Search Tips for Schools

Are you looking for material for school lessons with clarified copyrights? Are you looking for a website that brings your students closer to different facets of media literacy? Or are you a student and need serious sources for a paper or a semester thesis? Welcome to the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (German Digital Library)!

With us you are not only searching in one collection, but in collections of different origins. Museums, archives, media libraries, libraries and other institutions from all over Germany make their data on culture and knowledge visible in our portal. These are quality-checked data that are also clearly marked with regard to their origin and their legally determined uses.

Since 2012, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek portal has been making a steadily growing number of digitised objects from cultural and knowledge institutions available to interested users throughout Germany free of charge and without registration. The aim of the portal is to open up free access to Germany's cultural and scientific heritage via the Internet, i.e. to millions of books, archival materials, images, sculptures, musical pieces and other sound documents, films and scores.

In this short introduction, we will show you by means of example searches how you as a teacher or student can proceed with a object or thematic search in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek or also browse freely and without a concrete search term in our database. In addition, you will learn why the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek portal is also of great use as a media didactic tool in the educational mediation of media criticism and copyright. Finally, we will inform you how you can bring culture into your classroom with the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek portal.

Media criticism and copyright

The topics of media criticism and copyright law are becoming increasingly important in school education. For almost every school subject, the acquisition of media competence is firmly anchored in the curricula. If you want to teach your students in a practical context, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is the place to do so. Because it offers a multifaceted didactic potential that goes far beyond pure research opportunities for teaching materials, thematically relevant texts and images as well as historical original sources for a wide variety of subjects.

Each object in our portal is provided with a unique legal mark. Are you looking exclusively for material that you can reproduce or edit in order to use it in class, present it at presentations or share it safely on social media? Limit your search by using the Usability filter. If you select Without Restrictions, you will only see results that are not protected by copyright. In addition, select With Restrictions to display results that come with one of the numerous Creative Commons licenses – and that you can use under specific conditions in the classroom. If you select On Request, you will need to contact the data provider and request permission to use it.

Please note: Up to 15% of each work may be reproduced and distributed to pupils or participants for teaching and teaching at educational institutions – even if it is a copyrighted work!
This follows from § 60a UrhG.

If you are already familiar with (Creative Commons) licenses and know which ones are exactly right for you, you can also select them precisely via the search filter Legal Status.

Rechte Lizenzen

The legal mark of a particular object can be found in the object view  (click on the object in your result list). It is stored as a link text directly under the pictorial representation, which leads to a detailed explanation of the respective license.
You can use rights labeling to explain copyright issues and scenarios with practical relevance in class – an important facet of media competence. We have compiled further information on the rights labelling for you here.

The data of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek and the Deutsche Zeitungsportal (German Newspaper Portal) can also be used to investigate the different ways of presenting events in different media and communication channels or over decades or even centuries, because the course of time can change the angle of an event. Likewise, personal letters, postcards and diary entries tell a different story than newspapers, but they should also be interpreted in a source-critical way, depending on the political point of view. Fake news is not an invention of the 21st century.

The classic entry: the search for a concrete object

The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is most often used to search for a specific object: If you want to access a digitised version of an object (books, archives, sound/film documents, museum collections, etc.) as quickly as possible from your own desk without having to go to libraries, museums or archives, you can carry out a search in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. Likewise, students can use our portal for independent research in the context of lectures, homework, specialist papers or other tasks.

In the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, for example, you will find Christian Huygen's reflections on centrifugal force in his “Nachgelassene Abhandlungen (Posthumous Treatises)”, the correspondence between Goethe and Schiller for teaching German, as well as election posters and original film recordings from the First World War for teaching politics and history.

For theoretical art lessons, you can research numerous works of art by important artists or historical and scientific writings on various genres, styles and epochs of art history. For the Department of Biology, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek portal offers you, among other things, a collection of animal voices comprising more than 13,000 audio files.

If you enter your search term in the search mask, you will first land on a mostly heterogeneous search results list. For physics lessons, as in our example above, look for Christian Huygen's "Nachgelassene Abhandlungen", it is recommended to use the filter functions by media type text to limit the number of search results. During the search process, tick digitized objects only to exclude results that are only available as an entry in the database without digitisation.


Important: The digitised work is not provided by the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, but by one or more institutions that provide us with their cultural and knowledge data.

If you click on the search result "Nachgelassene Abhandlungen" in the list of results, you will be taken to the object page – that is, to the work itself that you are looking for. Clicking on show original at data provider is worthwhile as here you land on the website entry of the data-providing institution. Often the data providers (here: Thuringian University and State Library Jena) provide other functions on their websites – such as images in higher resolution or, as in this case, the download of the entire work as a PDF file.

Objekt Originaldatensatz

Search by topic

You can also freely search for topics of interest in our portal – it does not always have to be the search for a specific object: research topics and various media types across divisions by means of an exploratory search. As an example, we have chosen the topic of "inflation".

1.    Define search terms
First, define the search terms that are relevant to you. It is important to think along with the conceptual history, because different perspectives lead to different concepts and different institutions use different terms. In our example, the search term "inflation" provides numerous results – from leaflets and newspaper clippings from the Weimar Republic, commemorative coins to emergency or inflation money – but does not reveal everything the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek has to offer on this topic. Also try alternative search terms, such as price increase, in order to achieve different, but also teaching-relevant results.

2.    Use filter functions
In our "inflation" search example, you can also narrow down and concretise the results using filters: In the Media Type filter, you can choose between text, image, audio and video. The Object Type filter already allows for a more differentiated selection. Note that the individual object types are defined by the data-providing institutions. Therefore, it can happen that the terms do not always match and more or less synonymous terms are also displayed for an object type. You can also use the provided input field to search and reduce the list of object types.

The Time filter allows you to search for specific dates or periods – with or without a predefined search term. Always keep in mind that not all objects are provided with a time indication, and thus are filtered out when using the time filter. On the search results page, you can sort the search results chronologically if necessary and also with the above restriction.

Searching without a search term

Perform an empty search by entering an asterisk * in the search box and start your search – you will then see all the entries available in our portal. You can then filter them according to your criteria. This is a sensible procedure if you want to have all objects of a data generator that is particularly relevant to your topic or a certain period of time displayed.


Instead of researching teaching topics yourself, you can also fall back on one of the many access points relevant to school teaching. We have created many different pre-built searches that offer search results from specific subject areas with just one click. These include, for example, "The World of Botany", "Musical Instruments from all over the world" and "1,000 Sources on National Socialism". Simply select the Discover area in the search form and get inspired!


Culture in the classroom: virtual exhibitions and dossiers

In addition to the various search options, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek has editorially prepared, reusable offers on many topics relevant to teaching.

Virtual exhibitions, created by renowned cultural institutions, bring special aspects of history, art, politics or the natural sciences into your lessons. From the classroom you can visit an exhibition about the Nibelungen saga, Beethoven's only opera Fidelio, the end of the war in 1945 or the press during the Nazi era.

Editorially supervised dossiers thematically summarise virtual exhibitions, articles, picture galleries and interactive content. Visit our collections on the Weimar Republic, the First World War and National Socialism, the division of Germany, visual arts, the history of literature, the wonders of nature and many more.