What is Coding da Vinci ?

Coding da Vinci is the first German open cultural data hackathon. Founded in Berlin in 2014, Coding da Vinci brings cultural heritage institutions together with the hacker & designer community to develop ideas and prototypes for the cultural sector and for the public.

Whilst 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 at least 6 weeks. This extended timeframe provides much-needed space for the formerly separate worlds of creative technology and cultural heritage to interact with and learn from each other.

The sprint begins with a two-day kick-off event: plenty of time for institutions to present their data sets, and for participants to make contact with the cultural heritage institutions, develop project ideas, and form teams. Over the next weeks, the teams work together to develop and submit their prototypes, before presenting them at the public award ceremony.


Presentation of the data
Workshops & meet the expert


Until the award ceremony you have 6 weeks to work on your project.

Award ceremony

Presentation of the projects & award ceremony

What new opportunities does the digital age present for cultural institutions?

What kind of creative possibilities can be realised if digitised cultural data is made freely available and reusable? More and more cultural heritage institutions are digitising their collections, making it (at least in theory) much easier to share the collections with the public. However, some in the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) space are hesitant to do so out of a fear that freely circulating digital cultural artifacts could be misused or that commercialisation by third parties could mean loss of value for the institutions.

Presentation of the projects

However, digital accessibility of artifacts has the effect of changing the relationship between cultural institutions and culturally interested people: if the digital counterparts of physical originals can be copied, if they can be modified, edited, and made available everywhere through the internet, the visitor is empowered and can actively participate in the creation of culture. Rather than just consuming knowledge, they have the possibility to spread, enrich, re-contextualize, and work with it in order to create new knowledge.

Sadly, despite their huge potential, this type of digital user is often unknown to the cultural institutions. Within the realms of networked possibilities available to us today, it becomes increasingly important for archives, museums and libraries to address the question of how they connect with their digital visitors, and how and in what shape they want to make their digital collections accessible.

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 are the goals of Coding da Vinci?

Coding da Vinci addresses these challenges head-on by creating a platform to connect cultural institutions and creative communities working with digital data. Since its launch in Berlin, 2014, the Coding da Vinci project has grown to become a well established part of the open cultural data landscape. The Coding da Vinci project archive is quickly becoming a great resource of examples and inspiration, enabling curators and those responsible for managing data repositories within cultural institutions to envision the potential of opening up digitized cultural artifacts to new users.

Following the success of the first regional Coding da Vinci event, Coding da Vinci Nord in Hamburg, 2016, the project is now expanding the around the country with regional events in Berlin-Brandenburg, Hamburg, Rhein-Main, and further regions to be confirmed.

The long-term mission of Coding da Vinci is to create lasting structures within which cultural institutions and interested sectors of civil society can work together through open data. We hope to support cultural institutions through this transition as they expand their open data policies, making our cultural heritage digitally accessible for everybody.

What is ‘open (cultural) data’?

Open data refers to metadata and content, that is placed under an open license, as described by the open definition. You can get a good introduction to concept of open data with this video from the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany

If datasets are created with public funds then it is hard to argue that they shouldn’t be freely accessible to everyone (as long as safety and personal privacy is not compromised). Open cultural data refers to digital records of the collections held by cultural heritage institutions that are placed in the public domain under open license. This year, Coding da Vinci is on track to feature over 100 open datasets (metadata, pictures, sounds and videos) addressing different cultural topics - from insect box scans, to historical buildings, painting, music instruments and much more! You can find all datasets, along with open source code from the participants of previous events for all past Coding da Vinci projects on these pages to explore and re-mix.

What can you do with cultural data?

In the last years, over 400 participants have realized 54 digital cultural projects using over 100 datasets provided by over 60 cultural institutions. All projects showed remarkable diversity and a high level of technical expertise. Many teams decided to create mobile apps: For example zzZwitscherwecker, which wakes you with a different bird call every morning and only turns off when the responsible bird is correctly identified, or Zeitblick, which analyses selfies to find your historical doppelganger from the archive of Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.

Overview of the projects

Many of the other projects took the form of websites that reveal new connections between different cultural heritage datasets through storytelling, interactive visualizations, and maps. Wiederaufbau Ost-Berlin, for example, is a responsive site that collects archive content from various sources and combines to make location-specific tours which reconstruct the GDR government's vision for the capital in texts and images on your mobile device. Several teams have ventured even further, creating augmented reality experiences or hardware prototypes, for example the Cyberbeetle, a robot reincarnation of the Chalcosoma Atlas beetle, exhibited in the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, complete with his own high-tech insect box featuring an interactive home theater where he can enjoy nature-inspired music videos.

Over the years, participating cultural institutions are regularly surprised and impressed by how Coding da Vinci participants chose to explore and interpret their data.

Thomas Kollatz of the Salomon-Ludwig-Steinheim-Institut für deutsch-jüdische Geschichte made a point of commending the great teamwork he experienced with the Poetic Relief project whose team members also, in his words, brought to light inconsistencies and terminological issues in their data through relentless attention to detail. Ruth Rosenberger, Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, expressed how exciting it was to collaborate with a young, interdisciplinary team, who looked at archival images with fresh eyes. Impressed with the concepts they came up with and how much they were able to create in a short time, for her it also highlighted the kind technological competence necessary for a modern museum to take its place in digital culture.

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Coding da Vinci - Der Kultur-Hackathon is a joint project of Deutsche Digitalen Bibliothek (DDB), Open Knowledge Foundation Germany e.V. (OKF DE), Research and Competence Center for Digitalisation Berlin (digiS) and Wikimedia Deutschland e.V. (WMDE).