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 common standards and meet only the minimum of requirements for projects.
Existing software solutions to build digital knowledge repositories like Fedora, DSpace or Greenstone are hardly used, because they are simply not known, do not meet specific requirements of a project or require too much technical knowledge or manpower for installation, use and maintenance. Instead, simple files 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. Often, missing documentation makes it very hard to reconstruct the original meaning and purpose of the given information. Therefore, persistence of the digital data is not provided.
Therefore, the WissKI project partners 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". The three year project funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) started in January 2009. In 2014, the DFG provided funding for a second project phase until 2016. It is a joint venture featuring three partners from different institutions and scientific domains: The Digital Humanities Research Group of the Department of Computer Science at the Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU), 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.