VIKUS Visualizing cultural collections

The research project »Visualizing Cultural Collections« (Visualisierung kultureller Sammlungen) investigates graphical user interfaces and the potentials inherent to visual exploration of digitized cultural collections. Within the scope of the project, researchers from various fields such as information visualization, interface design, and cultural sciences, will develop and evaluate graphical interfaces that are aimed at enabling interactive examination of cultural objects. The project will liaise closely with cultural collections (e.g. museums, libraries and foundations) as cultural partners, as well as with developers of media databases.

  • Workshop: Prussian Palaces and Gardens
  • Visit: Sanssouci Palace
  • Image archives at Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation
  • Workshop: Prussian Palaces and Gardens

In recent years, numerous projects have been initiated and funded that seek to digitize cultural collections. Archives, museums, libraries and other collecting institutions are now facing the challenge to improve the accessibility of their digitized inventories while also providing new modes of engagement with digitized cultural artifacts.

Digital representation is increasingly seen as a unique perspective on culture that implies a value of its own. While the digital is not set out to replace the physical, it is distinct and has its own advantages. For example, the static arrangement of objects in physical exhibitions can be disseminated in interactive visualizations by means of dynamic layouts that respond to search queries, item selections, and the viewer’s context. So far, visualization technology has not been applied much to cultural collections; however, first prototypes illustrate a multitude of opportunities. For example, visualizations of the semantic structure of a collection along multiple facets could provide entirely new ways to encounter cultural objects.

This project approaches the area of digital cultural heritage by combining technological possibilities with cultural considerations in order to develop visualizations and interfaces that open up new, interesting and useful perspectives on cultural collections. Thereby, novel interaction techniques and representations are designed and evaluated for their suitability for different scenarios. We proceed on the comprehension that visualizations themselves are to be regarded as cultural artifacts that need to be interpreted, designed, and criticized.

With the objective of encouraging innovative ideas in the field of cultural mediation, researchers investigate the potential of novel visualizations of cultural objects with a focus on accessibility and  in collaboration with designers and developers. Throughout the project, prototypes are being developed and scrutinized in regards to their applicability as visual exploration tools for digital collections.

logobalken vikus


Publications Associated Publications

Visualising the »Un-seen«: Towards Critical Approaches and Strategies of Inclusion in Digital Cultural Heritage Interfaces

— in: KuI (Kultur und Informatik) Cross Media. Busch et al. (Hrsg.) Berlin 2015
In recent years, access to cultural heritage has been closely connected to digitisation. We argue the case for recognising this digital shift as an opportunity to create interfaces to cultural heritage that are, first of all, more inviting to the public. Secondly, we want to encourage critical approaches towards the representation of cultural production and allow for alternative or even conflicting narratives and interpretations to surface. We present related work, use cases, and concepts for visualisations and interfaces that invite the reconsideration of modes of categorisation, presentation and clustering. Our intent is to develop ways to scrutinise modes of exclusion, carry out critical evaluations and pursue interventional strategies. We discuss the specific potential of visualisation, annotation and dynamic expansion of digital cultural collections. Building on critical approaches in human-computer interaction, visualisation and cultural theories, we explore how the interface could be a means of reflection, critique and inclusion.

Museum im Display. Visualisierung kultureller Sammlungen (VIKUS)

— in: Konferenzband zur 22. Berliner Veranstaltung der internationalen EVA-Serie: Electronic Media and Visual Arts 2015
Im Rückgriff auf Ausstellungspraktiken im Museum stellt der Artikel Bezüge zwischen Erkenntnissen aus der Visualisierungsforschung und der Rezeption von Museumssammlungen in einem Ausstellungsdisplay her. Besondere Beachtung finden hierbei Makro- und Mikroperspektiven auf Sammlungen und Darstellungen im (digitalen) Display eines Museums. Visualisierungen können einen offenen und explorativen Zugang zu den digitalisierten Beständen bieten, der eher den Ausstellungs- und Vermittlungsaktivitäten des Museums entspricht oder diese ergänzt. Dabei werden die Potenziale der digitalen Präsentation herausgearbeitet und Anhand von Use Cases aus der Forschung illustriert, welche Ansätze in der facettierten und „kuratierten“ Inszenierung von Sammlungen umgesetzt werden können.

Linking structure, texture and context in a visualization of historical drawings by Frederick William IV (1795-1861)

— in: International Journal for Digital Art History; No 2 2016
In this article we present a case study on digital representation of the art historical research and metadata brought together for a scientific collection catalogue by the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg. The resulting interface aims at linking the structure and texture of a collection of drawings by Frederick William IV of Prussia (1795–1861) with additional contextual information. The article describes the context of the larger research project and presents the resulting visualization and interaction techniques specifically designed for dynamic exploration along time and subjects.