Gestures of exploration : : Strolling & Scrolling

How do artists relate to digital archives of historical library documents? How do artworks based on these archives reflect the specific essence of these documents?
For the ONB Labs Web Residency 2022 two artists engaged with two selected digital collections. We are proud to present the artworks in our virtual Artspace.

Preview of artworks from Sînziana Păltineanu (left) and Ida Westh-Hansen (right)

For the scope of fostering creative use of digital library collections the ONB Labs ran a second art program for the ODL project. The ONB Labs team decided again for the format of a Web Residency, launching an open international call at a time of ongoing Covid restrictions.

The residency program

The residency program was an open call, open for everybody to hand in applications. The ONB Labs asked applicants to send a portfolio and a project idea. The Vienna school for poetry (schule für dichtung) supported us with disseminating the call and finding Heike Fiedler as additional juror for the selection process. Seth Weiner, who already accompanied the first Web Residency as curator, selected the residents together with Heike and the Labs Team. He gave advice throughout the whole process, especially on the possibilities of the Web browser for interactive presentation.
Each ONB Labs Web Residency offered a budget for the implementation of the project, service from the Labs Team and the advisor, as well as publication of the artwork in the ONB Labs Artspace and promotion.

The data

For the 2022 Web Residency the Labs team chose two rather distinct datasets, a collection of approximately 5.000 aerial photographs from the early 1930s and historical issues of the newspaper “Wiener Zeitung” dating from 1703 to 1882. The aerial photographs were subject of public engagement in a former crowd sourcing project, where users were invited to tag and evaluate locations and types of landscapes and settlements. Though the type of material is rather specific, we felt that these representations of landscapes from the past were a good starting point for artistic engagement. In order to counterbalance the visual material of the photographs we chose the “Wiener Zeitung” for its textual richness. Founded in 1703 as “Wiener Diarium”, the newspaper reported on “everything worthy of note / that has happened from day to day / in this imperial city of Vienna itself / as well as from other places from all over the world.” We wondered whether both collections were too specific for an international call, but the applications handed in showed that the question of relevance (what is relevant to whom and why?) of specific library documents brings unforeseen answers when these resources are opened for creative usage. Therefore, we did not pose any restrictions on the topics.

Video arrangement of Web Residency artworks

The projects

We received a range of very different applications, among them poetic and more text based projects, performative projects or even craftwork projects.

Thunder and lightning

The two ONB Labs Web Residency artists for 2022 were Sînziana Păltineanu and Ida Westh-Hansen. The Berlin based writer and researcher Sînziana Păltineanu worked on the intersection of fiction and history writing with her “multilingual interactive fiction” Thunder and lightning. Records of a passing snowstorm on the first Wednesday of the New Year. From the collection of historical issues of the Wiener Zeitung Sînziana selected the first issue of each year and crafted a serendipitous narrative by combining English, German and Romanian. The reader reaches a junction with each click that leads to unforeseeable turns, one time a text snippet taken from the Wiener Zeitung, next time a picture, one time a curious “fact” as reported in the newspaper, next time something to take away your imagination like “eodem ants”.

What the artist said:

“Being part of the Web Residency program at the Austrian National Library was a truly delightful experience. I had long wanted to find the time to craft an interactive fiction, when the occasion arose this year in spring at the ONB Labs. I thought it was fabulous that I could carry out my work in connection to such an experimental library lab. The team at the ONB Labs and the jurors created a space to virtually meet, offered constant support and insightful feedback throughout the months I spent researching and crafting this multilingual piece. I’m most grateful and also so excited that the artwork has just been released – I hope that it will be meaningful to many kinds of readers.”
(Sînziana Păltineanu)

Boon Scrolling

The Vienna based Danish artist Ida Westh-Hansen chose a selection of aerial photographs to combine them with snippets taken from her personal image stock to random collages. With every scroll a new setting appears, an ephemeral setting, because the visitor nevers gets back to the same setting again. The artwork titled Boon Scrolling reflects on the explorative gesture of scrolling while critically adressing the phenomenon of doom scrolling. Boon – i.e. a thing that is helpful and benificial – is meant to become the counterpart of doom.
What is also special about Ida’s work are the traces of the physical in the digital artwork. She literally cut out shapes from copies of the photographs chosen and tranferred the physical collages into the digital again. Sophie (ONB Labs/ ODL) also had the “boon” opportunity to visit Ida at her studio getting an insight into the making of Boon Scrolling.

Both artworks are based on specific documents taken from a library collection, but at the same time they are reflections on gestures of the digital human.

Visit the artworks at our ONB Labs Artspace and let yourself be taken away!

From digital archives to artworks

How may historical materials like newspapers and aerial photographs inspire artists?

The second ONB Labs Web Residency ran from April 2022 until the end of June. Two residents engaged with historical materials in two very different formats. Both will be presented in the ONB Labs Artspace in September 2022.

In April 2022 the ONB Labs launched a call for two Web Residencies to support artistic engagement with digitized archival resources. For the call two very different datasets were offered, issues of the “Wiener Zeitung”, one of the oldest newspapers worldwide, on the one hand and a collection of aerial photographs from the first half of the 20th century on the other.
The call was open for all genres whether physical and/or digital, poetical, visual, audio or any other genre that can be presented in a web browser.

We were impressed by the wide range of different applications we received. For the selection the ONB Labs team cooperated with two artists, Seth Weiner and Heike Fiedler, who work in different fields, and enriched the selection process with their different viewpoints. Taking into consideration a set of criterias, like innovation, feasibility and critical impetus among others, two applications were finally chosen for a funding.

The Berlin based artist Sînziana Păltineanu handed in a proposal for a “piece of interactive ficition, based on a selective reading of the digital collection of “Wiener Zeitung”, titled “Anachronistic rotations”. Over the course of the residency Sînziana Păltineanu further expanded the concept to a fictious walk through the “Wiener Zeitung”. Sînziana Păltineanu is – as noted in the application – interested in using fiction as an exploratory mode of writing based on archival research. Curator Seth Weiner was convinced by the idea as well as the use of the web browser for the narrative structure of the artwork. Heike Fiedler noted that “the experimental author Dr. Sînziana Păltineanu will take us into hidden spaces, going far beyond the one-dimensional aspect of words written on paper.”

The Vienna based artist Ida Westh-Hansen won the second residency for her concept on melting snippets from the public archive in an artwork of mixed materials, namely ceramics and paper. Her artwork may be interpreted as a stage for a “drama with landscapes and places”. Seth Weiner was “taken by the sculptural sensibility” shown in her portfolio and by the way “the work seems to operate with an acute sense of how material, both in its heaviness and fragility tells stories.” How Ida Westh-Hansen would combine the different materials and then translate the material artwork to a series of digital images, was promising for Heike Fiedler.

The ONB Labs Team will now integrate both artworks into the ONB Labs Artspace. The results will be presented in September. Watch out for the upcoming blog post on as well as on

ONB Labs Web Residency 2022

Call for ONB Labs Web Residency 2022.
Deadline for submissions is 19. 04. 2022.

ONB Labs is pleased to announce our Web Residency programme 2022. The programme is part of the Open Digital Library project and funded by the European Union.
We invite artists to submit a proposal for a six-week Web Residency project related to our digital collections of “Wiener Zeitung” (1780-1881) and/or of aerial photographs from the 1930s “Österreich aus der Luft”. The proposed project should aim for a critical and creative engagement with data sets from the ONB Labs, culminating in a web-based work that will be exhibited online in the ONB Labs Artspace.

Artistic approaches of all formats, whether they might be digital, physical, sculptural, poetic or conceptual are encouraged; the only requirements are that the final result needs to be exhibited online and relates to the ONB Labs collections of the call. For further informations about collections and available data see the call on the Labs Website.

Selected projects will be supported with 850 Euro for the final artwork.

Timeline & Application

CALL OPEN UNTIL 19.04.2022
WEB RESIDENCY 02.05.2022 – 12.06.2022

Applications can be submitted as PDF to including.
For further details on the Call, the Selection Process and the Terms & Conditions please visit the the call on the Labs Website.

ONB Labs Symposium 2021

November 24, 2021 @ 10:00 17:00

We are pleased to announce the ONB Labs Symposium 2021, which will take place on November 24th, 10:00–17:00 CET.

Registration and Program are online now!

The Austrian National Library (ONB) recently presented its Vision 2035, titled «Wir öffnen Räume» («Opening Spaces»). The ONB Labs Symposium 2021 will take up the theme of openness and relate it to questions concerning openness in Labs of cultural institutions (GLAM Labs):

  • What does openness mean for GLAM Labs environments, is providing open data enough?
  • What are the criteria and requirements for openness?
  • What does openness mean for different user groups?

We will discuss these and related questions in three sessions, addressing different perspectives on openness. In the first session we will discuss the perspectives and requirements of research and education. We will take a closer look at open data for creative use in the second session, with a special focus on the EU co-funded project «Open Digital Libraries». Finally, we discuss strategies for openness in international GLAM Labs.

The ONB Labs Symposium 2021 will take place in hybrid form – you are welcome to join us at the Austrian National Library or take part virtually. Participation is free, but the number of participants is limited.
Program Overview

Session 1:
The perspective of reseach and eduaction (10.45–12.00) with Sylvia Petrovic-Majer (OpenGLAM Austria), Eva Pfanzelter (University of Innsbruck), Sarah Oberbichler and Nina Hechenblaikner (University of Innsbruck), Walter Scholger (University of Graz / ZIM).

Session 2:
The perspective of «Open Digital Libraries» (13.00–14.30) with Partners from the project “Open Digital Libraries” (Royal Library of the Netherlands, National Library of Estonia, Austrian National Library feat. Seth Weiner)

Session 3:
International Library Labs (14.45–16.30) with Sally Chambers (Ghent University), Abigail Potter and Eileen Jakeway (Library of Congress), Ralph Marschall (National Library of Luxembourg) and the ONB Labs Team.

—> For the full program please check the event registration site.

Registration (update 15.11.2021))

The ONB Labs Symposium 2021 will take place as a virtual online conference («online option ticket»)

—> Please register for our Labs Symposium via Eventbrite: Link.

Due to the current Corona situation in Austria the on-site option has been cancelled.

Online Option (Registration open until 23.11.2021, 16.00)

We will use the MS-Teams environment for our online conference. After registration you will receive a confirmation mail. You will receive the link to take part at the web conference on 23.11.2021.

—> Book your free ticket for the «online option».

We are looking forward to seeing you at the event on 24 November 2021!

ONB’s Virtual Artspace

ONB’s Library Labs present Virtual Artspace

Within the frame of the Web Residency 2021 (see previous post), the ONB Labs Artspace was developed, an online platform for the presentation of the work created in the course of the Web Residency. The setup of an virtual artspace was one of the main taks for 2021 in the ODL workpackage on “Artistic Experiments”. Though the ONB Labs Artspace was designed in the context of the Web Residency 2021, it is also intended to function as a virtual exhibition space for future artistic projects at the ONB Labs. The conception and development of the Artspace took place in close cooperation with the Web Residency’s artist, Rosemary Lee, and the curator, Seth Weiner. Sophie Hammer, who works for the ODL project at the Austrian National Library,  designed different prototypes, from which the team chose the most convincing and appropriate design. Design and navigation elements underwent a micro-usertesting among colleagues at the Austrian National Library, with some minor adjustements thereafter.

The Virtual Artspace is designed to allow for an immersive experience of art works related to the Austrian National Library’s digital datasets that are available at the Library Labs infrastructure. The guiding principles are: As much space as possible should be given to the artworks and the attention of the visitors should be distracted as little as possible by navigation elements. The Artspace is therefore marked purely by a narrow frame and the navigation has been restricted to a subtle point. Both elements, point and frame, react in their appearance to the content. The flexible area of the Artspace will be developed further for future projects and might change in its design for different contributions. As a space for artistic experiments with the digital holdings of the ONB Labs, it will be open to all users.

Your are welcome to explore the Austrian National Library’s Labs Artspace featuring the Web Residency’s winning artwork from Rosemary Lee namend «Cryptographics».
Inspired? If you have an idea for a contribution, please contact the ONB Labs team at labs[at]

Web Residency at Austrian National Library

Collage for the Web Residency Call 2021

From the 12th of April until the 9th of May the Austrian National Library’s Labs launched a Web Residency for creative engagement with their digital datasets. The awarded artwork will be presented in the frame of a virtual Artspace.

How does data become information that we can read? What role do aesthetics play in the politics of viewership? How can papyrus scrolls, musical scores, historical postcards and other treasures buried in the ONB Labs archives be explored artistically and in a way that is meaningful to our contemporary moment of unrest

Virtual engagement

By raising these provocative questions the Austrian National Library’s Labs (ONB Labs) invited artists to critically engage with and creatively re-use the ONB Labs digital datasets. We offered datasets and curated collections such as digitized historical postcards, papyri, historical newspapers, pamphlets of the 1848 revolution, music manuscripts, documents in Esperanto, including metadata information. One of the main aims of the Open Digital Library project is to foster creative engagement with our digital library holdings in new ways and new formats. Initially we intended to run a residency for artists locally at the Austrian National Library. Due to the current restrictions caused by the COVID 19 pandemic, we decided on a virtual format instead of physical exchange. We adopted the format of Web Residency by announcing an award and reached out internationally for artists to hand in project outlines. The range of questions, methods and selection of data was unrestricted. The number of applications and their variety proved the spectrum of possible approaches to our digital datasets. In cooperation with the artist and educator Seth Weiner Seth Weiner we chose the contribution of Rosemary Lee for the award by cross-validation. We are honoured to present her outstanding work «Cryptographics» next week in the frame of a virtual Artspace. The virtual Artspace is an online platform for the presentation of the work created in the course of the Web Residency, which will then be developed further to become a permanent part of the ONB Labs.

To learn more about the awarded work and to discover our new artspace check out our upcoming post!