Screenshot from the Citizen Archive project on zooniverse - an initiative of the IRS and Programmfabrik ( easydb )

CitizenAchives at zooniverse – Leibniz Institute for Spatial Social Research (IRS)

The successful collaboration between easydb and zooniverse in the Citizen Archive project enables efficient management and presentation of image material, while at the same time giving citizens the opportunity to research and describe the construction and planning history of the GDR.

CitizenAchives: Exploring the building and planning history of the GDR together

Citizen Archive p

The Citizen Archive project is a joint initiative of the Leibniz Institute for Spatial Social Research (IRS) and Programmfabrik . It enables interested citizens to research and describe images from the personal collections or estates of protagonists of urban development in the former GDR. The scientific collections on the building and planning history of the GDR at the Leibniz Institute for Spatial Social Research (IRS) have valuable holdings, but have limited resources for digitizing, indexing and making the archive holdings usable for the public. The Citizen Archive project offers a solution by engaging citizens to share their knowledge and memories with the images, thereby unearthing inaccessible cultural and historical treasures. The project also makes it possible to delve into the history of everyday life in the former GDR from new perspectives. The shared images do not contain any additional Info or descriptions. This means that viewers have to evaluate the objects on their own, without any background knowledge of the content shown.


The Citizen Archive project uses easydb as an image database to manage and present a large collection of images. However, in order to include external actors in the project and to use a comprehensive comment function, zooniverse is also used. zooniverse's flexible comment function allows users to share their thoughts, ideas and interpretations of the images in an interactive and collaborative environment. This helps provide a broader and more diverse perspective on the images and their meaning.


zooniverse is a platform run by Oxford University that mainly runs science projects, but also some humanities projects such as history and art history. A large number of well-known projects are already represented on the platform:

  1. Galaxy Zoo : This project allows participants to analyze and classify images of galaxies to help astronomers research and catalog galaxies.
  2. Planet Hunters : This project scours data from NASA satellites to search . Participants help analyze light curves and identify possible planet discoveries.
  3. Picturing Michigan's Past: This is a project that aims to showcase Michigan's history through visual representations. The project has already been completed on zooinverse and is being evaluated.

Key facts

  • Start of the project: December 1st, 2021
  • Term: 24 months
  • Objects in easydb : 25,000
  • Images in zooniverse: 854

easydb modules

  • easydb basic version

Additional Services

  • Training on how to use easydb
  • Workshop regarding data exchange between easydb and zooniverse

Integration of zooniverse to expand the comment function

During the implementation of the Citizen Archive project, it was determined that an expanded comment function was needed to meet the needs of the project. Alternative solutions were sought to allow for detailed comments from various citizens and to move the project forward. The most promising option was zooniverse. An interface to zooniverse was not immediately necessary as it is a browser-based platform. The images are currently being uploaded to zooniverse as image sets and the citizens' feedback is being transferred to easydb via CSV file after cleaning up unnecessary data. The Programmfabrik team is working on a plugin to make the transfer to easydb easier.

Factors for choosing easydb in the Citizen Archive project

The fact that easydb was already successfully used as an image database at the IRS supported the decision to also use easydb for the Citizen Archive project. This meant that the project team was able to rely on tried and tested software that has already proven itself in a similar environment. This allows staff to seamlessly integrate and deliver optimal performance for the Citizen Archive project.

The reasons for using easydb at the IRS and in the Citizen Archive project can be explained by Paul Perschke (project manager) using the following aspects:

  1. Versatility in file format support: easydb can handle a variety of file formats, not just images. This is particularly important because the IRS's academic collection includes a wide variety of formats.
  2. Connection to the German Digital Library (DDB): The integration of easydb enables a direct connection to the higher-level portal of the German Digital Library, which means that the collection objects can be made accessible to a wider audience.
  3. Linking to your own specialist portal and using your own website to present the collection objects: With easydb it is possible to present the collection objects effectively and attractively both in your own specialist portal and on the institute's website.
Screenshot © Citizen Archive / IRS

Adaptations and integration of easydb in the Citizen Archive project: training, plugin development and system additions

As part of the implementation of the Citizen Archive project, the basic version of easydb was successfully used. Some adjustments and configurations were made to meet the specific requirements of the project. For example, one goal of the project is to develop additional plugins, such as an AI-supported Semantic Web plugin for identifying problematic terms and a plugin that enables data exchange between easydb and the zooniverse platform. The latter is currently in the development phase.

To introduce and implement easydb several training sessions were held, which were led by a project manager from the Programmfabrik . The IRS employees involved, including a project manager, a project manager and a student employee, acquired a solid foundation in using easydb through these training courses. Nevertheless, the majority of the required knowledge was acquired through “learning by doing” over the course of the project. In particular, the creation of metadata models and the flexible allocation of rights in easydb turned out to be complex but very comprehensive.

The Support from the Programmfabrik proved to be extremely helpful, especially the ticket system, which allowed employees to receive quick help if they had any questions or problems.


The connection between easydb and zooniverse in the Citizen Archive project generates a productive synergy that enables both the effective organization and presentation of image content as well as the integration of citizens to investigate and describe the construction and planning history of the GDR. easydb , as a versatile and adaptable system, offers a solid basis for managing different file formats, connecting to the German Digital Library and linking to your own specialist portal. zooniverse, on the other hand, expands the project with an interactive and collaborative comment function that allows users to contribute their thoughts, ideas and interpretations. This collaboration between the two systems contributes to the research and development of hidden cultural and historical resources and enables a profound insight into everyday life in the former GDR from different perspectives.

Although the project cannot be extended with the current funding, future developments and expansions are planned. This includes the continued use of easydb in conjunction with zooniverse, the development of new plugins and the implementation of the new online portal for the ISF's scientific collections (from autumn 2023). Continuing civic engagement in the project remains a central concern.

Email contacts for communication and additional Info

Dr. Rita Gudermann | Project leader of the Citizen Archive project

Paul Perschke | Project editor of the Citizen Archive project

Sebastian Klarmann | commercial director Programmfabrik

Links to the Citizen Archive project

Info about the Citizen Archive project on the IRS website

zooniverse access for public participation in the Citizen Archive project

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