Historical building research in the German-speaking countries is an internationally exemplary method for architectural historians and conservation architects to work with historical built fabric. It documents building culture at the object in a 'hands-on' process and unravels its geometry, construction, materials, use, form, meaning, as well as building phases and traces of time. On this base implicit formation processes can be highlighted.
As a factual and object-oriented subject with an approach oriented towards individual projects, historical building research - despite its newly certified methodical relevance in the context of the Object Turn and despite the natural use of digital means in the working process - has so far been less recognised in the digital age than other disciplines. While the specialist community is intensively linked via societies and conferences, it lacks a digital platform for the valorisation and comprehensive evaluation of scientific documentation. The project baureka.online (BAUforschungsdaten -REpositorium and KAtalog) is an innovative answer to this urgent desideratum. It is intended to provide the historical building research community with the urgently needed and desired central digital infrastructure in a participatory process, enabling it to further develop its research methodology into the digital age and to position itself effectively in an international context.
The development of baureka.online aims to achieve the following goals:
1 Establishment of a central point for researching data
One of the most important use cases is the simplified research of historical building research data. For the first time, baureka.index provides a central gathering point for the online search for discipline-specific research data. baureka.index is intended to facilitate both the search in baureka.archive as well as the search in external archives and repositories. In due course, only a static link to external archives can be set up, but in longer terms, baureka.index could foster a further development for its partner archives by increasing the amount of enquiries via baureka.index. With the dynamic linking of baureka.index and baureka.archive, a role model will be established which encourages the more intensive use of Linked Open Data within its community.
2 Archiving, citing and publishing research data
In many cases, the community's acquisition of data is funded by public institutions, which increasingly demand long-term archiving and (open access) publication of research data and project results. With baureka.online, for the first time a discipline-specific project attempts to meet these requirements and thus fulfil an urgent desideratum of the community.
In baureka.archive, research data can be archived for the first time in a central location provided with a DOI, which makes it unambiguously citable. This innovation will stimulate a discourse on future publishing practices in historical building research. Currently, it is still unusual to provide research data as an autonomous publication. Instead, data from a building survey, is often merely published as small illustrations accompanying the text. Baureka.archive would offer possibilities of enriching text publications with references to research data which is archived and available online. In this way, not only the immense effort of data acquisition and evaluation would be taken into account, but also the argumentative power of the research results would be strengthened by not only describing the findings and measurements of investigated buildings with text and illustrations, but also by directly documenting and linking them with empirical data.
In a later development phase of baureka.online, the community will finally be given the opportunity to publish scientifically evaluated and interpreted research data in a peer reviewed open access and/or data journal.
3 Reuse of research data and exchange of scientific and practical information
Another central aspect of baureka.online is the representation of existing research and the creation of synergies between academic and professional community. Due to the research data provided, it can avoided that an already documented building will be extensively surveyed and investigated again due to ignorance of the material already available elsewhere. Instead, building researchers from a academic context and professional conservationists can access research data that has bee acquired by either of them. Historical building research often produces highly detailed construction documentation on a 1:1 scale (3D point cloud or mesh) without having the authors evaluate the available data in the same degree of detail. By archiving, publishing and providing 3D research data, these raw datasets could be re-used and evaluated by the broader community. At the same time, access to internal raw data and the disclosure of internal data structures support the development of standards for the creation of 3D research data. This will facilitate the exchange and linking of individual projects as well as the introduction to working with 3D models.
4 Openness for all members of the community and involvement of young researchers
In times of politics of austerity, it is desirable that building research, which is primarily guided by the pursuit of knowledge, should work more closely together with professional, project-oriented conservation projects. To ensure that baureka.online should be used by a broad group of data providers from academia and practice.
Renowned scientists who have access to the data of an extensive research projects should therefore be motivated to publish their material, as should architects' offices that also provide individual building documentation or restoration results. In addition, the platform should also be open to students from any degree, whose works so far have mainly remained unpublished.
5 Possibility of Open Access publishing
baureka.online should be designed as open as possible and as closed as necessary. While the data providers are basically to be left to decide on the access to their data, baureka.online can develop incentive mechanisms for the Open Access publication. Both publication options are to be implemented, because most of the research data from historical building research touches on the rights of third parties. Irrespective of the form of publication (print or online), researchers must obtain permission from the building owners to publish their data (e. g. plan drawings) so that the possibility of an open-access publication must be clarified during the data curation processes.
Despite justified legal objections, making Built Heritage research visible and communicating it to the general public is also an important use case of baureka.online. Historical building research often deals with buildings with a high degree of identification. Its research data is often legible for laymen (3D models, drawings, photo documentation, etc.), so that a lively public interest in baureka.online is to be expected.
6 Increasing the international visibility of baureka's community
The development of baureka.online offers the community opportunities to increase its international visibility. The national and international connectivity of baureka.online shall be established by several measures. The platform will be available in English. In the technical development and adherence to standards, special emphasis is placed on the interoperability of baureka.index and baureka.archive, so that connectivity to national and international infrastructures is ensured through implementing APIs. In addition, the metadata of baureka.online will be mapped to the corresponding data models of the Semantic Web (RDF or Graph Database) and thus become part of the 'Giant Global Graph'.
7 Improvement of internal communication
The above-mentioned modules baureka.cloud and baureka.network, which are to be conceived in a second funding phase, are intended to improve scientific communication within the community. With the help of baureka.cloud, research data could be dynamically processed from different locations and stored according to given guidelines during the course of a project on baureka.online, so that the files would be automatically prepared for long-term archiving after the project has been completed. baureka.network is supposed to represent an interface between academics and professionals by using familiar elements from social networks (messenger, user profiles, forum, etc.) and it is supposed to improve the internal communication across institutional boundaries.