We take an experimental approach to the development of service solutions, and address both the potential of our digital assets and the needs of our user groups. We actively support open science and advocate an open library infrastructure.

Insights ZB-Lab

Don't miss a thing! In our newsletter, we provide insights into our work at the ZB-Lab about twice a year.

Enabling open data

Making ZB resources more accessible

ZB’s digital infrastructure has grown over time and includes numerous data repositories. Searching, finding and scraping often-dispersed digital inventories can be very time-consuming for researchers in the digital humanities. We have created a prototypical index (One API) that brings together persistent identifiers of ZB’s digital resources (metadata, full texts and digital copies). We are also experimenting with making the aggregated data searchable and downloadable, which will eliminate the need for researchers to scrape it themselves.

One API followed extensive preparatory work, which included documenting our data, data repositories, interfaces and data flows. Researchers in the digital humanities are already able to use the resulting Data Map, which was created by developer Annabelle Wiegart.

Collecting, saving and sharing digital copies

With the help of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), we are keen to give researchers in the humanities the opportunity to collect digital copies worldwide, save them as an IIIF Collection, share them using persistent identifiers (URLs) and make them citable. This requires two tools: ZB detektIIIF and the ZB viewer (Mirador Viewer).

  1. The ZB-detektIIIF browser plug-in automatically recognises IIIF-compliant digital copies. These can be collected with a click and transferred to the Zentralbibliothek’s ZB viewer as an IIIF collection.
  2. Our next project concerns development of a ZB viewer function that will allow IIIF collections to be saved and shared.

Our ZB viewer will be supplemented by a feature that will allow users to open, compare and analyse any number of digital copies from e-manuscripta side by side. This feature can be found in the title view of the work, under ‘IIIF’. Add digital copies to the ZB viewer by clicking on ‘Mirador Viewer’.

Our IIIF tools can be accessed via this link.

ZB data in the wikiverse

This ongoing initiative, launched by the ZB Lab, consists of various projects in which we and colleagues from other ZB departments seek to make our collections accessible on Wikipedia and other wiki platforms.

‘Upload Sammlung Steinfels’ is a larger project that is already complete. In this case, the aim was to make 1,916 18th-century Swiss landscape paintings from the ZB’s Graphic Collection available on Wikimedia Commons. The mass upload tool Pattypan was used as part of this cross-departmental project. Further uploads are planned.

Another project involved transfer of the biographies and catalogues of works of musicians from ZB to Wikipedia to make them publicly visible. And in yet another project, we used QR codes (QRpedia) to link to Wikipedia articles as a way of expanding the contextual perspective on ZB exhibits in one of our Treasury exhibitions.

Building data literacy

Digital Humanities Practice Studio: a series of workshops on tools and methods 

There are currently all sorts of ways of incorporating digital tools into research practice in the humanities. But how do you know whether you’re using the right tool for the job? How much time do you lose getting to grips with the technology? And what’s the easiest way of accessing the digital humanities? Together with the Digital History Lab at the University of Zurich (DHL), we’ve invited a number of experts to present their digital methods to us. At the Digital Humanities Practice Studio, we get to shadow these specialists as they go about their work and gain an insight into how they have methodically adapted the digital tools to their academic activities in the humanities.

View the programme

Summer Schools

2023 Summer School: Introduction to digital editing

What tools do you need to be able to edit source texts professionally? The editorial team at the Jeremias Gotthelf Research Centre at the University of Bern, led by Dr Christian von Zimmermann, reveal their technical expertise in encoding texts in the TEI. They also provide an insight into their editorial work, different types of text commentary and cross-linking with standard data. The programme concludes with two evening lectures relating to the topic, given by Dr Maria Effinger (Heidelberg University Library) and Stefan Dumont (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities). The Summer School has been jointly organised by the Digital Production and Platforms (ZB) department and the ZB Lab, with the aim of encouraging young researchers to carry out their own digital editorial projects.

2022 Summer School on literary texts and data mining

It is very important to us that researchers can make good use of our digitised works. In order to bring digital research methods to the people, the ZB-Lab has organised a Summer School in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Berenike Herrmann (Bielefeld) and Jesko Reiling (Digital Production and Platforms). At our two-day summer school (29–30 June 2022), the attendees learned the basics of text and data mining. Professor Berenike Herrmann’s research group (Bielefeld) quickly familiarised us with R! software and showed us how questions can be posed and modelled on a corpus of German-Swiss literature. The two-day event was extremely inspiring.

The course materials are openly accessible and the lectures can be viewed on YouTube:

IIIF explained

To make it easier to start working with the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), we created a series of video tutorials in our very first ZB Lab project in winter 2020/21. These range from basic IIIF functions and the cross-platform search for digital copies to knowledge bases for creating individual IIIF manifests. The tutorials are aimed primarily at researchers in the humanities who work with digital copies. Other tutorials are being planned.

In conversation with researchers

In-depth interviews

We conducted in-depth interviews with young researchers in the humanities and digital humanities at the University of Zurich to learn about the challenges they encounter when dealing with ZB’s digital infrastructure, inventory and services, and how their working methods have changed against the backdrop of digital transformation. The knowledge gained should serve as a basis for new and optimised ZB research services.

Open ZB Lab workshop

At the virtual Digital Humanities Conference (vDHd2021), the ZB Lab held the Open ZB Lab workshop to explore the requirements of DH researchers. We gained a lot of insights and were able to explore the topics identified in the workshop in greater depth in our interviews with researchers.

ZB Lab on tour

IIIF Annual Conference 2022

We made two contributions to the annual IIIF Annual Conference 2022 (6–8 June 2022). In the lecture ‘Reaching out to the Crowds – IIIF as a Scholarly Practice’, we provided insights into the results of usability tests related to our IIIF tools and talked about our interviews with young academics, with a particular emphasis on the research practice of humanities scholars. The lecture is still available to view on YouTube. At the same event, the issue of how to optimise the IIIF image viewer Mirador and adapt it to academic use was discussed in the ‘Mirador as a Workspace’ workshop together with the IIIF community.

IIIF as research practice

Our IIIF initiatives are aimed at encouraging humanities scholars to integrate IIIF into their research practice. Open-access resources and open-source tools, such as ZB-detektIIIF, pave the way for the sustainable handling of research data. We presented our vision at the Open Science Conference and in a more subject-specific format at the Swiss Congress for Art History on 23 June 2022.


2023 GLAMhack 

This event is a must for anyone interested in cultural heritage data and analysing, enriching and visualising it, making innovative use of it and processing it in an artistic way. The ninth Swiss Open Cultural Data Hackathon will take place at the Musée d'ethnographie de Genève from 29 to 30 September. This year’s theme is ‘Colonial collections, provenance research and the application of the FAIR and CARE principles in data governance’.

ZB Zürich will be the data provider for the event, and the ZB Lab is currently preparing the digital documents and data. Details about the data sets will soon be available on the Challenges page, so do check it out!

More information, including related pre-events and registration.

2021 GLAMhack

The ZB Lab was involved in the seventh Swiss Open Cultural Data Hackathon on 16–17 April 2021. The GLAMhacks aim to design a digital solution in a short time, based on a specific task.

  • An application concept was developed to match the 3D model of the St Gallen Globe, using interactive elements and storytelling components to convey knowledge about this remarkable object.
  • 1971 and all that – Women’s Right to Vote in Switzerland – Using natural language processing, newspaper articles on women’s suffrage in Switzerland (granted in 1971) were visualised in the form of word clouds to convey the political atmosphere of the time.
  • In the project Making digitised scores audible, old prints from e-rara were read out via a machine learning process using optical musical recognition – a form of optical character recognition for musical materials – and thus rendered into sound with notation software.
  • We were also involved in the project A walk through Zurich around 1910. City views in 1910 by Friedrich Ruef-Hirt from the Architectural History Archive were mapped on to a 3D model of Langstrasse and made virtually accessible.

Get involved with the ZB Lab!

We would like to make direct contact with researchers in order to include them in our development and collect their feedback and requirements. Are you a researcher in the digital humanities or a humanities scholar? Support your community by supporting us. Be a part of our development:

Our partners

We are participating in the establishment of the Centre of Digital Editions & Edition Analytics (ZDE) and are working on the dissemination of digital skills in conjunction with the Digital Library Space (DLS) and the Digital History Lab (DHL) at the University of Zurich.