Inscriptions in their Spatial Context

Scanned interior of the Liebfrauenkirche in Oberwesel i3mainz, CC BY SA 4.0

Interdisciplinary research work promotes the emergence of new disciplines. The cooperation with humanities subjects that has also been pursued at i3mainz for many years is thus supplemented by the developing discipline of e-Humanities, also called Digital Humanities or Humanities Computing. Due to the spatial reference, which is the focus of IBR, the project also aims to establish the term Spatial Humanities.


The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funds “research and development projects in the field of eHumanities” to establish this research direction in Germany. Since May 2012, i3mainz has been working together with the Mainz Academy of Sciences and Literature on the joint project “IBR - Inscriptions in the Reference System of Space”. Based on the results of the DIO-3D project, spatial mechanisms of medieval inscriptions are recorded, analysed and processed in such a way that they can contribute to the development of research data infrastructures in the humanities.

As object-related texts, inscriptions possess three fundamental levels of meaning: “text”, “carrier” and “spatial context”. The latter has so far been inadequately communicated in the historical sciences, but offers an important key to understanding cultural-historical contexts.

The focus of the research work is the internet portal DIO (, an online collection of all Latin and German inscriptions of the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The specialist data already available there will be supplemented with spatial data within the framework of the IBR project.

Part of the project IBR is a reference study in which the geometric and semantic recording as well as the epigraphic processing were carried out exemplarily. In addition to the development of generic tools and the evaluation of concepts for the web-based exchange of information, the project is dedicated to the development and deepening of competences in the field of information technology in the humanities and thus actively contributes to the establishment of the subject of Digital Humanities in Mainz.


The central concept for recording the required data uses terrestrial laser scanning and panoramic photography. Using this combination method, i3mainz captured the Liebfrauenkirche in Oberwesel in 2013. These data form the basis for a reference study in IBR.

The result of the project is the web application Generic Viewer, which can be used to identify and annotate objects in the recorded space in the browser. In addition to recording the objects as geometries (features), the application also offers the possibility of enriching them with semantic data, making queries and exporting results. This includes georeferenced geometries and point cloud extracts, which can then be further processed in external programmes.

In close cooperation with the project partners from the Academy of Sciences and Literature, space syntax analyses as well as further visibility investigations were carried out in this way to gain novel insights into the interrelationships and levels of meaning of the sacred furnishings. These were presented at various national and international conferences.

In addition to the Liebfrauenkirche in Oberwesel, the project also tested the developed concept for spatial analysis of humanities research objects and the generic functionality of the software on other case studies. For example, the GenericViewer was used in the teaching of the Master’s degree programme module “Interdisciplinary Applications of Spatial Information Technology” in the winter semester 2014/15. In the case of the old Jewish cemetery in Mainz, amazing insights into the social structure of the buried could be gained by combining the position and person of the gravestones. GenericViewer supported the reconstruction of the Byzantine mill and workshop complex.

The BMBF approved a cost-neutral extension so that the IBR project at i3mainz will continue until the end of 2015.


Since November 2012, the web-based panorama viewer has been available, offering the possibility to capture objects as geometry (features) and their spatial position. The “Generic Viewer” uses HTML5 with canvas elements for visualisation and an adapted PUNDIT instance for annotation.

The features can be enriched with information and annotated in the Generic Viewer. In addition to describing the objects or their relationships to each other, features can also be associated with other sources, e.g. with DIO articles.

For the extension period from May to December 2015, the focus was on simplifying the Generic Viewer. Under the name “Spatial Viewer”, the Viewer was given a new look. Among the most important changes is the extension of the query and filtering for semantic data. These can now be displayed together with the properties of the features in a tabular view.