Books, music, works of art, films, photographs, documents, manuscripts and much, much more. The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB – German Digital Library) makes it possible for all users to access the digitised cultural and scientific heritage of Germany. To this end, the DDB cooperates with hundreds of cultural and knowledge institutions – archives, libraries, museums, institutions for the preservation of historical monuments and research institutions – whose holdings and collections are made visible online by the DDB. In the meantime, millions of objects from all cultural sectors and all genres are researchable free of charge via the DDB’s search function.
Making cultural heritage accessible for education, research or simply for pleasure is one of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek’s objectives. A further objective is to link the digital offerings of the German cultural and knowledge institutions among one another and to thereby create a central digital location for cultural heritage.
How it all began: a brief excursion into the history of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek
The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is a joint project of the German Federal Government, the Federal States and municipal authorities, which promote and finance the DDB. It was decided to establish a German Digital Library as early as 2009 and this became a reality with an administrative and financial agreement.
The DDB is based in two locations: at the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) in Berlin and the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (German National Library) in Frankfurt am Main. The DDB’s branch office with the sectors finances, law, communication and marketing has been in Berlin since then, whereas the sectors of technology, development and the service centre are located in Frankfurt. In order to build up and expand the DDB, a competence network was founded from 13 cultural and knowledge institutions (15 today), which support the project and participate in various committees.
In 2012, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek started with its beta version and initially 5.6 million objects, respectively object references; this was followed by the launch of the full version in 2014. In 2018, the Federal Government and the Federal States decided to continue the project Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek on a permanent basis: since then, the DDB has grown consistently, has initiated and implemented many projects and today (as per May 2021) it can refer to more than 500 data-providing cultural institutions and more than 37 million objects. We have written down our history in detail here.
Our data partners: the cultural and knowledge institutions
How do the holdings and collections get into the DDB? The actual digitisation of the objects takes place in the museums, libraries, archives, institutions for the preservation of historical monuments and research institutions. The cultural and knowledge institutions, who are interested in this, register themselves with the DDB (see “Join us”) and are then guided through the data delivery process by the service centre in Frankfurt am Main and the respective sector-specific specialist department. You can find additional information on this on our portal for data partners DDBpro.
The DDB portals: the Archivportal and the Zeitungsportal
How can the DDB display archive and newspaper data better and make it searchable? The answer to this question is: by means of sub-portals with a sector-specific search and object display. The project “Archivportal-D”, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG – German Research Foundation) already came into being in 2014 in this way, as well as the “Deutsches Zeitungsportal” (“German newspaper portal”) in 2021, likewise funded by the DFG.
In the Archivportal-D, located in the Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg (State Archives of Baden-Wuerttemberg), the objects from archives are made accessible in a more specific and detailed way. In addition, there has been a theme portal on the Weimar Republic since 2020, in which archival material on this epoch can be researched.
The Zeitungsportal makes it possible to access historical newspapers with a full-text search, alternative search entries by publication date or newspaper title and a full-text viewer integrated into the portal, among other things. In this way, the portal makes the diverse historical newspaper landscape accessible centrally in a user-friendly way.
DDB offerings: virtual exhibitions and the cultural hackathon “Coding da Vinci”
Leafing through old manuscripts without endangering them, viewing ornate bindings from all sides as 3D objects or exploring images by zooming in – virtual exhibitions can make it possible to experience the holdings of libraries, museums and archives in a new way. In 2019, the DDB launched the service “DDBstudio”, which makes it possible for all of the cultural and knowledge institutions registered in the DDB to curate and present their own virtual exhibitions free of charge. More than one hundred exhibitions have been created in this way, highly diverse and exciting in their themes. Click here for the overview.
Open data: without these, the DDB would not have any offerings. But what can be done with open cultural data? The cultural hackathon “Coding da Vinci” started with this question in 2014 and invited cultural and knowledge institutions, together with hackers, to Berlin. Cooperations, projects and friendships emerged from this. Since 2019, “Coding da Vinci” has been funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation) – a great success for the hackathon and the DDB as one of the four founding members. You can find all information on the Coding da Vinci website.
Europeana: European Cultural Heritage
The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is Germany’s contribution to Europeana, the European cultural portal. As the national aggregator, the DDB delivers bundles of metadata and objects from German cultural institutions to Europeana, so that these also become visible in a European context.