Digitisation and Retro-Cataloguing

The historically valuable holdings of the museum’s library collection have been retro-catalogued and digitised since 2011 and 2013 respectively. As a result, the holdings are preserved and made available to scientific research.

Mag. Peter Kloser
+43 1 525 24-3505

Heinz Rossi
+43 1 534 30-5021

Elisabeth Reicher
+43 1 534 30-5022



In the course of the retrospective cataloguing project, the old holdings of ca. 250,000 catalogue cards – dating back to the year 1860 – are electronically gathered and integrated into the online library catalogue. The retro-cataloguing project was successfully completed for the following regional areas:  

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Siberia
  • East Asia: China, Korea, Japan
  • South Asia, Southeast Asia, Himalayas
  • Insular Southeast Asia
  • Oceania and Australia
  • North and Central America
  • South America
  • Photographic Collection

The project plan for 2017 and 2018 was expanded to include the extensive collection of so-called “loose leaves” (selected special prints, historical museum guides, catalogues, and valuable museum documents). This means that the digitisation of all regional collections would be completed by 2018. The comprehensive inventory of journals and magazines will be integrated in the course of a new project.



The retro-cataloguing project digitised entire selected books to preserve valuable holdings and make them available to scientific research. In a first step, the library’s inventory volumes were processed.

The key objective was to digitally assign this detailed information on each book’s acquisition, history and provenance to the respective collections, which makes it possible for scientific colleagues to access the library’s complete collection history. Further steps include fully digitising rare yet popular books. The auratic character of the original – in 2001 the Weltmuseum Wien’s library was recognised as a museum collection due to its extensive historical holdings – still remains accessible for visitors.       

A very special example of digitisation is the monumental two-volume book by the Dutch colonial official Engelbertus Schröder (1873–1936). It is the most comprehensive monograph on the Indonesian island of Nias and combines the author’s research on site as a district official between 1904 and 1909 with a review of the most important literature until the date of publication. Basically no new information was added to the presented knowledge until the second half of the 20th century. Although most of Schröder’s theoretical positions are regarded as outdated, his detailed ethnographic observations are still of great significance. As a standard reference work, “the Schröder” influenced the entire Nias research of the 20th century. Volume 1 (866 pages) comprises texts from the fields of ethnography, geography, and history; Volume 2 includes 147 tables and four maps. Particularly the photographs – reproduced by the editor by means of the elaborate rotogravure printing technique – boast an extraordinary clarity, which makes them invaluable to modern ethnography.

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