A Digital Network for University Collections – Berlin University Alliance

Research collections are a longstanding part of teaching traditions at universities all over the world. Such collections result from scientific and scholarly research and provide a valuable resource for specific fields of study. The abundant variety of subject matters provides a diverse accumulation of sources, which enables and supports studies in the histories of the respective disciplines, in cultural history and history of science. Furthermore, this heterogeneity is of great interest for collaborative collection development and research.

Kristallographische Sammlung, Humboldt-Universität © Sammlungsfotografen 2020

Kristallographische Sammlung, Humboldt-Universität © Sammlungsfotografen 2020

We currently know about 90 research collections at universities in Berlin, some of which are unique in nature. These collections are commonly under the charge of the respective departments, which benefits their integration in research and teaching. The lack of organised networking between collections affects a broader visibility and hinders access for a wider range of users.

Our project’s objective is a feasibility study for a digital network connecting research collections at universities in Berlin. We will examine the following aspects:

  • researching and referencing collections and objects
  • identifying and assessing collections
  • generating and linking metadata
  • supporting research of object provenances
  • assisting science transfer

Providing an easily accessible, central collaborative network expedites a variety of research options. It helps provenance research, supports collaborations in teaching and cooperative research, simplifies the curation of exhibitions and encourages citizen science projects. The interdisciplinary nature of collections and the diversity of the respective requirements make instituting such a system a challenging task. Our projects aim is to develop and evaluate a concept for this task within 19 months. We will address both facilitating collections as a scientific and scholarly resource, and supporting the needs and requirements of research collections at universities in Berlin.

Our project is part of the Objective 5 posed by the Berlin University Alliance (BUA), „Sharing Resources“. A collaborative team heads our project. Team members adhere to Charité, Freie Universität and Humboldt-Universität, three major universities in Berlin. Our project addresses all institutions of the BUA. The representatives for collection management at Technische Universität and Freie Universität are closely involved in the planning.

The Coordination Centre for Scientific University Collections in Germany (Humboldt-Universität) is an important partner of our project. An international advisory board supports and ensures the comprehensive and transdisciplinary approach to the project and its strategic alignment.

During the project, we assess IT systems and digital tools. The evaluation regards their application in scientific and scholarly research, their capacities in linking and cataloguing collections, and their ability to meet specialist requirements posed by researchers. Individual demands of working with collections in research, teaching and dissemination are explored in exemplary case studies.

As a result, our project will formulate and publish a digital strategy for university collections. This will provide a basis for creating a sustainable collaborative reference for research collections at universities in Berlin in future projects.

Project management

Dr. Yong-Mi Rauch (Representative of collections, HU)

Dr. Andreas Brandtner (Director of the University Library, Freie Universität)

Prof. Dr. Thomas Schnalke (Director of the Museum of Medical History, Charité)


Dr. Franziska Hormuth (Collection networking and Communication)

Dr. Michael Müller (IT-Infrastructure)


Logo Berlin University Alliance

Gefördert vom Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) und dem Land Berlin im Rahmen der Exzellenzstrategie von Bund und Ländern