The target-oriented digitisation funding is reaching a wide spectrum of cultural and knowledge institutions

By Katrin Kovačić (Digitalisierungsförderung Neustart Kultur)

What is the aim of the programme?

The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (German Digital Library) has obtained funding for the project “Nutzerorientierte Neustrukturierung der Deutschen Digitalen Bibliothek“ (User-oriented restructuring of the German Digital Library) from the Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (BKM) (Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media) within the scope of the funding programme NEUSTART KULTUR. A good 2.2 million euros of this will be made available for target-oriented digitisation funding in cultural institutions from the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek’s network. The aim of this funding is to support partner institutions in the digitisation of their holdings and collections and to make these visible. At the same time, the user experience for all users of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek will be enhanced, in that there will be an increase in attractive content in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. In addition to the further expansion of digital cultural heritage, the digitisation projects should give rise to employment and career prospects again for creative artists. Similarly, the scope of the funding programme should also include smaller institutions, which is why cooperative projects are explicitly desired.

The projects funded should be oriented towards retrospective digitisation and, in doing so, the focus should be on high-resolution objects free of rights. The amount of funding applied for had to be a minimum of at least €10,000 and a maximum of €200,000. The required own contribution of the cultural and knowledge institutions making applications was 10 per cent.

Digitisation to ensure access to cultural assets

The immense resonance to the programme shows that digitisation constitutes a central theme for cultural and knowledge institutions. The application procedure opened at 10 am on 25th February 2021 with the activation of an online form. The funding amount available was oversubscribed many times over within a few hours, so that further applications could not even be accepted on the same evening and a waiting list was set up, A total of 282 applications were made for the granting of funds for digitisation. Moreover, 95 institutions have registered on the waiting list. The funding needs indicated within the scope of this funding procedure amount to a good 16.6 million euros.

How were decisions made on the applications

Decisions on the applications were made in several stages: the applications were examined in their order of receipt until the funding was used up (the so-called “Windhundverfahren” = first come, first served principle). In doing so it could be ensured that the application procedure would be preferably completed up to the beginning of the project term, despite the immense volume of applications. The applications which came into consideration for funding due to their time of receipt were first examined as to their formal application requirements. If the formal application requirements were met, an independent jury of experts checked whether the applications corresponded to the funding guidelines in respect of their content. The jury of experts was made up of staff members from the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek and from the institutions of the competence network and made their decisions according to the two-person rule (four-eyes principle). If the jury’s decision was not unanimous, a re-examination was made within the scope of a five-member discussion group.
If all of the test criteria could be assessed positively, the applications were selected for funding in their order of receipt.

The application procedure was the responsibility of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. This included consultations on the applications as well as examining the content and deciding on the applications. The Deutscher Bibliotheksverband e.V. (dbv) (German Library Association) will undertake the implementation of the funding, in particular the approval and disbursement of the funds as well as the where-used verification procedure. In addition, the dbv makes the technical infrastructure available for the application procedure.

59 institutions can be pleased at receiving funding

After the end of the application and selection procedures, funding could be approved for 59 institutions. You can find an overview of the institutions receiving funding here. This constitutes approximately 20% of all applicants.

Almost all sectors of the cultural and knowledge landscape of Germany have benefitted nationwide within the scope of the digitisation funding. Museums and archives represent the largest share here. Most of the institutions funded come from North Rhine-Westphalia, followed by Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Tortendiagramm Digitalisierungsförderung

Exceptional objects for the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek’s users

The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek and its users can be pleased that there are over half a million digital copies which will find their way into the portal due to the target-oriented digitisation funding. Numerous 3D objects will also be available. These include a great number of exceptional holdings and collections such as, for example, a fern herbarium, an antique papyrus collection or important artists’ estates. Prints from the 16th to 19th centuries, archaeological collections, various photo archives and also cinematic works are likewise being digitised. Moreover, the desire to fund smaller institutions could also be taken into account. Applications for preserving cultural heritage from smaller institutions like city archives, local history museums and cultural associations were approved just as much as those from nationally known institutions.

What comes next?

The digitisation phase for the institutions being funded has now begun. The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek’s service centre, together with the sector-specific specialist departments, will accompany the data partners through their projects and the objects on their way into the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. The digitisation projects will end on 31st December 2021 at the latest. Importing the data and the publication on the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek’s portal will follow in the course of 2022.

Organising the digitisation funding constitutes a unique procedure for the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, since the regular funding for the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek does not provide for funds for digitisation. The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is all the more grateful to have been given this opportunity and that the corresponding funds have been made available.


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