The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Digital History (LBIDH) promotes the exploration, development, and application of digital technologies to transform the humanities on three different levels: methodically, organizationally, and topically.
Digital technologies may function as tools and as object of research. At LBIDH they do both at the same time.
Digital Humanities provide the opportunity to bypass traditional antagonisms between soft and hard science, between qualitative methods in the humanities and quantitative methods in social sciences. Organizationally, they encourage an academic culture of collaborative and interdisciplinary projects. This culture in turn fosters innovation.
At LBIDH, Digital History is understood as a specific form of Digital Humanities in which time and time-based media become distinct factors of research and presentation. In this understanding, Digital History also encourages archival practice and historiography to intersect and to interrogate each other.
LBIDH champions the socio-critical and transformative aspirations of Digital History, while advocating the freedom and innovative power of basic research in alliance with applied research.
In line with its mission to explore, develop and apply new methods in general and digital technologies in particular and based on the specific expertise of its staff, the Institute focuses on three research areas within history and related fields of the humanities (such as film and media studies, literary studies): Visual History, Urban History, Holocaust Studies.
In many cases the Institute’s projects combine more than one of these research areas. What all three have in common is that they offer unique insights into the emergence of modernity with its new relations between past, presence, and future, time and space, memory and materiality, history and society. LBIDH is most interested in new methods to map the layers of time in space, to unlock the material inscription of remembrance, and to trace the sedimentation of history in social conditions.
Film plays a key role in many of the Institute’s projects, though film needs to be contrasted with still images, text and other media types to be fully comprehended in its specificity. Moreover, it needs to be contrasted and combined with other approaches, as film is not explored as an end in itself but rather as a means to understand modernity.
The specific affinity of the Institute towards film—as the core focus of its investigations in Visual History—is due to the fact that film is a time-based medium and that its history is closely related to the history of modernity.
Through their interrelationship, film and the city may be understood as genuine modern phenomena: They may function as forms of expression and as content for each other (film as an expression of the city and—under specific circumstances—also the city as an expression of film) and for social life in modern times. At LBIDH they are both regarded as sedimentations of social memory, as material inscriptions of voluntary and involuntary memories and expectations, of wishes, fears and hopes.
National Socialism and the Holocaust constitute the negative horizon of modern society and its arsenal of possibilities. Some of LBIDH’s investigations of the cultural history of the Holocaust are concerned with film’s specific modernity as well: as a tool for indexical evidence-gathering, as a medium of memorialization, and as a machinery to create meaning.
LBIDH emerged from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for History and Society (LBIGG) which has been transformed and renamed in 2019. From its predecessor, LBIDH inherited its engagement in cultural history with the aim to turn it into a form of social history. However, digitization of cultural heritage and digital transformation of society require new approaches and a thorough revision of established methods, as reflected in the Institute’s name and mission. The Institute attempts to decipher and analyze social conditions by studying society’s cultural artifacts, related practices, and micro histories of everyday life. With this methodological approach, the Institute draws from New Historicism as well as from (British) cultural studies and their sociopolitical aspirations (rather than from (German) Kulturwissenschaften).
As regards the materials, the Institute’s focus lies in objects longtime barely appreciated by research, objects that may seem mundane and ephemeral: neglected film genres (sponsored films, amateur films, footage), obliviated usages of urban and non-urban spaces. The research interest lies in the factual as well as in the imaginary dimension of these objects. Ordinary events receive the same attention as extraordinary events.
With its pioneering work on ephemeral films (sponsored films and amateur films in general, city films in particular), with its experience in developing technological standards for the digital transfer and digital annotation of films, the Institute has become an attractive partner and lead institution in international research projects.
The Institute emerged from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for History and Society (Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Geschichte und Gesellschaft, LBIGG) which was transformed and renamed in 2019.
Established in 1977 at the University of Salzburg and transferred to the Department of Contemporary History (Institut für Zeitgeschichte) at the University of Vienna in 1979, the Institute has been located at the Hofburg—the former imperial palace in Vienna—as a non-university research institute since 2010. In 2019 it moved from the Leopoldinian wing (Zuckerbäckerstiege) to more spacious facilities at Reichskanzleitrakt (Batthyanystiege) of the Hofburg.
The Institute was one of four institutes constituting the Ludwig Boltzmann Cluster Geschichte (Ludwig Boltzmann Cluster for History) from 2005–2017, before it reemerged as a standalone institute. It contributed to three of five focal points of the Cluster which have been incorporated into the current research areas of LBIDH: “crises of democracy and the constitutional state, dictatorships, violence, ethnocide, Holocaust”; “social, medial and cultural memories, remembrance”; “methodologies and theories in the field of historical, cultural and social studies”. Since 2009/2010 the Institute has progressively adopted digital technologies in a number of research projects.
1977–2005 Erika Weinzierl
2005–2015 Siegfried Mattl
since 2015 Ingo Zechner
Structure and Organization
The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Digital History (LBIDH) is a research unit of the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft – Österreichische Vereinigung zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (LBG) located at Nußdorfer Straße 64, 1090 Vienna, Austria (ZVR: 875209001 | VAT ID: ATU 37866608).
In 2019, following the transformation of LBIGG into LBIDH, LBG implemented the partner model of its institutes at LBIDH. Building on longstanding cooperation and mutual interest, LBG signed structural partnership contracts with three partner institutions who constitute LBIDH’s Partner Board (Partners) together with LBG.
Building on collaborative research, there is a large number of additional national and international cooperation partners (Cooperations).
The LBIDH Team constitutes the Institute’s Plenum. The Plenum meets regularly on a monthly basis (LBIDH Jour Fixes) to discuss the Institute’s research program, individual research projects and administrative issues. Members team-up with each other and with potential other participants to develop research ideas into research projects and to write proposals.
The Institute has a small team of permanent staff providing scholarly guidance, administrative and technical support to current projects and projects in statu nascendi.
The Partner Board (Partners)—next to steering and monitoring functions—and the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) advise the Plenum, the permanent staff, and LBG on the implementation of the Institute’s research program.