As part of the Year of German-American Friendship 2018/19 (Deutschlandjahr USA), the German Historical Institute Washington (GHI) is cooperating with the Deutsches Auswandererhaus, Bremerhaven, on a joint project entitled Crossing the Atlantic/Bridging the Divide. Co-sponsored initiatives include a digital exhibition of maps of Germany and America; workshops on German-American family history in three U.S. cities; and the launch of an English-language online portal for documenting German-American family history. These planned initiatives align with the primary themes of Deutschlandjahr, which include German heritage and German language, and digitization and innovation.
Last month, the GHI began work on its core contribution to the joint project: an online exhibition provisionally entitled Mapping Germany and America. The exhibition is being developed in partnership with Vanderbilt University’s Center for Digital Humanities, which is led by Prof. Helmut Walser Smith. Beginning with Martin Waldseemüller’s world map of 1507, the exhibition will feature approximately sixty maps: thirty maps of America by Germans and thirty maps of Germany by Americans. Exhibition curator Dr. Martin Mulford is currently at work on a selection of historical maps that will show how cartographers portrayed Germany and America over the course of a centuries-long relationship characterized by engagement, partnership, intermittent periods of conflict, knowledge transfer, and dialogue.
History teachers Stacey King (M.A.) and Dr. Katharina Matro, both of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, will develop teaching materials to accompany the exhibition. Among other objectives, these materials will encourage students to think more critically about maps as historical sources. By devoting equal attention to German and American maps, the exhibition and the teaching materials will differ from most U.S.-based online map projects, which generally focus on maps of America. Additionally, the exhibition aims to forge a middle ground between American map projects that are informed by a public history tradition and German projects that are shaped by research questions.
For its contribution, the Deutsches Auswandererhaus will host a series of workshops entitled German-American Roots: Share Your Family Story in three U.S. cities: Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Washington, DC. The target audience in each case is local German-Americans, who will be invited to tell their own immigration stories or share family narratives. The interviews will be recorded and will eventually become part of the museum’s oral history collection. Furthermore, in early 2019, the Auswandererhaus will launch a new English-language online portal, whereby any German-American immigrant, regardless of location, will be able to document his or her own personal or family history.
The GHI exhibition will be launched in spring 2019 – please check back!