Visiting Vienna

digital approaches to the (semi-)automatic analysis of the arrival lists found in the "Wien[n]erisches Diarium"

While in present-day Vienna, passing the city limits and thus entering the city usually goes unnoticed, 'city' and 'country' were much more separated from each other in the early modern period: on the one hand, people entering a city had to use specific entry points at the city walls in the form of city gates, and on the other hand, their arrival was controlled and comprehensively documented by authorities. From a contemporary perspective, this practice can be deemed lost: "Today, the cultural practice and the experience of entering a city through a gate has become foreign to us, or even faded completely from memory" (Jütte 2014).

All the more valuable are those textual witnesses of early modern arrival practices that have survived to the present day and allow researchers insights into the visitor history of specific cities – as in the case of Vienna, the “Wien[n]erisches Diarium”: the periodical, which was founded in 1703 and renamed “Wiener Zeitung” in 1780, included a list of upper class arrivals ("Ankunfft derer Hoch= und niederen Stands=Personen") in each of its issues from its founding year until mid-March 1725. This section, whose contents the newspaper’s publishers received through an imperial privilege, was followed with particular interest by readers at the time and can still be considered highly relevant today. After all, each of the approximately 2250 arrival lists printed in the “Diarium” showcases a high information density and thus a high knowledge potential: Not only are readers informed about which high-ranking persons arrived in Vienna on a certain day, but they also learn – in addition to occupation and title details – about the city gate used by the arriving persons, their previous place of stay and their place of lodging.

The aim of the City of Vienna funded project is to (semi-)automatically analyse this wealth of information with the help of digital methods. More specifically, high-quality full texts are created with the help of Transkribus and the entities named therein (e.g. people, places of arrival and accommodation) are extracted, geocoded and visualised on historical city maps of Vienna. In this way – following the vision of the European initiative TIME MACHINE – new connections between events, people and places are established over time and the development of a local Vienna Time Machine is significantly advanced. Ultimately, the project title "Visiting Vienna" can be read in two ways: Digital, (semi-)automatic approaches and interactive maps and graphs do not only make arrivals and accommodations of historical persons traceable in time and space, but also enable interested time travellers from the present to enter early modern Vienna themselves.

Project Duration

1 October 2022 ­– 30 September 2023



Nina C. Rastinger