Research projects in memory institutions (museums, archives, libraries and other cultural heritage institutions) produce extensive quantities of high quality digital data. However, due to the lack of staff with IT-knowledge in those institutions the used methods of storing and managing digital objects, data and information produced by the projects are hardly suitable for the quality of the data, disrespect widely spread and commond standards and fulfil only the minimum of requirements for projects.
Existing software solutions to build digital knowledge repositories like Fedora, DSpace or Greenstone hardly are used because they are simply not known, do not fit specific requirements of a project or require too much technical knowledge and manpower to be installed, used and maintained. Instead, simple systems like Word files, Excel sheets or simple databases created with Access or Filemaker are adjusted to the needs of the project. In other words, techniques that are intended for use on an individual desktop-PC are used, leading to systems that do not allow networking with other researchers. At the end of the project the generated digital information in its specific form resides on a hard disc. After some years, the situation faced is a two-fold problem: First, you have to be able to read the digital information in a technical way, i.e. by still supporting old digital file formats. Second, you have to be able to understand the information in regard to its content structure. With lack of documentation it can be very hard to reconstruct the original meaning and purpose of the given information. Therefore, persistence of the digital data is not provided.
Thus the project partners of the WissKI project, decided to work on these problems by creating a technical platform. WissKI is a German acronym for "Wissenschaftliche KommunikationsInfrastruktur", which can be translated as "Scientific Communication Infrastructure". It is a three year project funded by the German Research Foundation, starting January 2009. It is a joint venture featuring three partners from different institutions and scientific domains: The Artificial Intelligence Chair from the Department of Computer Science at the Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (AI), Department of Museum Informatics at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum (GNM) in Nuremberg and the Biodiversity Informatics Group at the Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig (ZFMK) in Bonn. The name WissKI also points to the fact that the concept of "Wikis" is very important for the project, too. The wiki-way to deal with information and collaboration was one of the ideas to create a system that is easy to use and maintain in memory institutions.