Frequently Asked Questions

Basic features of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB)

What is the DDB?

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.

The DDB is the national data aggregator for Europeana.

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What is offered in the DDB?

In short: the cultural and scientific heritage of Germany in digital form.

This includes digitised holdings and indexing information from cultural and knowledge institutions like libraries, archives, museums, historical preservation agencies and media libraries as well as universities and other research institutions. The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek provides central access to digital images of books, documents and files, paintings, statues, installations, historical monuments as well as to films and music.

The number of objects in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is continually growing. The current total number of objects is shown in the search field on the homepage . Moreover, it is shown how many of these objects have a digital copy.

map, which is constantly expanded and updated, gives a unique overview of the cultural and knowledge institutions registered in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek.

As a rule, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek does not hold the actual digital holdings itself. Digital objects found via the DDB are shown in their complete and high-resolution versions on the web portals of the participating/supplying institutions, to which these are linked from the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek.

The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek does not only index digital holdings, but also offers pure indexing information in part – primarily for material from archives which are not (yet) available in digital form. It thereby closes the gap of a central indexing instrument in Germany for indexing information and digitised archive material.

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Who can use the DDB?

The beta version has been freely available on the internet since 28th November 2012, the full version online since 2014. Users can pursue their private or professional areas of interest here, deepen their knowledge and get new suggestions. Culturally interested persons can get their information conveniently about the cultural offerings and the knowledge institutions of a city or region. The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is also of particular interest for scientists, students, teachers and pupils. Journalists and publishing houses can find information for their publications and articles in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. And the cultural and knowledge institutions can use the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek as a platform for services, tools and data, to expand their own content and to link their activities with one another.

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Search functions

How can users search for content in the DDB?

The portal offers the classic search functions, with which you can research into the total holdings via search terms. In addition, there is an advanced search available. Different filters, also known as facets, are available to refine the search results, respectively as an alternative search entry point. The search list changes dynamically with the corresponding selection in this faceted search. Moreover, users can navigate between objects which have been found using semantic references and thereby open up unexpected content and contexts. Information on artists, authors etc. is compiled on so-called personal pages, from which you can in turn access objects in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek relating to the respective person. This is where the great advantage of the DDB becomes apparent: it brings together collections from different contexts according to professional and not technical criteria and, in doing so, makes connections and cross-references clear which are not visible on the offerings of individual institutions or domain-specific offerings.

A further possibility to search through the holdings of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is the “Discover” function. This is a function where you are shown search requests by topic and can directly get a results list by clicking on one of the topics. The discover entry points are created editorially to refer to the most different topics in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. So you can listen to animal sounds or historical shellac records, discover the world of botany or travel the world digitally: from Bolivia to the North Pole, from Venice to the ports of this world. The discover entry points are regularly brought up to date and adapted to the latest available holdings and collections.

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What filters/facets are available to narrow down the search results?

To date, we have the following facets (search filters): person/organisation, place, keyword, time, media type, object type, language, legal status, usability, sector and data provider. It is possible to differentiate between the roles a person may have with reference to an object “involved in”, e.g. a work written by Goethe, and “topic in” e.g. a Goethe biography). The time facet allows you to limit search results to a freely selectable period of time to the day. In doing so, you can specify whether the dating falls in whole or in part in the period being searched for.

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Further development

What does the roadmap for the period following the launch of the first full version look like?

Since the full version was launched in 2014, there have been continual improvements made in the different components of the DDB – in particular on the portal, with the objective of increasing the quality of the data. Feedback from users has been regularly obtained in the course of this.

Other virtual exhibitions – curated by experts – make the diversity of the cultural assets accessible via the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek vividly visible.

The public application programming interface (API), which has been available in a first version since November 2013, offers the possibility to develop services in a decentralised way around the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek – for instance, dedicated applications for smartphones and tablets. The API is likewise constantly being developed and adapted to further requirements and, in the future, should support even more scenarios in the sense of Linked Open Data (LOD).

Therefore, even after the publication of the full version, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is not “finished”, since the process of digitising the immensely diverse German cultural assets will not be completed for a long time yet; new works will continue to emerge, which must be incorporated, and the current technical developments must be constantly taken into account.

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What is planned with respect to content expansion?

With the launch of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, priority was given to acquiring cooperation partners and data providers and therefore setting up the visible data holdings for the users. In the meantime, this focus has further intensified. Currently, about 4,700 institutions have already registered themselves as cooperation partners and this number is increasing all the time.

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Is all available content freely accessible?

A distinction must be made here between the access to the content of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek and the use of this content:

  • The DDB portal has no restrictions on access whatsoever – everything is freely accessible.
  • The regulations for use of the digital copies are laid down by the respective cultural and knowledge institutions themselves.

Use of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek itself is free of charge in every case.

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What restrictions are imposed on the DDB by copyright?

Digitising protected works and/or making them publicly available constitutes a utilisation that is subject to permission under copyright law. When using any content made available, the existing copyright and other intellectual property rights must be observed in full. This means that works protected by copyright can only be digitised and made publicly available with the consent of the owners of said rights. Where consent is virtually not possible, that is, in the case of so-called “orphaned works”, it remains to be seen whether a new legal regulation will make it possible to access the corresponding works, if possible, even without the consent of the copyright owners.

As the digital objects made available via the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek are not located in the DDB itself, but in the respective institutions (and can be accessed there), these are then responsible for any necessary access controls and for charging costs for the use of works that are not in the public domain.

The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek has introduced a licensing model that allows participating institutions to select from a bundle of licenses and license notices. In future all digital material viewable in the DDB will be accompanied – where possible - by a notice stating the conditions of use or be tagged with a Creative Commons license.


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What is the Deutsches Zeitungsportal?

The Deutsches Zeitungsportal (German newspaper portal) is a free website which makes digitised historical newspapers from the holdings of German cultural and knowledge institutions accessible. You can find further information on the newspaper portal here.

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What are Collections from Colonial Contexts (“Sammlungsgut aus kolonialen Kontexten”)?

The portal Collections from Colonial Contexts (“Sammlungsgut aus kolonialen Kontexten”) makes already digitised and indexed collections from colonial contexts available online within the existing portal of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB – German Digital Library). You can find further information on the Collections from Colonial Contexts here.

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Questions about organisation

What led to the DDB being set up?

The decision to set up the DDB was taken by the Conference of German Minister Presidents in October 2009 and the Federal Cabinet in December 2009. The foundations for this were the shared key points of interest of the federal Government, the Länder and the municipalities as well as an administrative and funding agreement between the Federal Government and the Länder. To set up the infrastructure, the Federal Government provided upfront funding of around 8.5 million euros until the end of 2011. One aspect that influenced the emergence of the DDB was a request by the European Commission to the member states that they make efforts to digitise and provide access to cultural and scientific information as part of the European Digital Library (Europeana) project. The DDB therefore simultaneously acts as a central national partner of Europeana and in this way enables German cultural institutions to take part in this European project. A selection of background information, foundations and framework conditions concerning the realisation of the Deutschen Digitalen Bibliothek can be found here.

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Why does the DDB exist alongside Europeana?

The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek transfers the information from the cultural and knowledge institutions on to Europeana, if the institutions so wish. Europeana bundles together the cultural assets of all the member states of the European Union and makes them accessible worldwide. The member states of the EU make their cultural and scientific holdings available for this. The EU Commission, as the responsible body for Europeana, is convinced that free, democratic access to cultural heritage must be guaranteed for everyone, so that they are able to use the chances relating to digitisation for social development. The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is collaborating on this.

In doing so, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek does not only see itself as a technical instrument which transfers information on cultural assets and scientific information to Europeana: the information and services provided go beyond the scope of the content of Europeana in part. In this way, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek creates a network for all participating German cultural and knowledge institutions and serves to provide mutual support and the exchange of experience, technologies and services. In the area of the semantic linking of objects, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is also ahead of Europeana in part – for instance, in the integration of standard or normed data.

Furthermore: the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek and Europeana work in close coordination. There are already cooperations between the DDB and Europeana for technical, organisational and legal issues etc., which have been supplemented by collaborations between the DDB and other national aggregators since 2013.

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Who funds the DDB and how?

The DDB is jointly financed by the German Federal Government and the Federal States on the basis of the administrative and financial agreement from December 2009. To begin with, the Federal Government made around 8.5 million euros available up to the end of 2011 to set up the infrastructure.

From 2011 up to the end of 2016, the Federal Government and the Federal States each spent 7.8 million euros collectively for the further expansion and development as well as the operation of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. Moreover, in 2013, the Federal Government invested an additional 1 million euros in expanding the DDB’s beta version into a full version and a further 4 million euros in special projects for digitising cultural assets in federal institutions, whose results are directly input into the DDB. During the beta phase, the Federal States also participated in the functional expansion of the DDB to the tune of 300,000 euros.

The investment volume for setting up and operating the DDB portal up to the end of 2016 thus amounted to around 29.4 million euros. In addition to this, the Federal Government also made around another one million euros available for modernising the DDB’s IT infrastructure in 2016 and 2017.
Currently, about 4.4 million euros – likewise jointly financed by the Federal Government and the Federal States – are available annually for operation.

The total amount of funds actually spent on the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek by the Federal Government and the Federal States is, however, considerably higher, since the production, collection and processing of the objects, respectively digital copies visible so far in the DDB, which was largely carried out within the framework of funding measures from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG – German Research Foundation), are only included as a small fraction in the investment volume for setting up and operating the DDB infrastructure.

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Where is the DDB head office?

The head office of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is located in the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) in Berlin. The office can be contacted at geschaeftsstelle [at]

The departments for technology, development and the service centre, which fields enquiries from interested cultural institutions, are located in the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek in Frankfurt. The Service Center can be reached on service [at]

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Getting involved

What advantages are there for institutions who make their contents available via the DDB?

The central access via the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek guides users reliably to the digital assets from Germany that they are searching for. Since the works and object being searched for are always linked to the place of origin, the holdings as well as the institutions themselves become more visible and therefore better known than before, with the result that these can expect an increase in the number of visitors, both online and offline. In addition, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek offers tools and services which help the institutions to optimise their digital content and its presentation or to prepare digital objects for publication. Correct use of this content is promoted by consistently providing legal notices in accordance with the specifications of the cultural and knowledge institutions.

For individual cultural assets sectors like the archives, the DDB, as Germany’s central reference instrument for indexing information and digitised archive materials, operates the Archivportal-D; this is supervised by the specialist department Archives and is located at the Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg (State Archives of Baden-Wuerttemberg).

On request, the metadata and derivatives stored in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek can be automatically entered into the European cultural portal Europeana and will thus become visible in a further context.

Since October 2019, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek’s service “DDBstudio has given the data providing institutions the possibility to curate their own virtual exhibitions at the DDB and thereby to improve the visibility of their content as well as that of their own institution.

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Under what circumstances can an institution deliver data to the DDB?

The cultural or knowledge institution must first register itself with the DDB as a data provider. The data for the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek must be in a supported metadata format. This process is supported by the Deutsche Digitale Bibilothek’s service centre, together with the specialist departments, and these are pleased to advise on any questions regarding registration, metadata formats, the delivery of data and all other steps. You can get detailed information on DDBpro.

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How are data entered into the DDB?

You can find detailed information under “Teilnehmen” (“Participate”).

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What exactly is entered in the DDB and made available there?

The DDB does not provide digital objects (full text, high resolution images and the like) itself, but stores and makes available the metadata and indexing information as well as derivatives of such digital objects. Metadata and indexing information are the data that describe the objects - mainly data for formal indexing and content indexing. Derivatives are excerpts from the objects or small formats, such as tables of contents, preview images and audio and video excerpts.

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Who can curate a virtual exhibition in the DDB?

All cultural and knowledge institutions registered with the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek can use the exhibition tool DDBstudio . If you wish to create a virtual exhibition, please contact the DDB team at ddbstudio [at] and you will get access for your exhibition project. No great technical knowledge is necessary to use DDBstudio and it is free of charge. You can find the virtual exhibitions on the DDB’s portal under Virtual exhibitions.

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Who can help participating institutions with questions and problems?

The Service Center provides competent advice on all DDB issues relating to registration, content and technology. Contact service [at] .

General queries regarding the DDB and questions revolving around providing the general public with access to DDB material will be answered by the Administration Office on geschaeftsstelle [at]

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If your institution (still) doesn’t have digital copies, can you nevertheless register your institution?

Yes. Even if your holdings are not or not yet digitised, you should register yourself with the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek and thus expand your network to other cultural and knowledge institutions. In addition, we are building up a cultural and knowledge map as part of our work, which should record all cultural and knowledge institutions in Germany as far as possible. By registering, you will also help us to realise this project. At the same time, you will increase the visibility of your institution on the web. Moreover, you can also merely provide the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek with digital indexing information.

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What (digital) content can a cultural or knowledge institution deliver to the DDB?

Basically, all objects which possess a cultural value in the view of individual cultural and knowledge institutions are of interest to the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. The institution providing the data is therefore ultimately responsible for deciding what collections should be presented in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek only reserves the right to set the order in which this will be displayed. A key criterion for the inclusion of objects in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is that they (respectively copies of them) must be available online in digital form. Digital indexing information on analogue objects from the institutions in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek can also be presented, insofar as this is necessary and useful in certain sectors.

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What quality criteria exist for (digital) content?

The quality criteria are based on the current rules of practice of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft  with respect to digitisation. (They do not, however, define any criterion for exclusion.) In addition, there are minimum requirements for the derivatives and the metadata to ensure proper presentation of the objects in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek.

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Does the DDB store not only metadata but also the digital objects themselves?

The DDB only saves access information and metadata and, if desired, derivatives, that is, preview pictures, thumbnails or tables of content. The digitised item remains with the providing institution. It is accessed via a link that leads the user from the results display on the DDB interface to the object display in the Web portal of the respective institution.

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Technical questions

What metadata format does the DDB use?

The internal metadata format of the DDB is based on the Europeana Data Model (EDM). The DDB has developed a special EDM application profile that simplifies cross-disciplinary searches, semantic networking and structured layout of (digital) content and the metadata in the DDB. The Europeana Data Model is a simple, flexible model based on the linked-data principle, whereby data are modeled in Ressource Description Framework (RDF) syntax. The model is made up of 15 classes and has a special feature allowing a cultural object to be described from three different angles: as an object, as its digital representations and as its associated metadata. It enables users to establish a permanent link between objects and their contexts, for example people, places and events. On this basis it will in future be possible to provide other explorative forms of research and data presentation that go beyond individual data inventories.

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What interfaces are provided by the DDB to import data?

On the one hand, you can upload the data by File Transfer Protocol (FTP). This method is suitable above all when transferring large data volumes at once. On the other hand, cultural and scientific institutions can provide their data via a harvesting interface (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting, OAI-PMH), which can be called up via the DDB. This method is recommended if a data set is to be updated or expanded regularly.

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What interfaces are provided by the DDB to export data?

The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek has an interface for transferring data to Europeana.

The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek made it possible for external services and applications to have search access to the DDB’s content via a first published version of its°API in November 2013.

Suitable interfaces will be made available for exporting larger volumes of data, via which the cultural and knowledge institutions can receive their own enriched data back from the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. Import interfaces and procedures are necessary for this on the part of the cultural and knowledge institutions. The DDB will be pleased to advise and support its partner institutions in this process.

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How can an API benefit users?

The API is an application programming interface that allows users to access data via methods provided by the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB). It allows the development of a range of applications that use material in the DDB, displaying it as they see fit and embedding it in a variety of contexts. The API is available to all users who have registered with the DDB portal, as soon as they have set up an access code (‘API key’) in their “My DDB” area of the portal.

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How do I use the DDB's API?

To use the API of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, it is necessary to have authentication in the form of a key (API key). An authentication key is a uniquely assigned character sequence which must be transferred to the API on every request for the purpose of authentication. All registered users of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek can have an authentication key generated to use the API. This is done via a user account in the section “Meine DDB” (“My DDB”).

You can find further information and a detailed description of the API at

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What metadata format must be provided by the delivering institutions?

Admissible delivery formats are  DC, DenkXWeb, indexMeta, ESE, EAD(DDB), METS/MODS, MARCXML and LIDO. These formats are widely used in the respective fields. Data should be delivered in XML format, as they will be converted using XSLT-based transformers to the internal format of the DDB. If the formats mentioned above cannot be supplied, the DDB Service Center and its domain-specific service desks are happy to advise on how to convert the existing format into one of the approved delivery formats.

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