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Reading Traces: Visualising Fontane's Reference Library

Research cooperation with the Theodor Fontane Archive Potsdam

Screenshot des Forschungsprojekts "Lesespuren: Fontanes Handbibliothek visualisieren"
Research project
Digital Transformation – Urban Futures
Cooperation partners:
Theodor Fontane Archive / University of Potsdam

The aim of this project is to explore explorative ways of acquiring and communicating knowledge in the digital space and to develop a prototype for the digitised reference library of Theodor Fontane. In its current state, the reference library in the Theodor Fontane Archive in Potsdam comprises approx. 150 works and is supplemented by a bibliographic data stock of the "virtual library", which comprises such works that were received by Fontane but are not (any longer) in the archive's collection. In a future digital presentation of the holdings, the current and virtual libraries are to be combined and the approx. 63,000 individual pages of the reference library are to be made available in their entirety for the first time.

The aim is to create an interactive visualisation that opens up new and insightful perspectives on a unique author's library and makes it usable and explorable for research as well as for the public. In the process, Fontane will become visible as a reader, but also as a commentator on the works of other authors. For it is not least the numerous annotations and comments that Fontane placed in handwriting as marginalia in the margins of the works that make the collection so appealing and valuable.

In view of the large data space, which is concretely limited in part by the reference library, this project raises questions not only about the visual exploration of the data, but also about the mediation of Fontane and his habits of reception. In interdisciplinary cooperation with the Fontane Archive, these questions will first be fleshed out and finally grounded in cultural studies and philosophy in the development of a concept. In the prototype, these theoretical findings will finally be implemented in the form of a new type of graphic user interface that will invite users to explore a multi-layered author library.

To the prototype:

Förderlogo des Theodor Fontane Archivs
Förderlogo der Universität Potsdam

Project participants

Project management

Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk

Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk

Research professor for Information Visualization & Management
Co-director of Urban Complexity Lab (UCLAB)


Mark-Jan Bludau, M.A.

Mark-Jan Bludau, M. A.

Academic assistant at UCLAB in the research project "GraDiM: Granularitäten von Zerstreuung und Materialität – Visualisierung eines Fotoarchivs über Diaspora"