possibility to make the digitized heritage visible to a general public, raising it to a higher level of acceptance as a common heritage by the majority population. The concrete architecture of such a collection remains to be discussed with the providers of the major digital libraries. The main aspect is that the user is able to get a quick but substantial overview on the history of a minority. The implementation of the following features should therefore be taken into consideration:

  • visualization of the geografic settlement area combined with essential statistical data
  • timeline with most important historical events
  • iconic visual materials which enable a ,branding’ of the respective community
  • simple access to cultural ,masterpieces‘ combined with a short presentation of the respective cultural canon
  • portal solution for the search on a central user interface

Building on already existing structures and modelling the process on established patterns is the most efficient procedure for the current stage of the process. An exemplary reference for presenting minority heritage on a continental level is the project Judaica Europeana which holds currently more than 42 million records and is offering information and links on numerous projects, thus serving also as an information center on the process of digitizing the Jewish cultural heritage in Europe. On a national level the following digital libraries are providing the most important collections: The Judaica Collection of the University Library in Frankfurt a.M./Germany is digitizing and offering vast and diversified digitized stocks – mostly German-language – like e.g. monographs, manuscripts or entire collections and also many periodicals, partially from Central Eastern Europe. Furthermore important for the heritage of German minorities is the Martin Opitz Library (Herne/Germany) which is covering the entire area of Eastern and Southeastern Europe and offering an extensive variety of textual materials in its Electronic Reading Room. Of major importance for German-language periodicals from Eastern Europe is the Digital Forum Central and Eastern Europe (Munich), currently holding 69 historical newspapers and popular calendars with many more being digitized in the coming months. The most comprehensive digital library for German-language newspapers is however Austrian Newspapers Online, the virtual newspaper reading room of the Austrian National Library, offering currently more than 14 million pages and documenting the press of the Habsburg Monarchy with its many German-language minority population groups.

With regard to these already established infastructure it should be a standard task of every digitization project and to provide metadata in a standard exchange format and to program APIs for assuring the forwarding of digitized materials and thus to contribute to aggregating digitization efforts.


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