KultSam – cultural collections as digital repositories of knowledge for research, teaching and public communication

Foto: Helena Grebe

What is KultSam?

Human, cultural and social sciences provide knowledge about cultural, economic and social developments. They help us to understand global contexts, shape the future and connect between cultures. The collections of cultural history museums and universities in Germany are unique representations of human thought, creations and actions. As part of the cultural heritage, these collections are theme-centered and kept decentralized but are often limited in their accessibility to the public, not yet developed to the necessary depth and endangered in their stock and preservation.

In a ten-year build-up phase, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, KultSam aims to develop, build and operate an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary virtual research environment for the study of human material culture or knowledge stored in museums and object collections. KultSam is supported by four research centers with interrelated fields of expertise and clearly outlined tasks:
  • Deutsches Museum Munich (documentation and digitization),
  • Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum (materiality),
  • Georg-August-University Göttingen (use of collections in research-oriented teaching) and
  • FIZ Karlsruhe (data management and long-term availability).
Further support will be given by the Leibniz research museums:
  • Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuremberg,
  • Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz and
  • Deutsches Schifffahrtsmuseum Bremerhaven
and institutions of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin:
  • Rathgen Forschungslabor (Rathgen Research laboratory),
  • ZEDIKUM – German Center for Digital Cultural Property in Museums and
  • Institut für Museumforschung (Institute for Museum Research).
Based on the experience gained by the research centers, a decentralized research infrastructure is being developed in cooperation with the partner organizations, which, in addition to the digital preparation of its own collections, will also record further cultural-historical data collections and provide standards, innovative information services and tools for the digitization of collections.

These are developed in six fields of action (scientific reflection and methodical expertise, documentation and digitization, a user-related research environment, education and teaching, research data and long-term availability, and governance, management, administration) and – after careful examination – provided for analysis and research questions at the KultSam-portal. Due to the national and interdisciplinary implementation and appeal of KultSam, the developed digitization standards can be implemented across institutions.
The collections, which are mostly stored in depots or magazines in German museums and research institutions, often inaccessible to the public, can be opened and made visible through digitization. KultSam faces this challenge with the aim of digitally preparing cultural historical collections, in the participating museums and beyond, to develop them in depth with the help of researchers and continuing links (Linked Open Data) and to make them available everywhere to everyone (Open Access).

KultSam addresses a diversified research community that spans classical humanities, social and cultural sciences and digital humanities as well as scientific disciplines in field research for preservation and conservation. KultSam will act as a mediator and initiator for interdisciplinary opportunities for collaborations.

For research-oriented teaching, KultSam provides accessible, well-developed, metadata-ready and quotable objects. Its interoperability enables the digital merging of heterogeneous data sets and standards as well as links to other databases.

Through an intuitive and barrier-free user-interface, KultSam also encourages the interested general public to explore the outstanding collections of German research and cultural institutions. The semantic reconditioning of collection data helps to guide users through the ever-growing database where they can “stroll” from record to record for results that would not be found in traditional relational systems.

The visibility of the objects in the internet increases their relevance in an international context. The KultSam-portal will be accessible to any user with an internet connection and allow the use of web-based analysis tools without further installation procedures. This should reduce technical barriers and enable user-friendly and intuitive operation for all user groups. As a result, KultSam also promotes the participation of diverse user groups through crowdsourcing, social tagging and other common methods of digital humanities. Through the constant exchange and interaction with the user community, which tests the developed standards and tools, KultSam can be continuously adapted and optimized during the operation.

KultSam will expand the cooperation network after the build-up phase in order to be able to constantly increase the range of services offered and to be able to react to current issues and requirements in the field of digitization.

In 2016, KultSam was added to the Leibniz roadmap for research infrastructures. As part of the ongoing preliminary phase, the concept is to be further developed so that it can be submitted to the next call for proposals for the National Roadmap of the Research Infrastructures of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. After a ten-year build-up phase starting around 2020, KultSam is to move into the operational phase.

Project Lead

Prof. Dr. Stefan Brüggerhoff

Stellvertretende Projektleitung
Dr. Michael Farrenkopf

Host institution

Deutsches Museum München
(Prof. Dr. Helmuth Trischler)


Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum
(Abteilung Sammlung und Dokumentation/montan.dok)

Financial Support

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung