Rettet die Spielebücher: InGameGrafik (Jester Blank BgR, CC BY 4.0)

Save the Gamebooks

Project description

The Berlin State Library has systematically built up an internationally renowned collection of pop-ups, paper stages and other gamebooks dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Their characteristic moveable elements invite to play and interact with these books. Said collection constitutes the basis for a concept study – funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the project acronym BeWeB-3D and targeted to archives, libraries and museums – on how to digitize and visualize moveable books and dynamic book objects in 3D. Due to the recent material turn in the Humanities this has become a major task for cultural heritage institutions in general. The BeWeB-3D project was carried out in cooperation with the Berlin-based Center for Digital Cultural Heritage in Museums (ZEDIKUM).

On the basis of the data generated in this context museum4punkt0 – a national joint project led by Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz – has developed a browser game for children to show the connection between historical moveable books and modern video games.


Design-Entwürfe für die Hauptfigur: Jester Blank GbR, CC BY 4.0

Drafts for the main character: Jester Blank GbR, CC BY 4.0



Bewegungsbücher digital

Zentrum für Digitale Kulturgüter in Museen

Browsergame “Save the Gamebooks”

Paper craft sheet with game characters


Source Code


Contact persons

Silke Krohn – museum4punkt0, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz,

Christian Mathieu – Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin,


Memory of the Precariat

This project was developed during the hackathon Coding Precarity and was awarded by the jury in the category “Most Political”.



Precarious working and living conditions have many faces. In this memory game it is your task to discover the similarities in diversity. Click on the symbols and get to know historical and contemporary members of the precariat. Some positions seem to have hardly changed over time, while others have disappeared and new ones came up. By moving the circles together, you discover what links past and present. The different appearances of precarious conditions often disguise the fact hat they are based on similar social and economical dynamics. The memory game attempts to reveal these connections, so that we can ask ourselves: Can solidarity be rethought throw this emerging network?

The figures shown in the game are not real persons. However, their stories are based on historical texts from the digitized collections of the Berlin State Library and the ZBW as well as on contemporary studies and reports from labour unions and newspapers.



The memory game is technically implemented as a simple, modern web application with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The persons and their connections are represented as an undirected graph and are drawn dynamically and force-based in the Springy library. Each new connection potentially sets the whole graph in motion. diffDOM ensures that only changes are drawn, which decreases computing time.



Memory Game






More outcomes of the hackathon Coding Precarity can be found here.


Precarious Spaces

This project was developed during the hackathon Coding Precarity and was awarded by the jury in the category “Most Educational”.



The digital exhibition “Precarious Spaces”, created during the hackathon “Coding Precarity” at the Berlin State Library, focuses on street as a public space in which precarity is debated and performed.

Those who live and work in precarious conditions are often overlooked and forgotten in public perception. The digital exhibition makes them visible within the fictional street, the center around which other spaces are grouped. The focus on the spatial dimension puts conditions and structures in perspectives, not only individual fates.

Coloured figures act as guides, leading us from the street to other spaces, where exemplary stories about precarious life are told, such as the jail, the grocery store, the inn, the factory. The street riot broaches the issue of protest against precarious conditions.

The frame is set by the historical sources, dating mainly from the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. At the same time, viewers are invited to establish a link to their own experiences, exploring the spaces by themselves. This allows for a low-threshold approach to the complex issue of precarity.



In the concept development phase, the group soon agreed on a narrative approach. The concept allowed for telling different stories, throwing lights on topics such as economic conditions, social decline and marginalisation, which were combined to form a critial overall picture. Every group member thus contributed their own part of the project by creating one space. Finally, a clickable prototype was implemented and subsequently converted into a website.

The group worked with a wide range of documents from different data sets provided by the Berlin State Library and the ZBW. The selection was associative rather than systematic. Statistical data, text snippets, quotes from historical biographies, pictures by Heinrich Zille and caricatures are combined in a collage. Fragments thus form an overall picture of precarity in the exhibition.

We would have liked to add further spaces, such as private appartments, schools, orphanages or asylums, as well as other forms of precarity located in the public space of the street, such as homelessness or prostitution. Another interesting aspect would have been the visualization of relations between the spaces, as for example the paths from the jail to homelessness, from the factory to street riots, and from the inn to prostitution.



Explore the exhibition


More outcomes of the hackathon Coding Precarity can be found here.

Historical Memes For German Teens

This project was developed during the hackathon Coding Precarity and was awarded by the jury in the category “Most Innovative”.

„Historical Memes For German Teens“ uses the meme format to provide insights into economic and socio-political questions of the late 19th and early 20th century for a young generateion with an affinity for the Internet. Natural Language Processing (NLP) was used to select appropriate texts from the data set “Socialism and Liberalism”, which were then inserted into the image template.


Why Memes?

Memes are small pictures spread in the Internet, often scenes taken from films, which communicate new content by adding text to the picture. Memes can be harmless jokes, but also convey satirical content and social criticism.

Since the creation and distribution of memes is very simple and young people feel particularly addressed by them, memes are nowadays also uesd in online marketing. If the aim is to communicate political content, memes have the advantage of reaching also a non-political audience and can normalize previously radical ideas through their funny presentation.

The meme we use became viral in 2011 and shows a scene from a Japanese animated film by Katori Yutaro, Taiyou no Yuusha Fighbird (Brave of the Sun Fighbird).


How does the text get on the picture?

In order to select text parts from the data set, Natural Language Processing methods were used, namely Topic Modelling and Named Entity Recognition (NER).

In a first step, Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is used to calculate the topics occurring in the data set. A topic is a collection of words, e.g. “housing issue, housing policy, rent, building, floor plan, municipality”. In a second step, named entities, i.e. proper names, are recognized. These can be organizations, persons, or places, such as “Berliner Beamtenwohnungsverein”, “Ira Stewart”, “Königs-Wusterhausen”. In a third step, proper names are assigned to topics, if a word from a topic occurs in a proper name.

The last step is the actual meme generator: a topic is randomly chosen and combined with three proper names assigned to the topic, which are placed on the image template, thus creating funny and surprising results!



Project presentation

Jupyter Notebook


More outcomes of the hackathon Coding Precarity can be found here.



Projects Hackathon Coding Precarity 2020

In September 2020 the hackathon „Coding Precarity – Social Issues in Cultural Data“, organized by the Berlin State Library and the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, took place in Berlin. During this three-day event, interdisciplinary teams of computer scientists, designers and humanities scholars developed innovative projects using digitised historical documents from the Berlin State Library and the ZBW, addressing questions such as precarious employment, economic uncertainty, and social marginalization.

Short descriptions of the projects realised during the event and awarded by the jury can be found below.



Housing Shortage Tetris

This project was developed during the hackathon Coding Precarity and was awarded by the jury in the category “Best Metaphor”.


Idea and Concept

In the Housing Shortage Tetris game, players are requested to place a certain amount of tenants inside a given living space. What comes across as a colourful and popular classic game reveals its conceptual intricacy at a second glance. For the Tetris figures are typical inhabitants of a 19th century town. Here, homeworkers spend the night next to migrant workers, and during daytime the same beds are often rented by the hour to so-called sleeping lads. Saleswomen, girls for everything, and factory workers share the crowded living space with retired relatives and many children. The Tetris game thus serves as a metaphor, visualizing the housing conditions in large cities.


Realization and Implementation

For the realization and implementation we used Figma, a collaborative interface design tool and Godot, an open source game engine. Godot allows for designing Tetris figures individually. We developed nine different figures representing the typical tenement house inhabitants in 19th century Berlin.

With each game level it becomes more difficult to place the necessary number of tenants inside the given living space, as their number and speed is constantly increasing. Through this gamification approach, the important (and today again extremely prevailing) issue of affordable and appropriate housing might also reach politically less informed groups.



The Tetris game idea could be further developed, e.g., by including other housing shortage scenarios provided by the data sets, such as housing conditions in the countryside, in smaller towns or from other metropolitan areas such as Hamburg. Hourly bed rentals to sleeping lads or the accommodation of homeless people in asylums could be modelled into separate playing arenas with their own game logics.




Interface Design Tool Figma

Godot Game Engine


Game on GitHub (

Project on GitHub (



Gameplay video:



The team behind Housing Shortage Tetris is: Bruno Puri (B.A. in Computer Science, Technische Universität Berlin), Maryna Honcharenko (Interface B.A., FH Potsdam), Manuel Pfeuffer (M.Sc. Statistics, Humboldt-Universität Berlin), and Anna Meide (Interface B.A., FH Potsdam,



More outcomes of the hackathon Coding Precarity can be found here.

Projects Hackathon Coding Gender 2019

In the summer of 2019 the hackathon „Coding Gender – Women in Cultural Data“ took place in the Berlin State Library. During this three-day event, interdisciplinary teams of computer scientists, designers and humanities scholars developed innovative projects using digitised historical documents from the Berlin State Library and addressing questions such as the visibility of women in cultural data, the construction and representation of gender roles and the relation between today’s socio-political debates and historical gender stereotypes.

Short descriptions of the projects realised during the event and awarded by the jury can be found below. The topic data sets created from the Digitised Collections of the Berlin State Library that were used during the hackathon are accessible here.



Benimm-Dich-Bot (Behave-bot)

The historical Twitter bot “Benimm Dich, Du Frauenzimmer!” (“Behave, woman!”) has advice for every life situation!

The Benimm-Dich-Bot gives advice for small and big problems in the life of modern women*: But beware, it should be used with caution. Its role models date back to the 19th century and its credo is “Behave, woman! The advice – or rather, rules of conduct – were found in the digitised collections of the Berlin State Library from 1830 to 1930 as part of the Hackathon Coding Gender. The bot allows a playful examination of the problematic gender roles of the time.

For this purpose, corresponding text passages from the digitised collections were identified, transcribed and assigned to at least one of the categories #Career, #Household, #Family, #Love, #Sex, #CoupleGoals, #EverydayLife, #FemaleTroubles, #Beauty. If you ask the Benimm-Dich-Bot on Twitter for advice using one of these hashtags, a suitable text passage will be selected from the collected texts and posted with a link to the respective digitised version as an answer.

The underlying technology is based on the Python library Tweepy and allows you to quickly implement your own ideas according to this example. As the extracted text passages are sometimes too long for the tweets (or the SBB and Twitter short URLs), the link to the digitised material is currently sometimes cut off. The complete texts and URLs can also be found in the JSON file used internally by Benimm-Dich-Bot.

Try it yourself under:
Advice given so far can be found in the replies.


Lou Andreas-Salomé – Interactive Storytelling

Extraordinary find at the Hackathon Coding Gender: the mobile phone of Lou Andreas-Salomé! She was smart, popular and incredibly well-connected, the psychoanalyst and writer Lou Andreas-Salomé; a true influencer of her time. But in the black and white pictures we can see of her today, she seems rather aloof, withdrawn and serious. Andreas-Salomé wrote numerous narrative texts, studied with Sigmund Freud and then did her own research in the field of psychoanalysis. But today hardly anyone knows her for this. Instead, she is usually remembered as a kind of muse of other intellectuals, since as a young woman she had close relationships with Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche, and later with Rilke.

Storytelling: From Muse to Influencer

Lou Andreas-Salomé, c. 1897. With blind stamp of the Elvira studio, Munich

The project “Lous Handy”, which was launched at the very first culture hackathon Coding Gender of the Berlin State Library, aims to cast a different perspective on the woman who has shaped her life so self-determined and free. Lou’s life is just one example of a woman’s life, which can be prepared with the help of alternative storytelling like the one developed here for Lou. Thus, the prototypical project result is only a first step into the data set “Individual Lives – Documents of Individuals’ Lives”, which was made available by the the Berlin State Library during the hackathon.

Letter? WhatsApp!

To be able to tell her story in a new and different way, the team read her letters to Gerhard Hauptmann and his wife Margarete, deciphered her handwriting and turned them into digital texts. This includes the letters that Friedrich Nietzsche wrote to her as well as digital versions of her stories, novels and factual texts. Also the biographical texts about her according to the people with whom she cultivated friendships, from whom she was intellectually inspired, whom she loved and who loved her were searched extensively. The prototypical app, which was then developed and the story it tells, want to lead the users into her work, starting from her person. For this purpose, the bundled data was further analyzed. A spectrum of methods from the Digital Humanities was used, including network analyses with Gephi, Topics created with the DARIAH-Topics-Explorer and stylistic investigations with the R-Package Stylo.

The result in a screencast

The story of the project presentation hides all the hustle and bustle of the 1.5 day hackathon as best it could. After all, it was not the participants who were to be the focus of attention, but Lou Andreas-Salomé. And so here the team itself tells you about how they found Lou’s mobile phone by chance. See for yourself:

What’s going to happen to Lou’s phone now? The project focuses mainly on alternative storytelling. The reconnection of the reality of intellectual women’s lives to their work and also the portrayal of women as independent intellectual personalities remain an urgent concern even after the Coding Gender Hackathon. “Lous Handy” will probably be integrated as a prototype into one or more university teaching projects, in which students of literary studies themselves can tell the story of women poets and thinkers in a different way.

Frawenzimmer. The new magazine!

The project “Frawenzimmer” was created as part of the Hackathon Coding Gender. It takes up the current genre of women’s and gossip magazines and combines it with historical sources from the digitised collections of the Berlin State Library. A large part of the topics and discourses currently under discussion have a long tradition! The tone of voice is also crucial, because what often appears sober and emphatically factual in historical sources serves gender orders and power structures of the time. Thus, on a supposedly scientific basis, attempts are made to legitimise inequalities between the sexes.

Old discourses in current women’s magazines

One of the most important observations was that they are structurally not very different from current women’s and gossip magazines, and that these are still being updated today. Topics included: toys marketed in a gendered way, focus on clothing in sports performed by women, topos of the greater sex drive in men and related acts of sexualised violence, the myth of guilt in cancer, tips for sex, different expectations of mothers and fathers, the role of women as carers, gender pay gap, etc.

Title page of “Frawenzimmer” – click on the red, pulsating dots to call up the corresponding digitised images

By imitating the lurid tone and linguistic style of gossip magazines, the aim is to make the historical texts accessible to a broader target group and thus encourage to discuss them. This also reveals a further correspondence between the selected historical texts and the format of today’s women’s magazines: as texts written about or for women, they are often of a prescriptive nature: they are instructive, give (well-intentioned) advice, and explain what women should do and what they should not do. The project was intended to make these continuities visible and also to facilitate access to the historical texts by means of so-called teasers – as they are also used on the covers of gossip magazines.

The articles and illustrations in the “Frawenzimmer” are themselves excerpts from the historical sources, only the headlines and layout have been newly created and are based on the genre of women’s and gossip magazines. Each article contains the information with a direct link to the digitised objects of the Berlin State Library.