Domain: Historical places and buildings (physical remains of the Cold War period)
Title: Memorial Landscape Berlin Wall
Memorial Landscape Berlin Wall is a web-based Geographic Information System (GIS) that allows users to virtually explore the remains of the urban border line installations of the Berlin Wall. Separating East from West Berlin from 1961 to 1989/90, after its political fall the Wall was largely demolished. As part of the local efforts to preserve the physical memory of the Berlin Wall, the Memorial Landscape Berlin Wall project documented the remaining parts of the inner-city border installations and made the information available to the interested public on a web platform.
- Stiftung Berliner Mauer, http://www.stiftung-berliner-mauer.de
- Brandenburgische Technische Universität, Lehrstuhl Denkmalpflege, Cottbus, http://www.b-tu.de/b-tu/
- Institut für Zeitgeschichte München - Berlin, http://www.ifz-muenchen.de
- Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr, Potsdam, http://www.mgfa-potsdam.de
Memorial Landscape Berlin Wall has been developed by the Department of Architectural Conservation of the Brandenburg University of Technology as part of a larger project that documented the remnants and traces of this symbol of the Cold War. Also involved in this project were the Institute for Contemporary History Munich - Berlin and the German Armed Forces Research Office (Potsdam).
In January 2013, the web-based GIS and its database have been handed over to the Berlin Wall Foundation which maintains the information system. The Foundation informs about the historical role of the Berlin Wall, aims to allow for a dignified commemoration of its victims, and the preservation of the threatened authentic physical remains and traces of the Wall.
Financing / funding
The development of the web platform was financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) as part of the research project “The Berlin Wall as a symbol of the Cold War: from an instrument of the SED’s domestic policy to an architectural monument of international significance.”
Content & IPR / licensing
The core of the web-based GIS is the underlying database comprising the information of a detailed survey conducted 2007/2008 of all remaining parts of the inner-city Berlin Wall, photographic documentation of the installations produced by the border troops of the German Democratic Republic in 1988/89, and information about the function of the different border elements. The content has been geo-referenced and made searchable on Google Maps. In January 2013 the rights in the database and web application have been transferred to the Berlin Wall Foundation.
Technologies used / innovative features
Memorial Landscape Berlin Wall allows users to explore the remains of the inner-city Berlin Wall (43 kilometres); the much longer section of the exterior border installations between the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and West Berlin was 112 kilometres in length. The detailed information can be browsed using a key with different symbols and colours for different kinds of remnants such as walls and fences, border crossings, watchtowers, lampposts, patrol paths and barracks. Furthermore memorial sites are indicated. The descriptions include links to the geo-referenced photographs of the 2007/2008 survey which are shown on Google maps of the area. 28 “focus points” also include photographs taken by the GDR border troops in 1988/89.
The Berlin Wall is a major symbol for the Cold War period and its fall meant the collapse of communism in East Germany and paved the way for German reunification. Many people have either witnessed the existence of the Berlin Wall first-hand or they remember stories told by their parents or grandparents.
However, the Wall has been largely demolished, heralding a unified Berlin. Countless small fragments of the Wall taken by “wallpeckers” as well as many hundreds of large segments are distributed all around the globe, at least 120 of which were used to erect Berlin Wall monuments outside of Germany.
In this context the Memorial Landscape Berlin Wall is a valuable tool for both residents and visitors. Residents such as students and visitors of Berlin can use it to virtually explore the remains of this symbol of the Cold War, for example, to prepare studies or look up the available information on particular places (e.g. memorial sites).
Collaboration: The project makes clear the tremendous effort of historians and technical experts that is required to document the remains a large heritage complex such as the Berlin Wall. Also Heritage of Portuguese Influence illustrates this concerning very different and widely distributed architectural heritage. The Memorial Landscape might be enriched by also inviting people to contribute to a landscape of personal memories, similarly to the Birmingham Music Archive.
Content: The project results contribute to the local efforts to preserve the physical memory of the Wall. While there are many other websites that tell the story of the Wall, the Memorial Landscape documents its tangible remains. Interested residents and visitors can use it as a digital guide to explore these remains in their present day urban contexts. It might be worth to complement it with a print product including maps, images, descriptions, and pages for personal notes.
Sources and links
- Memorial Landscape Berlin Wall website: http://berlin-wall-map.com
- Stiftung Berliner Mauer: http://www.stiftung-berliner-mauer.de
- Axel Klausmeier and Leo Schmidt: Wall Remnants, Wall Traces. Berlin: Westkreuz 2005