The growing flood of images cannot be processed by institutions alone. Partnership with citizen scientists is vital. Topotheque is a digital archive and network in which this historical legacy can be gathered. For the locally resident Topotheque users, every new image and new piece of information means a valuable building block with which they can document their regional history in more detail. Enthusiasm for the work with the Topotheques creates local archives that captures an interest that goes far beyond regional interest. This includes prop managers and costume designers on period films and scientists who can retrace the spread of a cattle breed in the 1930s. People have very often discovered a photo of a great-grandfather in the photos that were provided by a previously unknown person.
The Topotheque is run by a municipality or an association. Volunteers and digital archivists at the Topotheque work on behalf of the municipality as links with the general public. Running a Topotheque is easy and the entry field on the administration user interface meets the international archive standard. Before the update was started, the Topotheque volunteers were introduced to the system in a two-hour training course using ICARUS. A Topotheque is usually opened at a locally organised event in which interested members of the public are presented with the Topotheque as a digital option to gather contemporary documents. Local museums and municipal archives often benefit from the Topotheque, as they can be sent originals. Similarly, memory institutions can take advantage of the Topotheque as a platform for their own inventories.
The Topotheque creates new groups of users. A Topotheque can not only answer questions about the history of a castle complex, but also provide quick information on the questions “What did the inn look like in the 1960s?” or “Are there photos of old innkeepers?”. Questions asked offhand, which often refer to details, can be answered. These questions are asked by a new and often younger userbase. To get in touch, you can ask the Topotheque a question, which can be answered directly through the website. This is because dialogue is the heart and soul of the Topotheque.
The Topotheque was developed in an office in Wiener Neustadt. Based on the first “Prater” Topotheque as an example, municipalities in Lower Austria were the first to make private material about the community history available with the help of volunteers. The Topotheque was well received in Upper Austria as it was implemented in a regional project as part of LEADER. This created links with other federal states in which pilot Topotheques were already in operation. In the “co:op” EU project, the topic of which is communication work in the archive, the Topotheque was established in seven other countries. The multilingual nature of the interface had therefore already been ensured. Through the international archive platform ICARUS, the Lower Austria state archive joined as a scientific partner. To guarantee a high standard in the Topotheque, the volunteers undergo training alongside scientists from the Lower Austria state archive.