What we do

ZB-Lab develops experimental digital applications for researchers in the humanities and social sciences as well as the public at large. Our prototypes are intended to make it easier to work digitally with the ZB’s data while also playing a part in the growth of open science.

Our user-centric working methods involve actively seeking dialogue with the research community. The feedback we receive allows us to assess and improve our projects through an iterative approach.

Besides digital humanities and citizen science, we are also interested in linked open data, the Wikiverse, machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, and the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF).

Projects and initiatives

Our projects and initiatives combine the fields mentioned above with data from the ZB’s catalogues and collections.


The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) makes it possible to collect and work on digital objects, regardless of where they are stored. This opens up huge potential for the social sciences and digital humanities. Our project aims to identify use cases for working with digital objects that are available as IIIF manifests, for example in e-manuscripta. We are investigating how users can harness the IIIF viewers Mirador and Universal Viewer to save, share and retrieve their own personal collections.

Video tutorials on IIIF

To make it easier to get started using the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), we have produced a series of video tutorials covering a range of topics from basic IIIF functions to cross-platform searches for digital objects and fundamentals of creating IIIF manifests. They are intended for digital-savvy researchers. Further tutorials are planned.

Open ZB-Lab (vDHd-2021)

ZB-Lab is taking part in the virtual Digital Humanities conference with its Open ZB-Lab workshop on 17 September 2021, which seeks to gauge researchers’ needs in terms of digital research services. Anyone interested is welcome to register at lab@zb.uzh.ch.


This initiative launched by ZB-Lab aims to make the ZB’s collections usable on Wikipedia and other wikis in collaboration with colleagues from other departments. The first three projects are:

  • Transferring musicians’ biographies and catalogues of their works from the ZB to Wikipedia to increase their visibility
  • Making images from the Steinfels Collection (18th-century views) available on Wikimedia Commons
  • Linking exhibitions to Wikipedia articles or media in the ZB using QR codes (QRpedia)

GLAMhack 2021

ZB-Lab took part in the seventh Swiss Open Cultural Data Hackathon on 16 and 17 April 2021. Also known as GLAMhack, the goal of the event is to design a digital solution based on a specific remit in a short space of time.

  • To complement the 3D model of the St. Gallen Globe, a concept was developed for an application that combines interactive elements and storytelling to teach people about this important object.
  • 1971 and all that – Women’s Right to Vote in Switzerland used natural language processing on newspaper articles about Switzerland’s decision to give women the vote in 1971 to visualise them as wordclouds and thus bring the zeitgeist to life.
  • The Making digitised scores audible project used optical music recognition – a form of optical character recognition for music scores – and machine learning to interpret old sheet music from e-rara and make it audible with the aid of notation software.
  • We were also involved in the project A walk through Zurich around 1910, which mapped city views taken in 1910 by Friedrich Ruef-Hirt from Zurich’s Architectural History Archive to a 3D model of Langstrasse to create a virtual tour.

Networking Itten

The Networking Itten project has entered its second phase, and ZB-Lab continues to be involved. It is working on a linked open data knowledge platform on the artist and art educator Johannes Itten (1888–1967).

Under the leadership of the Manuscript Department, the project is working together with Swiss Art Research Infrastructure (SARI). The aim is to create a web application that links the materials in the library’s Itten archive with other digitised sources and information and makes them searchable.

As well as assisting with the efforts to gauge research demand and develop the application, ZB-Lab is helping to provide the project with data from the Itten archive in a technically usable form.

Who we work with


If you are interested in ZB-Lab or have an idea of your own to contribute, please contact us at lab@zb.uzh.ch. We would be delighted to hear from you!