Professor, Computer Science Department
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
Head, Department for Cultural and Museum Informatics
Germanic National Museum, Nuremberg
Research projects in cultural heritage institutions produce extensive quantities of high quality digital data. The methods used for storage and management of the digital objects and data produced by the projects, however, make it difficult, if not impossible, to reuse the information for other purposes.
Existing software solutions to build digital knowledge repositories like Fedora, DSpace, or Greenstone are seldom used because they are not known, or they do not meet the specific requirements of a project, or they require too much technical knowledge and manpower to be installed, used, and maintained. Instead, simple systems like Word files, Excel spreadsheets, or simple databases are created and adjusted to the needs of the project. In other words, techniques that are intended for use on an individual desktop computer are adopted, leading to systems that do not allow networking with other researchers, possibly in a format that could be difficult to access years later. Furthermore, without documentation, it can be very hard to reconstruct the original meaning and purpose of the data.
The WissKI project was conceived to work on these digital data persistence issues. WissKI is a German acronym for Wissenschaftliche KommunikationsInfrastruktur, which can be translated as Scientific Communication Infrastructure. The name WissKI also highlights the fact that the concept of “Wikis” is very important for the project. The wiki-way to deal with information and collaboration was one of the ideas behind creating an easy-to-use system that is also easy for cultural heritage organizations to maintain.