What is Coding da Vinci ?

Coding da Vinci is the first German open cultural data hackathon that started in Berlin 2014 and will run once a year. We want to bring together both cultural heritage institutions and the hacker & designer community to develop ideas and prototypes for the cultural sector and the public.

Whereas a classic hackathon offers its participants only a short time frame - typically a weekend - to develop software applications, Coding da Vinci runs for a total of 10 weeks. Since it was the first event of its kind, combining the formerly separate worlds of technology and cultural heritage, the organizers chose this more extensive timeframe in order to provide the much-needed space to interact with and learn about each other.

At the beginning of the 10 weeks, a two-day inaugural event takes place. The purpose is to offer sufficient time for the institutions to present their data sets, and for the participants to make contact with the GLAMs in order to develop project ideas and to form teams for their realization. The teams then can use the coming 10 weeks to develop prototypes, that are presented and evaluated at a public award ceremony in July (sprint phase).

Inaugural Event
25th/26th of April 2015

Presentation of the data
Workshops & meet the expert


Until the award ceremony you have 10 weeks to work on your project.

Award ceremony
5th of July 2015

Presentation of the projects & award ceremony

What are the goals of Coding da Vinci?

What kinds of creative possibilities can be uncovered if digitized cultural data is made freely available and reusable? More and more cultural heritage institutions (as GLAM for galleries, libraries, archives and museums) are digitizing their collections, thus (in theory) making it much easier to share the collections with the public. However, some decision makers in the GLAM space are hesitant to do so out of a fear that freely circulating cultural artefacts could result in a loss of value when used in commercial applications. Others fear cases of misuse or a reduction in economic value of their respective institutions. In many cases, and especially in Germany, there is a lack of best practice case studies, which enable curators and those responsible for managing scientific repositories within the cultural institutions to envision the potential of opening up digitized cultural artifacts to competent users.

Presentation of the projects

The relationship between cultural institutions and consumers of culture is changing direction due to the digital availability of the artifacts: if the digital counterparts of physical originals can be copied without cost, if they can be modified, edited, and made available everywhere through the Internet, the consumer is empowered and can actively participate in the creation of culture. These empowered consumers are called prosumers - people, who do not only consume knowledge but instead want to spread, enrich, re-contextualize, and work with it in order to create new knowledge. And sadly, despite the huge potential that lies within the prosumer, this type of digital user is often unknown to the cultural institutions. Within the realms of networked possibilities available to us today, libraries, and museums increasingly have to deal with the question how they can reach their digital visitors, and how and in what shape they want to make their digital collections available.

It is now time to discover what new perspectives and questions arise from this digitisation; to see what role GLAMs will play in promoting cultural heritage, allowing access to new target groups; and to gather experience from within the sector.

What is ‘open (cultural) data’?

Open data refers to data and content, that is placed under an open license. The open definition defines, what this means precisely. Open cultural data is usually held by cultural heritage institutions such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs). This year, Coding da Vinci is on track to feature 30+ datasets addressing different cultural topics - from insect box scans, to historical buildung, music instruments and much more! To find more information visit our data section and explore freely usable metadata, pictures, sounds and videos.

Working on the projects

What can you do with cultural data?

Last year, 150 participants realized 17 digital cultural projects using 16 datasets provided by the cultural institutions. All projects showed remarkable diversity and a high level of technical expertise. Many teams decided to create mobile apps: Alt Berlin, an iOS app that enables the user to interactively experience the historic development of Berlin, Ethnoband, an HTML5-Webapp with which users can play instruments of the Ethnologisches Museum, and zzZwitscherwecker, an App, that plays a different birdvoice every morning and only will turn off, if the right bird is allocated to the voice.

Overview of the projects

Another big group among the presenting participants built websites to showcase new connections between various types of cultural heritage data through storytelling, interactive visualizations, and map applications. The frontend application Kulturchronologie for instance displays comprehensive chronologies and historical events visually. The browser app Mnemosyne, which can also be used as a permanent installation in cultural institutions, offers the user a symbiosis of digital and analogue reality by allowing him or her to stroll through large cultural datasets, browsing their content. Some of the presented projects featured hardware prototypes, augmented-reality applications, and programming tools for the developer community.

On the side of the spectators the event resulted in great excitement, and the cultural institutions were astonished and hugely impressed with the results of what the participants created using their data.

Sebastian Ruff (Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin) said the hackathon had opened his eyes to new perspectives and approaches.

Thomas Kollatz of the Salomon Ludwig Steinheim-Institut für deutsch-jüdische Geschichte refers especially to the great teamwork with the Poetic Relief-Team, which in his words has brought to light inconsistencies and terminological issues through tenacious attention to detail, thus improving upon the open exchange format previously provided.

Your question has not yet been answered?

Just write to:
helene.hahn(at), project lead
bela.seeger(at), project manager
or call: +49 30 57703666 2

Coding da Vinci - Der Kultur-Hackathon is a community project of Deutsche Digitalen Bibliothek (DDB), Open Knowledge Foundation Germany e.V. (OKF DE), Servicestelle Digitalisierung Berlin (digiS) and Wikimedia Deutschland e.V. (WMDE).