The Stasi-media library

Since 1992 the so-called Stasi-Archiv exists, a place where legacies of Stasi, the secret police during the GDR, are collected and documented. In 2012 first thoughts occurred about making parts of the archive available to the broad public through a multimedia media centre.
From historical specialists to interested laymen – everyone should be able to inform himself about intrigues of GDR- and Stasi-authorities. Since there are differences concerning previous knowledge as well as usage habits, we focussed on the idea of a semantic search as an essential element of user navigation. It was implemented with the help of Retrescos Semantics.


In order to uncover the variety of this archive, several thousand document pages, hundreds of pictures, several hours of audio recordings and film footage were added to this interactive database and semantically analysed.
During the semantic analysis entities like persons, organisations or places are being tagged followed by sorting related relevant documents.
These and other semantic tags, including all of their synonyms and grammatical forms, are integrated in a search index. Via search mask the user subsequently reaches documents and contents, can scan them in full text and is able to intuitively find content through a timeline at all times.
Retrescos semantic search filters both with regards to the content, chronological-historic and depending on the nature of documents. The interactive database furthermore allows a permanent addition of other documents and therefore a continuous expansion of the media centre.

A special challenge was the specific vocabulary of the GDR- and Stasi-authorities, because of which the Retresco-Semantic first had to be trained. Important keywords like “Republikflucht” (eng.: flight from the GDR) or “Todesstrafe” (eng.: death sentence) were automatically made assignable, while an additional autocomplete function supports the user experience by dynamically presenting further relevant keywords and entities during the typing of the user.


International feedback for the Stasi-media library

A societal highly relevant and technological enormously ambitious publishing project – political education medium for young and grown up citizens, just like historical expert information for experts, all under a common surface.
Not only our client is enthusiastic – also the public appreciates the “display window to the Stasi-archive”. Countless tweets including the link to the portal were published the day it went online. A user from the US called it “the coolest thing ever”. Berlin based newspaper Berliner Morgenpost calls it a “fascinating project for all ages”, mdrInfo thinks it is a “time travel” worth the time.
For Retresco it was a wonderful project in which we could contribute with our leading technologies in the area of automated tagging, linking and semantic search. The result is a vital improvement of accessibility to documents and user experience in general.

This is just like the jury of Typo3-Award rated this project, an award that is always honouring the most creative and user-friendly web-projects: In 2016 our partner 3pc GmbH was among the honourees, for the final implementation of Stasi-media library.

Allow yourself to be convinced and have a look: