Digitalising Historical Aerial Photographs.

The challenges of a source between photography and cartography

Aerial photograph of Glogau on 03.02.1945
Aerial photograph of Glogau on 03.02.1945, call number: K17_15065_139, Detail

Project Leader: PD Dr. Christian Lotz
Dariusz Gierczak M.A.
Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the promotion of research and development projects relating to the digitalisation of objects of cultural heritage and e-heritage.
Duration: 02/2017 – 10/2017

Aerial photographs provide excellent source material for a number of historical subdisciplines ranging from environmental history to economic history and the history of knowledge and cartography. The Herder Institute has in its possession around 8,000 aerial photographs of Central and East Central Europe from the 1940s. A comprehensive design phase is necessary in order to digitalise the collection in such a way as to allow enhanced access to the in-depth information it contains. The process must be particularly detailed and thorough due to the wide range of inquiries made by researchers working in the historical subdisciplines and, also, due to the nature of the source itself, as an “in-between form” between the photograph and the map. For this reason, we need to consider carefully the standards of image sources and map sources when gathering and recording our meta data. Ultimately, the digitalisation concept that has been developed from the Herder Institute’s map collection will continue to serve, not just as a tool for preparing the Institute’s own holdings for digitalisation, but also – based on present standards – as an aid for our ongoing discussions on, for example, the potential and challenges of making other (similar) collections digitally accessible.