Reading traces Visualizing Fontane’s reference library

Research cooperation with the Theodor Fontane Archive Potsdam.

The aim of this project is to investigate explorative ways of knowledge acquisition and representation in the digital space as well as to develop a prototype for Theodor Fontane’s digitized reference library. The reference library located in the Theodor Fontane Archive in Potsdam contains about 150 books and is complemented by a bibliographical database of the “virtual library”. This virtual inventory includes works that have been read by Fontane, but which are not in the collection of the archive (anymore). In a future digital presentation of the collection, the current and virtual library will be united and the approximately 63,000 individual pages of the reference library will be made available in their entirety for the first time.

The resulting interactive visualization will open up new and insightful perspectives on a unique author’s library and make it usable and explorable for researchers as well as the public. Fontane as a reader, but also as a commentator on the works of other authors will become visible. Especially the reading traces in the form of numerous annotations and comments in his own handwriting make for a great attraction and value of the collection.

In light of the large, although by the reference library to some extent limited, data space this project not only poses questions concerning the visual exploration of the data, but also the contextualization of Fontane and his reading habits. In an interdisciplinary collaboration with the Theodor Fontane Archive, these questions will be substantiated and put into a cultural-philosophical context. In the final prototype, the theoretical findings will result in an implementation in the form of a novel graphical user interface, which should invite viewers to explore a manifold author’s library.

This project is a research collaboration with the Theodor-Fontane-Archiv.