It could be a start - nostalgia and the mood for change in Berlin

By Andrea Lehr (Coding da Vinci)

The energy and enthusiasm with which the Coding da Vinci community pursues its goal of disseminating and using open cultural data in institutions and civil society was once again demonstrated to a special degree at the official Coding da Vinci final conference.

The moderator Jöran Muuß-Merholz led through the exciting and comprehensive conference program on 23 September 2022 at the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy in Berlin – always competent and in a good mood, as many of the participants already knew him from past conferences and bar camps. Kirsten Haß, member of the board of der Kulturstiftung des Bundes -KSB (German Federal Cultural Foundation), opened the round of greetings. In 2018, she was head of KSB's funding and programme department and had therefore contributed a lot to the funding commitment which became official at the legendary Hackathon Coding da Vinci Süd 2019. Kirsten Haß described Coding da Vinci as an "absolute stroke of luck" for the "Kultur Digital" (Digital Culture) programme launched by KSB. The project made the potential of open cultural data widely visible and significantly strengthened "digital literacy" in cultural institutions. These successes could be built on and used to institutionalise the realisation that co-creative working methods can lead to better results.

It became vivid and creative when those who had initiated Coding da Vinci met with those who continue the project to this day on stage to tell the exciting story of Coding da Vinci together. Based on images and objects that the founders and their successors had brought back from their personal collection, the audience was able to experience the development from the first hands-on hackathon in the premises of Wikimedia Deutschland 2014 to the last regional hackathon, which ended in the Landesmuseum Baden-Württemberg (State Museum Baden-Württemberg) in June 2022.

Hackathon-Geschichte im Schnelldurchlauf. CdV-Gründerin Anja Müller zeigt den Cyber-Beetle, nur eine der vielen Projektentwicklungen seit 2014. Fotograf: Jason Krüger für Coding da Vinci, CC BY-SA 4.0
Hackathon story in fast motion. CdV founder Anja Müller shows the Cyber-Beetle, just one of the many project developments since 2014. Photographer: Jason Krüger for Coding da Vinci, (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Afterwards, the office thanked for (almost) four exciting years. Philippe Genêt, project coordinator of Coding da Vinci, promised a playbook that would enable anyone who wanted to organise a hackathon in the spirit and form of Coding da Vinci.

Klaus Lederer, Senator for Kultur und Europa in Berlin (Culture and Europe in Berlin), linked the beginning of his first term with the emergence of Coding da Vinci and expressed his hope that his second term could be linked to a continuation of the project. Changing the "digital mindset" in cultural institutions is still a topical matter, and therefore the final conference can also be regarded as a future conference.

Die Langzeiteffekte des CdV-Hackathons Westfalen-Ruhrgebiet 2019 beschrieb Konrad Gutkowski, wissenschaftlicher Referent für Digitalität beim LWL-Industriemuseum. Konrad GutkowskiFotograf: Jason Krüger für Coding da Vinci, CC BY-SA 4.0
The long-term effects of the 2019 Westphalia-Ruhr Region CdV-Hackathons were described by Konrad Gutkowski, scientific consultant for digitality at the LWL-Industriemuseum (LWL-Industry museum). Photographer: Jason Krüger for Coding da Vinci (CC BY-SA 4.0)

After all, this had taken place in just 30 minutes, the speakers of the Lightning Talks had a little more time to report on the different impulses that Coding da Vinci could provide with the hackathons. Nina Jäger and Katja Rempel explained the development of their project “How to: Spiele zur Kunst" (How to: Games for Art). After being awarded as "most user-centered design" by Coding da Vinci Saar-Lor-Lux 2020, the project received a total of three follow-up grants and also serves to profile the data-giving Instituts für aktuelle Kunst im Saarland (Institute for Contemporary Art in Saarland), which is an integral part of the development team.

Gabi Fahrenkrog described the project "Remember me" of the Technischen Informationsbibliothek Hannover (Hannover Technical Information Library), which was created following the Hackathon in Lower Saxony in 2021 and focuses on young target groups. As a pilot project, students in an eighth grade should learn how to use digital tools such as Wikidata over an entire school year. As the last Lightning talker, Konrad Gutkowksi of the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe) told the success story of a lived open access strategy, the trigger of which was Coding da Vinci Westphalia-Ruhr region in 2019.

Anne Mühlich und Gerd Müller haben eine Minute Zeit, um "Demokratie erLeben" zu präsentieren. "Fotograf: Jason Krüger für Coding da Vinci, C BY-SA 4.0
Anne Mühlich and Gerd Müller had one minute to present "Demokratie erLeben"(Living Democracy). Photographer: Jason Krüger for Coding da Vinci (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Genuine Coding da Vinci atmosphere emerged during the following One Minute Madness, where it was hectic in a long-established tradition. This time, however, the Coding da Vinci fellows had to face up to the challenge, while the GLAM representatives were allowed to lean back.

Then it was time for a refreshment in the impressive “Garden of the Diaspora”, a large room in the former Flower Market Hall, which the Jüdischen Museums Berlin (Jewish Museum in Berlin) transformed into a green oasis that can be walked on wooden walkways. During the "coffee break", all conference participants had the opportunity to get to know the projects of the scholarship holders at their presentation stands and to test the applications.

Two keynote speeches were given after the break in the auditorium. Julia Friedrich, collection director of the Jüdischen Museums Berlin, and Geraldine de Bastion, network activist and member of the board of Kuratoriums der re:publica (trustees of the re:publica) since 2012, had each come as representatives of a cultural institution, and as voices from civil society to present their positions with regard to the digital transformation in the cultural heritage sector.

Geraldine da Bastion stressed the importance of intensifying cooperation between civil society communities and cultural institutions in order to drive the change in values towards openness and participation. Julia Friedrich advocated making cultural heritage not too easy to consume, not too product-like. It is also part of the mission of a cultural institution to introduce the audience to the unruly.

Mit viel Engagement diskutieren die Teilnehmenden über die Zukunft von offenen Kulturdaten. "Sessionholder" dieser Runde war Lambert Heller von der TIB Hannover. Fotograf: Jason Krüger für Coding da Vinci, CC BY-SA 4.0
With great commitment, the participants discuss the future of open cultural data. "Session holder" of this round was Lambert Heller from TIB Hannover. Photographer: Jason Krüger for Coding da Vinci (CC BY-SA 4.0)

It then became exciting for the organising team when planning the Bar camp, where the participants were asked to design their own workshops or discussion forums with their topics. A total of ten sessions with a wide variety of content were held. Partially crowded in the available seminar rooms, the CdV enthusiasts discussed data quality, the use of open cultural data in education and the sensitivity of intercultural data from colonial contexts.

Nach getaner Arbeit ließen die Veranstalter*innen die Sektkorken knallen, und die Gespräche folgten bei gutem Essen und gediegenem Techno-Sound ihrem eigenen Verlauf. Fotograf: Jason Krüger für Coding da Vinci, CC BY-SA 4.0
After the work was done, the organisers let the champagne corks pop, and the conversations followed their own course with good food and dignified techno sound. Photographer: Jason Krüger for Coding da Vinci (CC BY-SA 4.0)

A major, recurring topic was the sustainability and durable availability of data, whether it be datasets published by cultural institutions or project code. The desire was repeatedly expressed to maintain the explorer mentality and experimentation, briefly the culture of the Coding da Vinci hackathons permanently in the institutions.

This appeal was also reflected in the closing speech by Frank Scholze, Director General of the Deutschen Nationalbibliothek (German National Library). Scholze summed up the efforts to bring about structural change in the institutions by introducing the term "Discovery". In doing so, he described a way of thinking that makes mutual discovery the basis of problem-solving.