Digital platform for the Naturkundemuseum Leipzig (Natural Science Museum Leipzig)

Category: Culture & Marketing

Challenge title

Digital platform for the Naturkundemuseum Leipzig (Natural Science Museum Leipzig)


What could the concept for a digital platform look like that uses different digital channels, content and products and links them together in a targeted way?

Challenge description

Project Background:
For years, both the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum and the Naturkundemuseum Leipzig have been grappling with the question of how they can not only cope positively with the digital transformation in the future, but also qualify and further expand digital strategies. The aim is to create added value not only for the museums themselves, but also for the citizens of the city and for society as a whole.

Digital transformation – this is much more than just transferring analog formats into a digital equivalent. For us, it is the aspiration to generate new qualities of information exchange from the infinite dynamic data packages:

We museums want to create structures that do not simply allow different digital channels, content and products to coexist, but strategically coordinate them in a targeted manner. Existing offerings are to be expanded in terms of content, and new access points are to be created within the mediation, collection, and exhibition activities. Likewise, the user base is to be expanded so that the digital formats are aimed not only at museum audiences and scholars, but also at a broader public.

Vision / Expected Result

Objective and question:
Based on the characteristics of classical networks, the project partners envision a digital platform that is able to bundle information in an innovative way and provide it individually to a large number of users. The efficient linking of many individuals creates the great potential to create a collective memory in which people can immerse themselves, interact with each other and thus experience a playfully easy transfer of knowledge.

The core element of the application will be comprehensive digital, partly three-dimensional collections and objects as well as related content and documents, which will be brought into a multi-layered network of relationships. Thus, a network-like archive of things and knowledge will be created in a synthetic space that can be virtually walked through. The visitors are to be convinced by strong visual elements and invited to participate. This novel museum platform allows the creation of extraordinary virtual exhibitions, with surprising interdisciplinary approaches and dynamic, interactive adaptation to the needs of individual users. Objects and facts that were once artificially separated in the physical collections become part of a larger whole again. In this way, contexts can be visualized in the digital museum that would be impossible to produce in analog form.

With this idea, the participating museums are thus pursuing a novel approach to knowledge transfer, mediation, object and knowledge presentation, networking research, citizen science, as well as collecting and documenting. The structure to be created should be able to process information intelligently and, by means of an innovative control element, ensure that playfully simple, intuitive access is guaranteed despite permanently increasing data volumes.

With the implementation of this platform, the interdisciplinary cooperation between the museums as well as cultural and scientific institutions of the city of Leipzig will be strengthened in the short term and raised to a level that would be impossible to achieve analogously. In addition to facilitating the linking of heterogeneous collection holdings, simplified joint research and the provision of new findings in real time are conceivable. In the long term, the recording of private collections is to be connected, so that the objects contained therein can be made easily accessible to the scientific world and other interested users via the platform.

Following the example of modern applications in the gaming industry, we see our task in creating new levels of visualization, mediation, interaction as well as participation in relation to museum work. At the same time, we see ourselves with our concept as actors in the quality assurance of publicly accessible knowledge by means of authentic exhibits in the form of the classic specimens (holotype, paratype, lectotype, etc.) as well as the information embedded in them. In addition, the establishment and mutual provision of authentic digital vouchers will create an interactive marketplace of verified knowledge, which for the first time will also allow private collections to be scientifically processed without them being institutionally appropriated. The verified digital voucher grants potential access to information that is normally hidden because it is not publishable, thus expanding the breadth and depth of available knowledge.

Applications and formats
The platform to be created generates virtual, synthetic spaces, which grow organically according to the increase of new content. The innovative interface design guides users intuitively through the application and offers a visual experience. As a result, extensive new possibilities open up in terms of presentation and documentation, as well as targeted curation and collaborative research of objects from different institutions or collectors, regardless of their physical location. The simplification of merging the digitized material of many cooperation partners is ensured in the portal by means of an appropriate interface. At the same time, the incorporation of extensive metadata will ensure that meaningful contexts can be created between the information despite the large volumes of data. Quality control and assurance will be achieved by applying internationally established standards for processing collection data (Darwin Core, Europeana Semantic Elements, …) and by verifying entered data sets. In the long term, the platform to be developed offers the great opportunity to build a globally active knowledge network.

Structure of the platform
In order to create an appealing as well as meaningful joint implementation of the tasks of “digital curation” as well as the associated mediation and communication, the platform to be created is divided into four levels, to which different core functions, with varying depth of content, are assigned

1. Explorer – Cartographic access
The “Explorer” forms an entry level to the platform. By means of a cartographic, three-dimensional implementation, the user is provided with a playful as well as intuitive access to the treasures from the museums. The basis for this is the existing geodata infrastructure platform (GDI), which is currently being qualified by the Department for the Digital City of Leipzig as an urban data platform. Virtual walks, for example between find sites and associated museum objects, as well as zooming into the corresponding levels of meaning and details, allow an experienced transfer of knowledge entirely in the sense of modern storytelling.

With regard to the cooperation between the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of City History, formats can be implemented in particular that work through the development and history of the city space, for example using the example of “Matthäikirchhof” – the historical starting point of the city’s development, from the Precambrian to today’s cityscape, by linking their museum objects. The users can for example, move through different time levels and thus experience the change of the landscape as well as structural transformations in the urban area quasi up close. In this application level, digital exhibition spaces will also be created. Different levels of knowledge in the context of digital curating will be created here, and new, intercultural exhibition themes will be created, processed and digitally presented by various cultural institutions. In addition to analog exhibitions, it will be possible to organize joint projects on a specific topic by different museums on one platform and to make knowledge tangible.

The intelligent networking of multi-layered content, objects and information will encourage visitors to wander ever further through the synthetic spaces and to acquire new knowledge for themselves. This gamification approach makes it possible to address target groups that could not previously be reached by analog museums, especially with regard to knowledge transfer.

2. Dashboard – Discovering connections individually
The “dashboard” forms an area that can be designed by the individual user – the very personal, virtual “knowledge island”. Here, previously selected contents as well as objects and the associated information are called up and explored in detail. The stored data can be dynamically structured according to various contextual parameters and visually displayed in three-dimensional space. As a result, users have the possibility to create individual mind maps or knowledge webs from the stored data. Further on, elements of “recommendation marketing” are to be implemented on this level of the platform, so that “suitable” content is suggested to the user based on the previously viewed content, which was previously called up by other users with similar interests. Metadata forms the basis for recommendation from within the system or a guided tour.

3. Micro level – Generating and bundling new knowledge
The “micro level” serves the communication of the users as well as the active information growth on the basis of the collective knowledge. The individual two- or three-dimensional object is viewed and can be provided with comments by the users at any conceivable point. In this way, an exchange is generated between the actors, whether laymen or corresponding specialists, and information about the object is bundled. The community thus creates a node of connections directly at the digital museum, especially since contexts can be shown from the individual mind maps of other users. The information entered is moderated in that scientifically verified content is marked accordingly. In addition to the project goals mentioned so far, Open Data will also play a significant role. On the “micro level” a download and upload area will be established. This will allow the acquisition of 3D data, for example for the plastic printing of a document, or the exchange of virtual loans and the permanent integration of ever new content. The open access to these data and the possibility of enrichment via the comment function form the basis for projects in the field of citizen science.

4. Knowledge base – Store and share your own knowledge journeys
On the “Knowledge-Base” the individually tapped knowledge is stored, archived and structured in topic clusters. A knowledge timeline is created that stores created mind maps as well as tapped knowledge paths. Here, content sharing is to be enabled by an interface to social networks. In this way, users can interact with individual objects or exhibition topics, for example by making them available to a larger target group and discussing them publicly on social platforms using the “share” function. At the same time, eidetic memory is promoted.
The joint portal of the municipal museums in Leipzig is to be made available both at local media stations to museum visitors and online, browser-based and in real time, to interested users worldwide. The partial integration into already existing media stations and similar offers of the museums is also conceivable. With the development of the portal new ways of mediation, knowledge transfer, communication and interdisciplinary research with participation of Citizen Science for many different, very heterogeneous users are opened. This form of working with museum content also makes it possible to reach target groups that have not been reached by conventional analog approaches to education, outreach and exhibitions. In particular, the possibility of accessing content around the clock, in every corner of the world, offers the great opportunity to create a globally relevant product, which provides knowledge of research, cultural and educational institutions, individual scientists and lay people, networks and develops through mutual exchange.


Juliane Winges
Assistant to the Director, Naturkundemuseum Leipzig
Tel.: 0341 9822119

Further information

  • ——–
  • ——–
  • ——–

Thank you for your interest in the Smart City Challenge Leipzig 2023.