All posts by katharina hering

Research Access to the German Broadcasting Heritage. A Short Introduction to the Archival Landscape of the German Broadcasters ARD and Deutschlandradio

By Götz Lachwitz

Editorial note: Götz Lachwitz has been a research specialist at the German Broadcasting Archive (DRA) at Potsdam-Babelsberg since August 2020. His responsibilities include coordination and advice on ARD-wide and general research inquiries serving academics and other scholars. Previously, he was a research assistant in the DFG project “History of Documentary Film in Germany” and a doctoral student at the University of Hamburg, where he was part of the research training group „Vergegenwärtigungen. Repräsentationen der Shoah in komparatistischer Perspektive“ [Recollections:Representations of the Shoah in Comparative Perspective]

Are you a researcher and are looking for an overview of German radio and television coverage on your research topic? Are you interested in radio and television reports by specific journalists, cinematographers, or other media professionals from the last 100 years? Are you working on a comparative study of broadcasting in East and West Germany during the Cold War and are still looking for relevant sources? Then you need access to the German broadcasting heritage, and to the archives of public broadcasting.

© DRA. Photograph: Waltraud Denger, ARD-Design
Videos relevant to contemporary history are freely accessible under the label “ARD Retro” in the ARD Mediathek on the Internet**

In Germany, there are private broadcasters, mostly financed by advertising, as well as public broadcasters, financed by fees. This system, which is also called the “dual principle,” dates to the early eighties, when an increasing number of private broadcasting companies were established.[1] The prominence of public broadcasting distinguishes the German media landscape from the U.S., where radio and television programs are often produced by commercial providers.  

One of the key features of the public broadcasting system in Germany is its federal structure. Each federal state has its own state broadcasting institution, each with its own competencies. In some cases, two or more federal states jointly operate a broadcasting institution, such as Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg. A total of nine broadcasters broadcast radio and television programs for their respective regions.[2] In addition, a joint supra-regional television program operates within the framework of ARD, the Association of German Broadcasting Corporations: Das Erste or Das Erste Deutsche Fernsehen.

Part of ARD is the international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, which produces a multilingual radio and television program for various target groups in other countries. Independent from ARD, but also organized under public law, are the nationwide broadcasters Deutschlandradio, with a total of three national radio programs, and Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF). Today, all broadcasters provide digital programs and services complementing their regular radio or television programs.

The diversity of broadcasters is also reflected by the archives of the individual stations. Each of the public broadcasting companies maintains its own archive. These archives contain not only the surviving radio and television broadcasts from the program, but also sources that provide additional contextual information, such as written material, photographs, and material objects. In addition to documentation of the broadcasting company’s institutional history, the archives also include collections about specific program, including, for example, letters to the editor. As sources of contemporary history, such letters provide insight into the impact of radio and television on its viewers. Donated manuscript collections from important personalities in broadcasting history, and other special collections, such as sheet music for live music broadcasts from broadcasting concert halls, also have their place in these archives. [3]

A special feature in the network of public broadcasting archives is the German Broadcasting Archive (DRA), a foundation jointly supported by ARD and Deutschlandradio, with two locations – in Frankfurt am Main and in Potsdam-Babelsberg. The DRA’s main focus is on the broadcasting collections from the Weimar Republic (1923-1933), National Socialism (1933-1945) and the radio and television of the German Democratic Republic (1945-1990). The DRA’s collections therefore represent an important addition to the holdings of the archives of the public broadcasters, documenting the historical development of broadcasting in Germany as a whole. German broadcasting history now spans over more than 100 years, and was shaped by political transformations and two forms of dictatorship, Nazi Germany and the GDR.  [4]

© DRA, Fotografie: Michael Risse
View into the television magazine of the German Broadcasting Archive, where the analog film holdings from the GDR’s television era are stored.

The fact that public broadcasting exists at all in the Federal Republic of Germany today is primarily due to National Socialism and the Allied occupation following World War II: During the Nazi era, centralized broadcasting was an important propaganda tool, a development that the allied powers strove to rule out after the end of the war. Based on the model of the British BBC, the Western occupying powers introduced a public broadcasting service: a service that operates independently from the state, is publicly financed (by all citizens), has a federal rather than a centralized structure, and that has an educational mandate in line with democratic principles. This is a model that was continued and expanded after the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 and has essentially survived until today.  [5]

In the Soviet occupation zone, broadcasting was initially under the control of the Soviet Military Administration following the end of World War II. After the establishment of the GDR in 1949, state-controlled broadcasting was introduced, which lasted for several decades, until the fall of the Berlin Wall. In this respect, the unification of East and West Germany also led to groundbreaking changes in broadcasting policy. The GDR’s broadcasting system was dissolved. In the new federal states in the territory of the former GDR, new broadcasting stations were established, or the regions were included in the broadcasting areas of existing West German broadcasting stations. [6]

The establishment of Deutschlandradio, the only nationwide public radio station, was also a result of Germany’s unification in 1989/1990. Both Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor (RIAS Berlin), which was founded during the American occupation, and Deutschlandfunk, which was founded in the 1960s as a German response to propaganda radio measures by the GDR, and finally Deutschlandsender Kultur (DS Kultur), which emerged from the GDR’s radio station during the fall of communism, were transferred to a new national radio station in 1994: Deutschlandradio. Therefore, today’s Deutschlandradio archive includes not only its own programming assets, but also the records of the three predecessor stations.

Scholars who are interested in the history of German broadcasting today, or who are hoping to access the German broadcasting heritage for a variety of research projects, will therefore not only encounter the parallel structure of private and public broadcasters, but also a network of different broadcasting archives distributed throughout Germany.

Since 2014, however, this distributed archival landscape has become more accessible through a uniform access regulation for the archives of ARD, Deutschlandradio and ZDF. Since then, the public broadcasters have voluntarily committed themselves to opening their archives for academic research. Since 2021, the DRA has also taken on a coordinating and advisory role to simplify access to the holdings of ARD and Deutschlandradio. The DRA is available to assist with general and specific research inquiries, including advice on how to access the different collections, or with sharing contact information for specialists in the ARD and Deutschlandradio archives. The DRA is also the first point of contact if a you are interested in researching in the holdings of several institutions. However, if you are specifically interested in researching in the holdings of one of the public broadcasters, you are welcome to contact these archives directly. Just as at the DRA, an academic research liaison in each archive of the broadcasting corporations will assist you with your inquiry.


* To mark UNESCO’s World Audiovisual Heritage Day on October 27, 2020, the archives of the ARD stations and the German Broadcasting Archive have started making videos relevant to contemporary history freely accessible online. The focus is on regional and current television productions from before 1966, which will in the future be available under the label “ARD Retro” in the ARD Mediathek. Insights into the news and magazine features of GDR television are provided by the “Retro Spezial DDR,” which is made available by the DRA.

[1] See: Schwarzkopf, Dietrich, „Die “Medienwende” 1983,“ in: Schwarzkopf (ed.), Rundfunkpolitik in Deutschland. Wettbewerb und Öffentlichkeit, vol.1 (Munich: dtv, 1999): 29-49.

[2] This includes the Bayerische Rundfunk (BR), Hessische Rundfunk (HR), Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk (MDR), Norddeutsche Rundfunk (NDR), Radio Bremen, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), Saarländische Rundfunk (SR), Südwestdeutsche Rundfunk (SWR) and the Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR).

[3] See: Behmer, Markus/Bernard, Birgit/Hasselbring, Bettina (eds.), Das Gedächtnis des Rundfunks. Die Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sender und ihre Bedeutung für die Forschung (Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2013).

[4] See: Dethlefs, Friedrich. „Ein Archiv für Tonaufnahmen. Geschichte und Bestände des Deutschen Rundfunkarchivs – Ein Überblick,“ in: Archivnachrichten aus Hessen 20:1 (2020): 36-41.

[5] See: Glässgen, Heinz, „Im öffentlichen Interesse. Einführung,“ in: Glässgen (ed.),Im öffentlichen Interesse. Auftrag und Legitimation des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks (Leipzig: Vistas, 2015): 11-19.

[6] For an overview of the German (East-and West) broadcasting history, see: Dussel, Konrad, Deutsche Rundfunkgeschichte, third rev. edition (Konstanz: UVK, 2010).

Links

Overview of the scholarship and research liaisons at the archives of ARD, Deutschlandradio and ZDF:
https://www.dra.de/fileadmin/www.dra.de/downloads/unser-service-fuer-sie/210916_AnsprechpartnerInnen_Archive_ARD_ZDF_DLR_NEU__007_.pdf [Nov. 21, 2020]

Regulations on research and academic access for  to the archives of the public broadcasting corporations in the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Broadcasting Archives:
https://www.dra.de/fileadmin/www.dra.de/downloads/unser-service-fuer-sie/Regelungen_zum_Archivzugang.pdf [Nov. 21, 2020]

Web presentation of the German Broadcasting Archive with information about holdings and access options: https://www.dra.de [Nov. 21, 2020]

Website of the Historical Commission of the ARD with information on the history of public service broadcasting in Germany:
https://historische-kommission.ard.de [Nov. 21, 2020]

ARD Retro, https://www.ardmediathek.de/retro [Nov. 11, 2012]

Retro Spezial DDR, https://www.ardmediathek.de/ard/retrospezialddr [Nov. 11, 2012]

Further reading

Behmer, Markus/Bernard, Birgit/Hasselbring, Bettina (eds). Das Gedächtnis des Rundfunks. Die Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sender und ihre Bedeutung für die Forschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2013.

Dussel, Konrad. Deutsche Rundfunkgeschichte. 3rd, rev. Edition. Konstanz: UVK, 2010.

Glässgen, Heinz (ed.). Im öffentlichen Interesse. Auftrag und Legitimation des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks. Leipzig: Vistas, 2015.

Schwarzkopf, Dietrich (ed.). Rundfunkpolitik in Deutschland. Wettbewerb und Öffentlichkeit. 2 vols. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999.

Zugang für Wissenschaftler*innen zum deutschen Rundfunkerbe. Ein kurzer Einstieg in die Archivlandschaft von ARD und Deutschlandradio

Von Götz Lachwitz

Editorische Notiz: Götz Lachwitz ist seit August 2020 wissenschaftlicher Fachreferent beim Deutschen Rundfunkarchiv am Standort Potsdam-Babelsberg. Zu seinen Aufgaben gehört unter anderem die Koordination und Beratung bei ARD-weiten und allgemeinen Anfragen aus Wissenschaft und Forschung. Zuvor war er wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter im DFG-Projekt „Geschichte des dokumentarischen Films in Deutschland“ und Doktorand an der Universität Hamburg, wo er im Rahmen des Graduiertenkollegs „Vergegenwärtigungen. Repräsentationen der Shoah in komparatistischer Perspektive“ promoviert hat.

Sie sind Wissenschaftler*in und brauchen einen Überblick über die deutsche Radio- und Fernsehberichterstattung zu ihrem Forschungsthema? Sie interessieren sich für Radio- und Fernsehbeiträge von bestimmten Journalist*innen, Kameraleuten oder anderen Medienschaffenden aus den letzten 100 Jahren? Sie arbeiten an einer vergleichenden Studie über den Rundfunk in Ost- und Westdeutschland während des Kalten Krieges und suchen noch nach relevanten Quellen? Dann brauchen Sie Zugang zum deutschen Rundfunkerbe und zu den Archiven des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks.

© DRA, Fotografie: Waltraud Denger, ARD-Design
Zeitgeschichtlich relevante Videos sind frei zugänglich unter dem Label “ARD Retro” in der ARD Mediathek im Netz zu finden*

In Deutschland gibt es sowohl private, überwiegend werbefinanzierte Rundfunkanbieter, als auch öffentlich-rechtliche Rundfunkanstalten, denn der Rundfunk in Deutschland ist seit Anfang der 1980er Jahre nach dem dualen Prinzip organisiert.[1] Dadurch unterscheidet sich die deutsche von der amerikanischen Medienlandschaft, wo Radio- und Fernsehprogramme in der Regel von kommerziellen Anbietern produziert werden.[2]

Eine der wesentlichen Besonderheiten des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunksystems in Deutschland ist seine föderale Struktur. Das heißt jedes Bundesland (in einigen Fällen auch zwei oder mehr Bundesländer zusammen) verfügt über eine eigene Landesrundfunkanstalt mit jeweils eigenen Kompetenzen. Insgesamt neun Landesrundfunkanstalten senden Hörfunk- und Fernsehprogramme für die jeweilige Region.[3] Zusätzlich wird ein gemeinsames überregionales Fernsehprogramm im Rahmen der ARD, der Arbeitsgemeinschaft der deutschen Rundfunkanstalten, umgesetzt: Das Erste oder auch Das Erste Deutsche Fernsehen.

Ebenfalls zur ARD gehört der Auslandsrundfunk Deutsche Welle, der ein mehrsprachiges Hörfunk- und Fernsehprogramm für verschiedene Zielgruppen aus anderen Ländern produziert. Unabhängig von der ARD, aber ebenfalls öffentlich-rechtlich organisiert, agieren außerdem die bundesweit aufgestellten Rundfunkanstalten Deutschlandradio, mit insgesamt drei national ausgerichteten Radioprogrammen, und das Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen (ZDF). Alle diese Rundfunkanstalten publizieren heute neben verschiedenen Hörfunk- oder Fernsehprogrammen auch digitale Angebote.

Die Vielfalt an Rundfunkanstalten spiegelt sich auch in den Archiven der einzelnen Sender wider. Jede der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten unterhält ein eigenes Archiv. In diesen Archiven finden sich nicht nur die überlieferten Hörfunk- und Fernsehsendungen aus dem Programm, sondern auch zahlreiche kontextualisierende Quellen, wie Schriftgut, Fotografien und Sachzeugen. Darunter fallen natürlich Unterlagen, die die jeweilige Unternehmensgeschichte dokumentieren. Dazu können aber beispielsweise auch Leserbriefe zu Sendungen gehören, die als Quellen der Zeitgeschichte einen Einblick in die Wirkung von Radio und Fernsehen auf seine Zuschauer*innen ermöglichen. Auch Nachlässe bedeutender Persönlichkeiten der Rundfunkgeschichte und spezielle Sammlungen, wie die von Noten als Grundlage von live aus dem Sendesaal übertragener Musik, haben in diesen Archiven ihren Platz.[4]

Eine Besonderheit im Netzwerk der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkarchive ist das Deutsche Rundfunkarchiv (DRA), eine gemeinsam von der ARD und Deutschlandradio getragene Stiftung mit zwei Standorten – in Frankfurt am Main und Potsdam-Babelsberg. Zu den Überlieferungsschwerpunkten des DRA gehören die Bestände des Rundfunks aus der Zeit der Weimarer Republik (1923-1933), des Nationalsozialismus (1933-1945) und vom Hörfunk- und Fernsehen der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (1945-1990). Die Sammlungen des DRA stellen daher eine wichtige Ergänzung zu den Beständen der Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sendeanstalten dar, um die gesamtdeutsche Geschichte des Rundfunks in den Blick nehmen zu können – eine Geschichte, die mittlerweile gut 100 Jahre umfasst und von verschiedenen Staatsformen nachhaltig geprägt wurde, darunter zwei Diktaturen.[5]

© DRA, Fotografie: Michael Risse
Blick ins Fernsehmagazin des Deutschen Rundfunkarchivs, wo die analogen Filmbestände aus der Zeit des Fernsehens der DDR aufbewahrt werden.

Dass es in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland heute überhaupt einen öffentlich-rechtlich organisierten Rundfunk gibt, hat seine Begründung vor allem in der Zeit des Zweiten Weltkriegs und der Zeit unter alliierter Besatzung: Zur Zeit des Nationalsozialismus war der zentralstaatlich organisierte Rundfunk ein wichtiges Propagandainstrument. Eine ähnliche Entwicklung sollte nach Kriegsende ausgeschlossen werden. Angelehnt an das Vorbild der britischen BBC wurde daher von den westlichen Besatzungsmächten ein öffentlich-rechtlicher Rundfunk eingeführt: ein vom Staat unabhängig agierender, öffentlich (das heißt von allen Bürger*innen) finanzierter, föderal statt zentralistisch aufgestellter Rundfunk mit einem Bildungsauftrag im Sinne demokratischer Prinzipien. Es handelt sich dabei um ein Modell, dass nach Gründung der Bundesrepublik fortgesetzt und ausgebaut wurde und im Wesentlichen bis heute Bestand hat.[6]

In der sowjetischen Besatzungszone stand der Rundfunk nach Kriegsende zunächst unter Kontrolle der Sowjetischen Militäradministration, bevor in der DDR ein staatlich kontrollierter Rundfunk eingeführt wurde, der mehrere Jahrzehnte lang Bestand hatte. Die Wiedervereinigung von Ost- und Westdeutschland führte insofern auch rundfunkpolitisch zu wegweisenden Veränderungen. Der Rundfunk der DDR wurde aufgelöst. In den neuen Bundesländern auf dem Gebiet der ehemaligen DDR wurden entweder neue Rundfunkanstalten gegründet oder die Sendegebiete bereits bestehender westdeutscher Rundfunkanstalten wurden erweitert.[7]

Auch die Gründung von Deutschlandradio, dem einzigen bundesweit aufgestellten öffentlich-rechtlichen Radiosender, ist eine Folge der Wiedervereinigung im Jahr 1989/1990. Sowohl der noch zur Zeit amerikanischer Besatzung gegründete Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor (kurz: RIAS Berlin), als auch der in den 1960er Jahren als bundesdeutsche Antwort auf propagandistische Radio-Maßnahmen von Seiten der DDR gegründete Sender Deutschlandfunk und schließlich der in der Wendezeit aus dem Rundfunk der DDR hervorgegangene Deutschlandsender Kultur (kurz: DS Kultur) wurden 1994 in einen neuen nationalen Hörfunk überführt: Deutschlandradio.[8] Das Archiv von Deutschlandradio umfasst daher heute nicht nur das eigene Programmvermögen, sondern auch die Überlieferung der drei Vorläuferanstalten.

Wer sich heute wissenschaftlich mit der deutschen Rundfunkgeschichte beschäftigt, oder auch mit Blick auf andere Fragestellungen Zugang zum deutschen Rundfunkerbe sucht, trifft also nicht nur auf ein Nebeneinander von privaten und öffentlich-rechtlich organisierten Rundfunkanstalten. Wissenschaftler*innen treffen auch auf ein Geflecht unterschiedlicher Archive, die in ganz Deutschland verteilt sind.

Dieser verteilten Archivsituation steht aber seit 2014 eine einheitliche Zugangsregelung für Wissenschaftler*innen zu den Archiven von ARD, Deutschlandradio und ZDF gegenüber. Seit diesem Zeitpunkt besteht eine freiwillige Selbstverpflichtung der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten ihre Archive für Wissenschaft und Forschung zu öffnen. Seit 2021 übernimmt außerdem das DRA eine koordinierende und beratende Funktion, die den Zugang zu den Beständen von ARD und Deutschlandradio vereinfachen soll. Bei allgemeinen wissenschaftlichen Anfragen, einer Beratung zu den Zugangsmöglichkeiten zu den Archivbeständen der Rundfunkanstalten oder bei der Suche nach der oder dem richtigen Ansprechpartner*in in den Archiven von ARD und Deutschlandradio, steht ihnen das DRA zur Seite. Auch ist das DRA der erste Ansprechpartner, wenn Sie sich für die Bestände mehrerer Häuser interessieren. Wenn Sie sich dagegen ganz konkret für die Bestände einer der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten interessieren, nehmen Sie gerne den direkten Kontakt auf. Genauso wie im DRA gibt es in jedem Archiv der Rundfunkanstalten eine/n Wissenschaftsansprechpartner*in, der oder die sie bei ihrem Anliegen unterstützen kann.

* Zum UNESCO Welttag des Audiovisuellen Erbes am 27. Oktober 2020 haben die Archive der ARD-Sender und das Deutsche Rundfunkarchiv begonnen, zeitgeschichtlich relevante Videos frei zugänglich ins Netz zu stellen. Im Fokus stehen regionale und aktuelle Fernsehproduktionen aus der Zeit vor 1966. Sie sind künftig unter dem Label „ARD Retro“ in der ARD Mediathek zu finden. Einblicke in die Nachrichten- und Magazin-Beiträge des DDR-Fernsehens gibt das „Retro Spezial DDR“, das vom DRA bereitgestellt wird.


[1] Vgl. dazu Schwarzkopf, Dietrich (1999): Die “Medienwende” 1983. In: Ders. (Hrsg.), Rundfunkpolitik in Deutschland. Wettbewerb und Öffentlichkeit. Band 1. München: dtv, S. 29-49.

[2] Zu den nicht-kommerziellen Rundfunkanbietern in den USA gehören der Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) und das National Public Radio (NPR).

[3] Dazu gehören heute der Bayerische Rundfunk (BR), der Hessische Rundfunk (HR), der Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk (MDR), der Norddeutsche Rundfunk (NDR), Radio Bremen, der Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), der Saarländische Rundfunk (SR), der Südwestdeutsche Rundfunk (SWR) und der Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR).

[4] Vgl. Behmer, Markus/Bernard, Birgit/Hasselbring, Bettina (Hrsg.) (2013): Das Gedächtnis des Rundfunks. Die Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sender und ihre Bedeutung für die Forschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

[5] Vgl. Dethlefs, Friedrich (2020): Ein Archiv für Tonaufnahmen. Geschichte und Bestände des Deutschen Rundfunkarchivs – Ein Überblick. In: Archivnachrichten aus Hessen, 20, 1, S. 36-41.

[6] Vgl. Glässgen, Heinz (2015): Im öffentlichen Interesse. Einführung. In: Ders. (Hrsg.), Im öffentlichen Interesse. Auftrag und Legitimation des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks. Leipzig: Vistas, S. 11-19.

[7] Für einen Überblick über die gesamtdeutsche Rundfunkgeschichte vgl. Dussel, Konrad (2010): Deutsche Rundfunkgeschichte. 3., überarbeitete Auflage, Konstanz: UVK.

[8] Vgl. Diller, Ansgar (1999): Der nationale Hörfunk. In: Schwarzkopf, Dietrich (Hrsg.), Rundfunkpolitik in Deutschland. Wettbewerb und Öffentlichkeit. Band 2. München: dtv, S. 978-1007.

Links

Übersicht über die Wissenschaftsansprechpartner*innen der Archive von ARD, Deutschlandradio und ZDF:
https://www.dra.de/fileadmin/www.dra.de/downloads/unser-service-fuer-sie/210916_AnsprechpartnerInnen_Archive_ARD_ZDF_DLR_NEU__007_.pdf

Regelungen über den Zugang für Wissenschaft und Forschung zum Archivgut der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und des Deutschen Rundfunkarchivs:
https://www.dra.de/fileadmin/www.dra.de/downloads/unser-service-fuer-sie/Regelungen_zum_Archivzugang.pdf

Webauftritt des Deutschen Rundfunkarchivs mit Informationen über Bestände und Zugangsmöglichkeiten:
https://www.dra.de

Webauftritt der Historischen Kommission der ARD mit Informationen zur Geschichte des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks in Deutschland:
https://historische-kommission.ard.de

ARD Retro, https://www.ardmediathek.de/retro

Retro Spezial DDR, https://www.ardmediathek.de/ard/retrospezialddr

Weiterführende Literatur

Behmer, Markus/Bernard, Birgit/Hasselbring, Bettina (Hrsg.) (2013): Das Gedächtnis des Rundfunks. Die Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sender und ihre Bedeutung für die Forschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Dussel, Konrad (2010): Deutsche Rundfunkgeschichte. 3., überarbeitete Auflage, Konstanz: UVK.

Glässgen, Heinz (Hrsg.) (2015): Im öffentlichen Interesse. Auftrag und Legitimation des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks. Leipzig: Vistas.

Schwarzkopf, Dietrich (Hrsg.) (1999): Rundfunkpolitik in Deutschland. Wettbewerb und Öffentlichkeit. 2 Bände. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag.

Between Progress and Sublime Reverie: Revisiting 19th-Century America through Digital Art Exhibitions

By Chiara Fralick

Chiara A. Fralick is a graduate student of North American Studies at the University of Cologne. She has focused on art and literatures of the 19th century as well as Indigenous oral histories. Currently she is researching interactions of poetry and land ethics in the environmental humanities. The working title of her Master’s thesis is “Nature Spirited Away: Exploring Ecological Empathy and Native Nations Poetics.” In the fall of 2021, she completed her remote internship at the GHI Washington, DC.

The other day I found myself wondering when I had been to a museum last. I love a good exhibition, so it’s an odd thing for me not to remember. But since the beginning of 2020, like so many of us, I have neither travelled much, nor sought out public places. So something that has made lockdown a little sweeter for me are digital exhibitions. One of my favourite museums to explore online, at the moment, is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It has an enormous online collection that not only features various paintings and artefacts, but also provides audio tours, interactive floor plans of the museum’s galleries, educational resources, and a world map to explore the museum’s art by location.

Asher B. Durand, Progress (The Advance of Civilization), VMFA, https://www.vmfa.museum/piction/6027262-192288967/

Under the “Recently Acquired” section for American Art, I found Asher B. Durand’s painting Progress (The Advance of Civilization). Arguably one of his most famous works, it dates back to 1853 and depicts an evening scene speckled with industrial themes. As viewers, we are overlooking a bay engulfed by rolling hills of old-growth forest, distant mountains and a soft cloudscape bathed in golden light from the setting sun. There is a wagon trail that enters from the right, on which cattle are being brought in and goods are carried. A person ploughs their field, smaller boats frequent a stream and houses spring up here and there. Further along the shoreline a coal train passes over a viaduct and even further still, just slightly off centre, we can make out a busy industrial port with steamboats and the smoking chimneys of a larger town and factory. The painting’s composition allows the trail of industrialisation to progress from right to left – east to west – ending with the last ship almost in line with the setting sun. It is a typical and popular visualisation of 19th-century westward movement, predominantly used by a group of landscape painters called the Hudson River School, of which Durand was a leading figure. With this in mind, and considering the title of the painting, it is not surprising that for the longest time, Asher Durand’s Progress had been linked to American expansionism.

When I first spotted the miniature version of Progress, I mistook it at a glance for another one of Durand’s paintings: The Indian’s Vespers. The VMFA’s website works with visual cues, i.e. it gives you a small preview of an artefact or painting and only reveals the title once you move your curser over it. The digital collection thereby cleverly mimics the nature of an actual museum. Yet, The Indian’s Vespers has been in the White House Collection for half a century now, so it is doubtful we will see it in a museum any time soon. Instead, we can view it in the digital library provided by the White House Historical Association, albeit not in the highest resolution. The association was founded by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961, with the “mission to protect, preserve, and provide public access to the rich history of America’s Executive Mansion.” It is definitely another form of online exhibit I would recommend. Their platform includes everything from newspaper clippings and photographs to a vast collection of the White House’s art and decor with detailed descriptions. The Indian’s Vespers is displayed in the Red Room.

Asher B. Durand, The Indian’s Vespers, 1847, The White House, Wikimedia Commons

The resemblance to Progress is indeed remarkable – and at the same time they couldn’t be more different. While Progress is renowned for seemingly capturing the expansionist zeitgeist of 19th-century America to a fault, The Indian’s Vespers is entirely void of any signs of industrialisation. Instead, it highlights the liveliness of nature, creating a dynamic current that runs in concentric lines around the sun. Durand saw it as the artist’s duty to portray “the spiritual beauty with which nature is animate,”[i] which is interesting, because it does not at all seem to sit well with the expansionist theme that so ardently advocates human power over nature. This is where the other movement that influenced the American art scene comes in: German Romanticism. The Hudson River School was closely affiliated with the Düsseldorf school of painting, with some American painters having even studied at the German academy themselves. For the Romantic movement in Germany, then, the revolution of imagination and animation of nature were key ingredients. It seems American painters tried to reconcile the expansionist and romantic side of their country by preserving a version of nature in their paintings that would remain untouched by industrialisation. This inner conflict between advocating the advance of American civilisation and the heartfelt sadness at the destruction of nature has been called the Romantic dilemma of the nineteenth century.

Detail from Asher Durand, Progress, https://www.vmfa.museum/piction/6027262-192288967/

This dilemma is perceivable even in an expansionist masterpiece such as Progress. The clue lies in the painting’s details and might easily be missed if we were looking at Progress in a museum. The painting’s composition is clever indeed – it guides our attention by means of perspective and lighting to the painting’s industrial centre, leaving the front quite literally in the shadows. The VFMA’ website, however, provides close-ups that invite us to reconsider the foreground. In the left detail of the painting we recognise a small group of Indigenous people overlooking the scene, which counterbalances the prominent entry from the right. Once noticed, they are impossible to miss and present the viewer with an alternative perspective and approach to the scene – an alternative lifestyle, even. If we then look at the detailed fragment of the bottom right of the painting, we notice another figure, with walking stick and a large bundle on his back, hiking out of the picture. In the highly-recommendable Panorama article Asher Durand’s Progress Reconsidered, art historian Rebecca Bedell interprets him as “a stand-in for the artist, turning his back on the path of progress.” Who knows, she writes, he might even “climb up to join the Native Americans on their perch.”

Did Durand indeed manage to hide the devil in the detail, so that more than one and a half centuries later, we are starting to see Progress in a different context and read it as anti-expansionist instead of glorifying industrialisation? In fact, ever since the painting was gifted to the VMFA by an anonymous donor, people have started to look at it with fresh perspective and more thorough contextualisation. In an interview with VPM (Virginia’s home for Public Media), the chief curator at the VMFA, Michael Taylor, explains that “this opportunity to provide new context happens when a classic work of art moves from private hands to a space where it can be publicly viewed, analyzed and questioned.” It is a privilege of our digital age that this space does not only exist in museums, but by now also online. I have found the wealth of digital source material for art history invaluable for my own research, especially in these past twenty months or so in which my home suddenly became office, lecture hall, museum and archive at the same time.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is of course only one example of many, many more museums that went online over the past years – and, sadly at least for a while, could be explored exclusively online due to COVID-19. But online exhibits are a fantastic way to continue to integrate art into our education, zoom-classrooms, term papers, presentations or leisure time activities. At the beginning of the first lockdown, PBS even published an article about “19 immersive museum exhibits you can visit from your couch” and as diverse as these online collections may seem, they all have one thing in common: they take us on a journey, entertain us and sometimes – as is the case with Durand’s Progress – challenge us to question long-established convictions.

Literature and Links

Durand, John, The Life and Times of A. B. Durand, (1894), Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York, 2006.

Miller, Angela, “The Empire of the Eye: Landscape Representation and American Cultural Politics, 1825-1875,” Cornell University Press: Ithaca and London, 1993

Miller, Perry, “The Romantic Dilemma in American Nationalism and the Concept of Nature,” The Har- vard Theological Review 48,4 (1955).

Solomon, Peter, “Framing Progress: VMFA To Place $40 Million Asher Durand Painting In Context With Native American Art” WCVE News, Virginia Current, npr news, January 31, 2019. https://vp- m.org/news/articles/3367/framing-progress-vmfa-to-place-40-million-asher-durand-painting-in-context- with.

Asher B. Durand, The Indian’s Vespers by, 1847, The White House, Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Indian’s_Vespers_by_Asher_Brown_Durand,_1847.jpg

Asher B. Durand, Progress (The Advance of Civilization), VMFA, https://www.vmfa.museum/piction/6027262-192288967/


[i] Bedell, Rebecca, “Asher Durand’s Progress Reconsidered,” Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 5,1 (2019), https://doi.org/10.24926/24716839.1688. p.4.

What Makes a Witch a Witch? A Brief History of the 17th Century Trials of Lemgo

By Lea Katharina Neikes

Editorial note: Lea Katharina Neikes is studying history and art history (Geschichtswissenschaften/Bild- und Kunstgeschichte) at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. Through her remote internship in the summer/autumn 2021 at the GHI, she has found new impulses for her upcoming bachelor thesis. Currently she is researching the comparison of different burial sites during the Dia de los muertos/All Saints and the construction/ effect of American and German/European cemeteries. Suitable for the Halloween month, she explored a (spooky) piece of her regional history for the href blog.

Two postcards featuring Lemgo’s history as a witch’s nest, 1920s (left) and 1970s (right). Source: Museum Hexenbürgermeisterhaus Lemgo

Have you ever heard of the city of Lemgo? No? Well, this small German town is rather well known among the citizen of North Rhine-Westphalia for its history as a “Witch’s nest” and its gruesome history of witchcraft trials. When I started my studies at the University of Bielefeld, I quickly realized that almost everyone there knew about it, everyone except for me. In fact, with about 200 trial records preserved in the city archives, the city is one of the most substantial memorials of witchcraft trials in Germany. After the 30 Years War (1618-1648), poverty and superstition had precipitated witchcraft hunts in numerous locations. It is estimated that 250 people, about 80 percent of them women, fell victim to the trials in Lemgo. There were at least two waves of persecution. The last one from 1665 to 1681 gained tragic prominence through the so-called “Hexenbürgermeister” (witch mayor) Hermann Cothmann.

Cothmann used the delusion of witchcraft to carry out his personal interests in power and to eliminate his opponents. The last witchcraft trial against Maria Rampendahl, who escaped with her life, also took place during his term of office. In 1681 the confident 36-year-old woman was interrogated for the first time, but was not intimidated by the threat of torture. Even two days later, under torture, she made no confession. Her final sentence was eternal banishment from the city and the country, a sentence that did certainly not sit well with her. Instead of accepting banishment, Maria Rampendahl sued those responsible before the Imperial Chamber Court. The proceedings ended in 1682 with her losing. Still her statements before the main court represent one of the most impressive ego documents in the collection. The trials finally ended in 1715, when the “Black Book”, in which all witchcraft accusations had been collected, was publicly burned on the market square.

Maria-Rampendal-Ehefrau-des-Barbiers-Hermann-Hermensen-1681-1682, Stadtverweisung, Stadtarchiv Lemgo, 01.02.02 A, A 3672

 

But who were the victims and how did they become victims? Of fundamental importance in this context is the question of the relevance of the category “gender” for early modern witchcraft hunts. The condemned and accused were almost exclusively female, predominantly old and often widowed. The categories of gender, age, and marital status were decisive for the labeling of a woman as a witch. One assumption is that calling a woman a witch was related to conflict. In fact, persons who were in a conflicted relationship with the accused were given preference by the council to take the stand.

Against the stereotypical persecution of women speaks the drastically increasing number of “atypical” witches. These include children as well as younger and “honorable” women, but especially Men. Andreas Koch, a priest, spoke out against the witchcraft trials and was therefore executed for being a “witch”.

Another peculiarity of the accusations in Lemgo is the symbolism used exclusively for men. For example, the brewer Olieschleger, who abused his wife, sexually assaulted his maids and offended the moral sensibilities of his neighbors, was not on trial as a witch but as a werewolf!

Schmähbrief gegen David Welman als Werwolf, 1642 (Stadtarchiv Lemgo A 4694)

This examples can only be deciphered by asking in what ways gender discourse and witchcraft discourse intertwine. From the perspective of the townspeople his wife, otherwise see as vulnerable to Satan’s wiles and dependent on male leadership, appeared as an example of Christian virtue while her husband was out of control. Besides the witch trials, there also existed so-called werewolf trials. In general, the accused persons were exclusively men.

“Witches” were said to use, primarily, harmful spells. These were based on the stereotypical image of insidious and devious femininity. “Werewolves”, on the other hand, were said to have done animal like damage. And thus embodied a strongly masculine conception. The fact that a man could still be accused of being a witch was based on behavior, not interpreted as emphatically masculine, but as witchy-feminine.

Mitschriften von zwei Geständnissen oder Besagungen? (Stadtarchiv Lemgo A 10879)

Nevertheless, the files are questionable as they are part, product and medium of one or more discourses on witchcraft. As a result, it is primarily what “made sense” in this context that has been handed down. Another problem is that the respective men „in power“ determined the socioeconomic status of women. During the witchcraft hunts, social structures could put women at a disadvantage when it came to building a “lobby” to help fend off the attack on their reputation. Women were also more likely to become outsiders.

The above shows how strongly the meaning and interpretation of “gender” influenced the witchcraft trials in Lemgo. In addition to the personal enrichment of individuals, the effect, status and perception of the accused in the society also played a major role. Above all, it shows that research must depart from typical assumptions in order to understand the people behind it. In addition to the aspects mentioned, the source situation still offers many other research possibilities. For example, the interconnectedness of the witchcraft hunts with the surrounding towns is largely unexplored. Letters and court records that are preserved at the city archives Lemgo, some of which have been digitized and made available online, offer the possibility to explore these and other research questions, on the basis of these original records.

Thanks to Casey Sutcliffe and the participants of the GHI writing workshops for their helpful suggestions and edits of the draft for this blog post.

Literature and links:

Link to the Lemgo city archives finding aid, council and magistrate court-witch trials: https://www.archive.nrw.de/archivsuche?link=FINDBUCH-20029200001782

Museum Hexenbürgermeisterhaus Lemgo, https://p57155.typo3server.info/hexenbuergermeisterhaus_home.html

Gisela Wilbert; Gerd Schwerhoff; Jürgen Scheffler (Hg.): Hexenverfolgung und Regionalgeschichte. Die Grafschaft Lippe im Vergleich, Bielefeld 1994.

Gisela Wilbertz, Jürgen Scheffler (Hrsg.): Biographieforschung und Stadtgeschichte. Lemgo in der Spätphase der Hexenverfolgung. Bielefeld 2000.

Brief einer im Hexenprozess Angeklagten? (StaL A 10879), Archivblog Lippe, https://liparchiv.hypotheses.org/954/a_10879_004

Maria-Rampendal-Ehefrau-des-Barbiers-Hermann-Hermensen-1681-1682, Stadtverweisung, Stadtarchiv Lemgo, 01.02.02 A, A 3672

Schmähbrief gegen David Welman als Werwolf, 1642, Stadtarchiv Lemgo A 4694

 

 

 

 

Transatlantic Connections of the Women’s Movement in the Long 19th Century: Interview with Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson

Editorial Note: Professor Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson has been Chair of the Transatlantic History and Culture Department at the University of Augsburg since 2016. Previously, she served for five years as Deputy Director of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. Her research focuses on Transatlantic relations, African American history, women’s history, and religious history.

As part of her blog series on the history of the women’s movement in a transatlantic perspective, Marietheres Pirngruber spoke with Professor Waldschmidt-Nelson in April 2021.

Interview: Marietheres Pirngruber
Translation: Erik Brown

During your time at the GHI, you published an anthology on the transatlantic linkages of the women’s rights movement. What fascinates you about this topic?

I must confess that I have always been fascinated by the history of oppressed groups. After all, I have done a lot of research in the area of African American history. There is also a history of oppression among women. With a few exceptions, the female sex has been massively disadvantaged for thousands of years, not only in Europe and America, but across the world. Women have been oppressed, exploited, and disenfranchised in patriarchal, sometimes religiously based social orders. And if truth be told, in most countries, women were denied access to higher education and professional occupations well into the 20th century; moreover, they were politically incapacitated. In some countries, that’s still the case today.

What fascinates me most about this history is that there have always been truly courageous women who have resisted, who have rebelled against their oppression. In the 18th century, the ideas of the Enlightenment and the two great revolutions – the American and the French Revolutions – brought equality and equal rights to the forefront. Two women who, inspired by these ideas, drafted writings for women’s rights as early as 1791 and 1792 were Olympe de Gouges and Mary Wollstonecraft. Their writings spread like wildfire; they were translated into a wide variety of languages around the world and are still considered to be the founding documents of feminism today.

In today’s world, it is taken for granted to exchange ideas across continents. How could an exchange and cooperation work in the 19th century? 

It was a relatively complex development that took a long time. After all, following the early feminist writings I just mentioned, it still took about half a century, until the middle of the 19th century, before real action followed. So, the question is, how did an exchange between women come about? Why did it not exist before? For this, it is important to remember the idealistic and technical achievements of that time. On the one hand, as I already mentioned, there was the new mindset of the Enlightenment, and then industrialization and urbanization were also very important. Through them, a new middle class had formed, which no longer consisted only of aristocratic women, but made it possible for a larger number of women to learn to read and write. They were all able to read the new writings that were now coming into circulation and then spread and manifested these ideas more and more. Another important factor was the transportation and communication revolution. The facilities of steamships, for example, reduced the crossing time from Europe to America from over six weeks to nine days. This was a real revolution; it was not only about the passage of people, but also of newspapers, letters, pamphlets, and appeals. These could now be distributed at six times speed. Railroad networks were also being expanded on the continents, and communication was further improved with the help of new telegraph connections.

Another important aspect were the many social reform movements at the beginning of the 19th century. Essential to the emergence of an international women’s rights movement, for example, was the abolitionist, or anti-slavery, movement. Women were very strongly involved in this movement and learned there, as they later put it, “the tools of movement building.” So, how do I organize public protests, how do I prepare, for example, demonstrations, petitions, how do I write calls for action? How can I hold public speeches in the first place, because this was also something very new and revolutionary for women at that time? These were skills that many women first learned through their involvement in the abolitionist movement. And it was within these movements that women first developed the awareness that they themselves were oppressed as women. The idea was: black people can’t vote, but we can’t vote either. Of course, it was not quite comparable, but it did develop an awareness of gender discrimination. For that matter, it is also very fascinating to see that nearly exactly 100 years later, the same thing, or something very similar, happened again, because out of the participation of women in the black civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Second Wave Feminism then developed in the United States.

International Congress of Women in 1915. LSE Library, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:International_Congress_of_Women1915_(22785230005).jpg

Did these women share the same convictions for the most part, or were there also different views based on their national origins?

That is also a very fascinating question, and it is not so easy to answer. I would say for the period up to the 1920s, when a large part of Western countries introduced women’s suffrage, the national differences were not particularly great. I would want to make more of a chronological differentiation there. Until the mid-19th century, women were primarily concerned with property and contractual rights. In the legal sense, a woman used to be only a ward, or a minor. She was either her father’s ward, then her husband’s ward after marriage, or her brother’s ward without marriage. For example, if women brought their inheritance into the marriage, the money or houses belonged to the husband. Or, in the case of separation, custody of the children was almost always awarded to the man; the children were virtually his property as well, not the woman’s. I would say that by the middle of the 19th century, the fight against these laws was a priority for women’s rights activists in almost every country, and the first successes in this area soon followed. From the 1860s on, the focus then shifted a bit in the U.S. and later also in Europe to the second major priority: access to education and to professional occupations, as it was forbidden for women, for example, almost everywhere to go to college.

So, the struggle was first focused on not making themselves economically subject to blackmail by allowing women to hold their own property and thus be somewhat independent. The second step was to focus on access to education and professional jobs, and then, especially in the last third of the 19th century and in the early 20th century, came the struggle for the right to vote. The idea that women should vote seemed too radical to many before, and the timing of the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement varied in different countries. In Great Britain, the so-called suffragettes were active much earlier than in Germany. At the same time, several international women’s peace movements were formed: Many women believed that men were always causing war and destruction and that it was up to women to work together for peace. For example, the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom was founded in 1915. However, these international women’s associations for peace, women’s rights, or social justice usually disintegrated rather quickly in the event of war. Women’s concerns were quickly subordinated to national interests. From the 1920s onward, the focus of the respective women’s rights movements in individual countries then developed with greater national differences than before. Since women’s suffrage had spread more or less nationwide, it continued in different forms depending on the national legal situation – similarly with regard to reproductive rights, labor rights, or access to political office.

Why is it important today as a historian to continue to research these networks?

Today, we still do not have real gender equality, therefore I think it is very important to deal with the attempts of earlier women’s rights activists to build networks and to develop successful strategies. On one hand, you can ideally learn from this what worked and what did not. At the same time, I also think it instills courage to look at the history of these women. Sometimes you think you could almost despair that nothing is happening. But when I compare our situation today with the situation back then and see how these women kept going, sometimes even going to prison for their ideals, and still did not give up, I find that very inspiring. We must always remind ourselves not to give up hope. But also, that you can’t just sit there passively, that you have to actively stand up against the oppression of women through your publications, your political involvement, or other activities. I think this message that you really have to keep fighting for progress and gender equality in social, economic, and political spheres is something that these older women’s rights movements and networks can inspire us to do. To end with the words of the African American feminist Ella Baker, “The struggle continues. Somebody else carries on.”

 

Interview with Sebastian Bondzio

By Alexa Lässig

Recently we sat down with Sebastian Bondzio, the 2021 Gerda Henkel Stiftung Digital History Fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Dr. Bondzio is a historian affiliated with the Chair for Modern History and Historical Migration Research at Osnabrück University. His research fields include digital history with a focus on “historical big data” and digital methodologies; he also has interests in the genealogy of cultures, migration history, and the history of knowledge.

Dr. Bondzio began his academic career in 2006 in Osnabrück where he studied philosophy and history. In his master’s thesis and then his Ph.D. dissertation he developed a database of German soldiers killed during the First World War. His 2018 Ph.D. thesis, published in 2020 as Soldatentod und Durchhaltebereitschaft. Eine Stadtgesellschaft im Ersten Weltkrieg, used methodologies drawn from digital history and the history of emotions to examine how societies were able to wage war despite their devastating impact on their citizens. He is currently a senior researcher of the Data Driven History working group at Osnabrück University, where he has worked on using digital methods to analyze Gestapo records and to use migrant registration cards (Ausländermeldekartei) to study the spatial distribution of migrants and questions about the administrative production of knowledge relating to so-called “Ausländer.”

At the GHI and the RRCHNM, he will be working on a project to model and research the process of German migration to the United States during the 19th century using the Castle Garden Immigration Center database, which encompasses more than 4.2 million records. His goals include examining both the development of the record-gathering process and how immigration authorities acquired knowledge about migrants through the production of such records.

What motivated you to specialize in digital history?

Being a digital native, working with computers was part of my life for as long as I can think. I can still remember my first programming course in 1995 on QBasic and trying to convince my father to give me more time on his PC. For most of the time, this was just a hobby. It was only when I met Christoph Rass in Osnabrück that I got the feeling that now is the right time and place to combine my interests for historical research, critical analysis and digital workflows.

Between 2013 and 2017, together we developed a lot of small- and medium-sized digital projects and worked on refining our methodology. Being invited to cooperate with a whole range of different partners and seeing the historiographical potential digital approaches can have in many different contexts, I soon started to concentrate more on working with and analyzing large sets of structured historical data. As my experience has grown, I’ve become more and more convinced that as historians we must be able to create and analyze our own datasets according to the standards of our discipline to conduct proper research. This, among other things, requires developing a digital literacy and updated forms of source criticism.

Visualization of a space-time cube representing the Osnabrück Gestapo card index.

What opportunities does digital history offer to the larger discipline?

Going digital can change how we conduct historical research on a lot of different levels. First and foremost, access to historical sources can be improved and the more prominent documents have become more accessible. Little by little, we also see niches being filled. The current pandemic underlines the importance of this undertaking. But we would be missing out on a lot of opportunities if we don’t also apply digital tools for analysis of collections of digitized sources. Only this approach will open up new perspective for research and give us more comprehensive findings. Large stocks of sources can now be evaluated as a whole and provide new insights into important historical processes.

On the other hand, the traditional core of historical research will remain mainly unchanged by digital history. Simply generating findings from historical big data is not enough. We still have to interpret our findings in meaningful ways. Trying to explain the findings from Digital History often sparks new, non-digital research. In the past, this has proved to be a starting point for a productive conversation which can help bridge the divide between ‘quantitative’ and ‘qualitative’ approaches and paves the road towards integrated research.

In 2018 you co-founded the research group Data Driven History and became its Senior Researcher. Can you give us some information about its approach?

One of my dear colleagues in Osnabrück once pointed out that all historical research is data-driven. He is totally right. Every piece of a source we use can be considered data. The unique characteristic of data driven history in my working group is that we produce and analyze large sets of digital historical data that cannot be analyzed manually. In 2013, I started small by visiting archives to collect data on about 7,500 soldiers who died in the Great War. But soon we were handed a dataset on about 11,000 victims of the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp, which we analyzed using GIS and other digital tools to research the structure and the impact of the Nazis’ mass murder.

These results motivated other institutions and memorial sites to approach us, including the Arolsen Archives and the NIOD (Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies) in Amsterdam. In 2018 we received a DFG project grant to study one of the few remaining Gestapo card files. In collaboration with the state archives of Lower Saxony, we digitized approximately 50,000 index cards and developed a workflow for automatic data extraction and its digital analysis. This enabled us to study both the inner mechanisms of the Gestapo and the role of knowledge production in the implementation and stabilization of the Nazi regime.

How can digital history change our understanding of how we approach migration history and the history of knowledge?

Sets of historical big data allow us to model processes of past migration with a high level of detail and differentiation. Identifying and analyzing processes of migration over decades or even centuries becomes possible. In this longue-durée perspective we can not only see the migration phenomena which contemporaries were aware of and wrote about, but also those groups, spaces, and periods which were marginalized by the dominant narratives.

But we need to be careful not to become too captivated by the historical data we use: One branch of migration history currently focuses on how individual and institutional actors interact in so-called migration regimes to negotiate the various conditions and structures of migration. The large datasets I analyze were mostly created within such a migration regime, and to the present day powerful administrations and other institutional actors produce “knowledge” about migration (most often about migrants) under a modernistic episteme, in which attributes are ascribed to individuals. The “knowledge” created by this “datafication” of migration is then used by institutional actors in various ways. If we remain aware of the contingent emergence of our datasets, we can use digital history methods to also identify components of the migration regime’s mechanisms and workings and the usage of different types of knowledge in it.

Screenshot of the German immigration database based on Castlegarden.org

What do you hope to achieve at the GHI Washington?

Being granted the Gerda Henkel Fellowship for Digital History and coming to DC feels amazing. In the past, working with several hundreds of thousands of pieces of data has proved challenging, but was manageable in the end. Here I hope to be able to take the next step: preparing about 4.2 million records on German immigrants for research. This presents some new hurdles. On the one hand, performance of the database needs to be enhanced. On the other hand, the emergence of this body of knowledge needs to be researched to be able to analyze it according to our discipline’s standards. By cooperating with colleagues at the GHI and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, I hope to succeed in preparing the dataset, identifying relevant sources in the archives, and developing a research proposal for third-party funding.

What do you like about Washington DC?

After being in mid-size Osnabrück for a long time, arriving in a metropolis like Washington DC is quite a thrill. There are historical monuments everywhere, to which time has attributed complex layers of meanings. Going there and sorting them out is something I really enjoy.

But, more importantly, coming to DC means becoming part of a network of highly skilled and motivated researchers. Digital history is a central part of historical research here. Both institutes I am affiliated with, GHI as well as RRCHNM, are organized in a way that things get done. Here are specialists I can talk to, resources that can be mobilized, and most of all there is a lot of personal dedication from everybody, which makes doing historical research even more rewarding. I feel privileged and grateful to be a part of this.

Thanks to Atiba Pertilla for edits and suggestions on improving the English language version of this interview.

Interview with Digital History Fellow Jana Keck

We would like to extend a warm welcome to our new Digital History Fellow Jana Keck. Her fields of research include German and American Literature and Culture in the Nineteenth Century, Periodical Studies, and Digital Humanities. She began her academic career at the University of Stuttgart, where she studied English and Linguistics. In 2017 she received her Master’s from the University of Stuttgart with her thesis “Gottfried Duden’s Bericht über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerikas (1829) and Its Emigration Stimulus.” In the same year she joined the DFG-funded research project “Oceanic Exchanges: Tracing Global Information Networks in Historical Newspaper Repositories, 1840-1914” as a Doctoral Researcher. She is also a member of the CRETA/Center for Reflected Text Analytics, funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).

Recently we sat down with Jana to discuss her academic career, her work, the field of digital history and its impact on the field of humanities, as well as her current goals and duties at the GHI Washington.

Could you give us some insight into the Oceanic Exchanges Project?

In 2017 I started working with an international team in the DFG-funded research project “Oceanic Exchanges: Tracing Global Information Networks in Historical Newspaper Repositories, 1840-1914.” The project was striving to gather researchers not just from different academic fields such as cultural historians, computational linguists, literary scholars, digital curators and humanists, but also from seven different countries. Together we collected over 100 million pages of digitized newspapers in order to examine how, in the nineteenth century, news, texts, and concepts traveled, how stories adapted in different environments when they traveled, and how news networks functioned.

Presenting the workflow of the PhD project „Text-Mining America’s German-language Newspapers: Processing Germanness, 1830-1914“ at the 2019 Postgraduate Forum (PGF) Conference of the German Association for American Studies (GAAS)     
How and why did you become interested in Digital History?

I became interested in the subject through my PhD supervisor when I was studying English and American Studies and Linguistics at the University of Stuttgart. While working on my Master’s thesis on German travel literature to the United States in the nineteenth century, my PhD supervisor told me about this upcoming project in digital humanities and wanted me to be part of it. However, since I had not studied digital humanities, I knew there was a lot of “self-study” and “catching up” to do.  So, I took some courses and, in doing so, I really became interested in programming. I think it was because there was a familiarity to it that reminded me of linguistics, especially the focused and logical aspects that make up linguistics. I realized that it gave me the opportunity to combine my different fields of interest and not be relegated to one field. The more I went out and saw how other fields were working, the more I gained a deeper understanding of my own field. That is how it all started. I attended programming courses, workshops in computational linguistics, and I started working not only with people from the humanities but also from other fields not traditionally associated with the humanities. What I love about it is not only that it is a “newer” discipline, but also that I get to work with people from different fields and that I am able to take on different roles. We often define the humanities as one big field, but it has as many differences as History and Computer Science. Historians may define a certain term one way while linguists use it completely differently. I find it important to communicate these differences to make what we are talking about more transparent.

Can you tell us a little more about your PhD project?

I was inspired to begin my project by the Oceanic Exchanges Project but also by one of the former Projects called “The Viral Texts Project” initiated by Ryan Cordell at Northeastern University in Boston. Cordell was studying reprinted texts in nineteenth-century American newspapers, which prompted me to focus on nineteenth-century German-language newspapers and the phenomenon of editors sharing texts. One of the most interesting questions was whether this phenomenon is to be found among migrant newspapers and, if so, what kind of texts they shared. This means that I am not interested in one particular newspaper but rather in what newspapers printed in German in the nineteenth century in the U.S. have in common. My hypothesis is that German newspapers were used as a form of community building, since there was not one German identity among immigrants from German-speaking Europe. Germany was then only a geographical expression. The immigrants would have defined themselves in more local or regional terms: such as from Baden or Bavaria. Once they arrived in the US, however, they were seen as monolithically German by the receiving culture. What they had in common as opposed to their “American” neighbors was their “Germanness.” Through the newspapers, they developed a shared German migrant experience on both the local, national and even transnational level. Analyzing the information they exchanged through the newspapers – from hard news to jokes, from emigrant lists to poems – sheds light on how they constructed a German community across states and decades. It reminds me a lot like social media platforms: so to speak, I am investigating how a specific community shares their tweets and how they change once they travel through time and space.

What DH methods do you apply and what are your findings so far?

I began with a corpus of 60 newspapers from 17 different states over a period of roughly 80 years. I am using text reuse detection algorithms to identify and cluster texts that were printed several times in the same and in different newspapers. However, the amount of data available made it impossible for me to read all the material closely, so I found a way to computationally classify these different texts into different genres. This genre classification will make it possible for other researchers in the field to access and work with the material in the future. Currently, I am working on combining different supervised and unsupervised methods to classify different texts on the basis of the training data set, for example, indicating whether they are poems or hard news, etc. The next step is to determine if the system is also able to classify these data sets if they are previously unknown to the program. It is working very well in differentiating between news versus fiction and even within the news section between lists and advertisements, for instance. However, it runs into problems when it comes to genres in fiction. It is difficult for the system – but not impossible – to differentiate between a poem and a joke. I am positive that I will find a way to fix this and if not, it is one more finding on a theoretical level.

What other Digital History projects are you involved with at the GHI?

I am still new to the institute, but I already have been involved in a lot of meetings regarding the German Heritage in Letters Project. One of the visions I have is to combine the newspapers and the letters in order to find out what they have in common: from people to ideas. Also, an incoming DH fellow wishes to use the fellowship provided by the GHI and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation to create a database of German immigrants in the same timeframe. It would be very exciting if we could combine the three different projects that all fit so well into the current research profile of the GHI which is focused on Digital History, the History of Knowledge, and the History of Migration and Mobility. To work in such a stimulating context is just very rewarding!

Interview by Alexa Lässig, with thanks to Sarah Beringer and Casey Sutcliffe for the introduction and proofreading.

Transcribing Manuscripts in German Script at the Library of Congress (link)

Almost two years ago, the Library of Congress launched the crowdsourcing platform By the People, which invites volunteers to transcribe, review, and tag digitized images of manuscripts and typescripts from the collections of the Library of Congress. The project runs on the open source software Concordia, developed by the Library of Congress to support crowdsourced transcription projects.

Among the manuscripts made available for transcriptions are documents in German script. In a fascinating recent blog post, David B. Morris, the German Area Specialist, European Division, at the Library of Congress, discusses the art of Unlocking the Secrets of German Handwritten Documents.

The blog post will be particularly interesting for contributors to GHI’s German Heritage in Letters Project, which uses Scripto as the platform to crowdsource transcriptions of German letters, including letters written in Kurrentschrift.

Conference report: Transatlantic Perspectives on Digital Hermeneutics, October 10-12, 2019, GHI

“On 10-12 October 2019, the international conference ‘Digital Hermeneutics: from Research to Dissemination’ took place at the German Historical Institute (GHI) in Washington DC. The conference aimed to critically reflect on the radical impact of the digital turn on all stages of historical research, including archiving, research, analysis, interpretation and dissemination on a transatlantic level.” Read the full report by Tim Van Der Heijden, Juliane Tatarinov, and Gerben Zaagsma, C2DH, posted on November 5, 2019.

Bauhaus Knowledge for Everyone: The Bauhaus Bookshelf

The bauhaus bookshelf is a bilingual (German-English) online resource created by Andrea Riegel, a partner at the Düsseldorf-based communication design agency Riegel+Reichenthaler. Riegel also created Design is fine. History is mine, a popular blog on design and art history. The beautifully designed bauhaus bookshelf, a labor of love launched in 2019, combines access (for personal use) to reproductions of original Bauhaus publications with a timeline, excerpts, photographs, and other contextual information. Libraries, archives, and museums have made most of the reproductions that are gathered on the bookshelf available under Creative Commons Attribution Licenses, and users are advised to download materials from the site for personal use only. While many events and publications in 2019 celebrate the Bauhaus centennial, the bauhaus bookshelf is the only comprehensive online gateway to original Bauhaus publications and sources.

Interview with Andrea Riegel, the virtual bookshelf’s creator and curator

What inspired you to develop the bilingual bauhaus bookshelf?

Some time ago, I began teaching design history as a lecturer alongside my regular career. I had worked for various design companies during my career in communications consulting. However, studying and teaching design history was a new field for me, even though it had been a long-standing passion of mine. As an initial step, I began creating an image database for my students, and decided on using tumblr as an English-language platform in order to reach a larger, international audience. After more than five years and 15,000 posts, the blog Design is fine. History is Mine. now has around 160,000 followers from all over the world.

The Bauhaus as a German institution has always been close to my heart; it fascinated me even as a child. I grew up in Stuttgart and during my school years, our art class made annual visits to the museum where Oscar Schlemmer’s figures from the Triadic Ballet are on exhibit to discuss or draw them. That was my first encounter with the Bauhaus and it left a lasting impression, thanks to good art teachers.

Last year, I began collecting my Bauhaus discoveries on my own website; first there were a few books and interesting publications, then it became more and more of a mission: a collection of sources that can be downloaded free of charge. Bauhaus knowledge for everyone. The anniversary was an additional incentive to launch the project in a timely manner.

How did you proceed with your research? Which publications and sources were you looking for? Did you research only online or also in analog collections?

The original sources from the Bauhaus period formed the basis for the site, complemented by publications by Bauhaus members or affiliates, or other contemporary witnesses. Initially, I relied on online research, as availability on the Internet was a mandatory prerequisite. Once the framework was set and my passion could dive into details, I was able to fall back on my own small Bauhaus library. The catalogue of the 1968 Stuttgart exhibition, for example, was an excellent source, and since I also own a copy of the English-language edition, this proved to be of great help in translating the typical Bauhaus terms. This catalogue, by the way, is not available online, so sometimes you can’t get around the analog versions.

Which discoveries did you particularly enjoy, or which ones particularly surprised you?

A highlight was the first catalogue book on the exhibition in Weimar, whose title page and contents I had seen frequently. Under the umbrella of the SLUB Dresden, I finally found what I was looking for: browsing through and studying the entire work at my own pace for the first time, and the whole thing available in rather good quality, was a wonderful moment – many thanks to Dresden!

Also, the complete edition of the journal “Form,” provided by the University of Heidelberg, is a great way to immerse yourself in the bustling twenties, including the world of advertising.

I am also happy to note that my work resulted in the online publication of the original English-language version of a lecture held by Ise Gropius at Harvard in 1978. I had first discovered the text in a German translation published by the GDR magazine “form und zweck.” With the help of the Harvard archives, I received the original script, which I diligently typed before placing it on my virtual bookshelf. It is certainly worth reading the article by “Frau Bauhaus,” as she was called back then.

One of the focal points of the centennial is on highlighting the history of the women associated with the Bauhaus. What challenges did you notice in the course of your research?

Of course, the theme of the Bauhaus women is a topic close to my heart. In general, it is important to me that I introduce and revive those women in my history lectures who have been “forgotten” for centuries, be it Sappho or Sofonisba Anguissola. As far as the Bauhaus is concerned, Anni Albers, Gunta Stölzl and Marianne Brandt have been among the well-known personalities for quite some time, and there are new publications on Ise Gropius, for example. While studying Bauhaus books and magazines I noticed works by Hilde Hubbuch, Rosa Berger, Hilde Horn or Lotte Burckhardt, but little or no information about these individuals is to be found. Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp and the architect Wera Meyer-Waldeck are known only by small circles and deserve more attention. Initial results of a study about Michiko Yamawaki, who studied (alongside her husband Iwao, an architect) in the weaving workshop at the Bauhaus and later made the “bauhausu” known in Japan, were presented at the beginning of 2019 in the context of the anniversary. To date, not much has been known about Yamawaki in German-speaking countries. But there is widespread interest in learning more about these women, who have remained relatively unknown thus far, and in honoring their work.

Your site is not only a list of links, but also a small online exhibition with short portraits and excerpts from original publications. Which themes did you want to emphasize when conceptualizing your website?

Presenting the diverse spectrum of the Bauhaus was a matter of concern to me, at the same time, the focal points are just as important for orientation purposes. The Bauhaus was a school. Artists taught at the Bauhaus. There were many strong personalities at the Bauhaus (and thus there were conflicts). The Bauhaus was arts and crafts, theory and practice. At the Bauhaus, there were many new developments – not only in architecture or product design, but also in photography, typography, advertising, PR. While the Bauhaus in Dessau was forced to cease operations in 1933, in some ways this was just the beginning. If there is just one takeaway for visitors to my site, then my mission has already achieved a lot.

What were the particular challenges in developing and designing the chronology?

Designing the structure of the website chronologically seemed obvious and sensible, as it provides a helpful thread leading through the entire range of topics. Since I did not proceed strictly according to plan, I always ended up interspersing something thematically that was situated “in between,” which suddenly opened up different contexts – the work certainly was never boring. Visually, in this context, infographics are important to me, and they have been included, for example, on the pages “Bauhaus Chronology” or “Bauhaus Masters.” Who was active at the Bauhaus? How active and for how long? The 1968 exhibition catalog, which was compiled and coordinated by Bauhaus members still alive at the time, provided a perfect model for this infographic.

Which principles inspired your web design?

At the beginning there was no defined concept, the website was created according to the principle “learning by doing,” for fun. The layout was developed in the process; as more and more content was integrated, the appearance emerged in the process of creation. One inspiration for the graphic design was, for example, the photo of a bookshelf that Josef Albers designed in Weimar at the beginning of his Bauhaus period (reproduced in Bauhaus book no. 7/page 18). It was supposed to look just as geometric, balanced, and solid as it does. Even today, one can still learn a thing or two from Moholy-Nagy’s graphic art.

What are the challenges of transferring the historic Bauhaus design into a digital environment?

It is actually easy to design in the Bauhaus style, the modern look still corresponds to our viewing habits, “Less is More” is timeless. What matters is a clear and consistent grid as the basis, a nice and tidy arrangement, no frills. The primary colors serve as accents, or one can choose the combination black-white or black-red. Square and circle as style elements are, of course, a must, whereas I neglected the triangle, just my personal taste.

What do you particularly enjoy about curating the Bauhaus bookshelf?

It’s fun that it’s actually a story that never ends; I don’t feel that the work is “finished” yet. There are so many protagonists, texts, or events that are interesting, my folders on the hard drive are filled with content. I will expand the shelf throughout this year, at least, whenever I get to do the work. The work on this virtual library is a hobby, which is limited to the evening hours, unfortunately. It would be nice if I could earn money with it, being a freelancer, then I’d be able to work on it even more. At the same time, that’s also a lucky advantage: having the independence to work on my library as I please, while certainly serving the cause of sharing the best Bauhaus sources with the public.

Thank you!

Sources: All screenshots are from Andrea Riegel’s bauhaus bookshelf site.

Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar 1919-1923. Published by the Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar and Karl Nierendorf. Weimar-München: Bauhausverlag, 1923. Cover page designed by Herbert Bayer. More information and link to the digital surrogate. 

Translation of the interview by Katharina Hering, assisted by Atiba Pertilla, Kelly McCullough, and DeepL.

Bauhaus Wissen für alle: das virtuelle Bauhaus Bücherregal

Das bauhaus bookshelf ist ein zweisprachiges virtuelles Bücherregal, das von Andrea Riegel konzipiert und umgesetzt wurde. Andrea Riegel, Partnerin beim Düsseldorfer Gestaltungsbüro Riegel und Reichenthaler, betreibt bereits Design is Fine, History is Mine, eine beliebte Plattform zur Design-und Kunstgeschichte. Andrea Riegel hat das bauhaus bookshelf in ihrer Freizeit entwickelt und 2019 Online gestellt. Das sehr schön gestaltete virtuelle Bücheregal verbindet den Zugang zu digitalisierten Originalquellen mit einer Zeitleiste, Auszügen, Fotos und anderen Informationen über den historischen Kontext des Materials. Die meisten der Reproduktionen wurden von  Bibliotheken, Archiven und Museen über Creative Commons Lizenzen (CC-BY-SA-4.0) zur Verfügung gestellt und Nutzer*innen können das Material über die Seite für die private Nutzung herunterladen. Zwar erscheinen zum Bauhausjubiläum in diesem Jahr eine Reihe neuer Publikationen und es finden sehr viele Veranstaltungen statt, aber das bauhaus bookshelf ist die einzige Webseite, die Nutzerinnen einen übersichtlichen Zugang zu Originalquellen und Publikationen eröffnet.

Interview mit Andrea Riegel

Was hat Sie dazu inspiriert, das zweisprachige Bauhaus bookshelf zu entwickeln?

Vor einiger Zeit begann ich – neben meinem eigentlichen Beruf – als Dozentin zu unterrichten, unter anderem Designgeschichte. Zwar hatte ich während meiner Karriere in der Kommunikationsberatung diverse Designunternehmen betreut, aber die Beschäftigung mit der Historie war ein neues Gebiet, wiewohl eine alte Leidenschaft. Eine erste Aktivität bestand darin, eine Bilddatenbank für die Teilnehmer meiner Kurse zusammenzustellen, als Plattform entschied ich mich für tumblr und damit für die englische Sprache, um einen größeren, internationalen Kreis anzusprechen. Nach über fünf Jahren und 15.000 postings folgen dem Blog www.design-is-fine.org inzwischen rund 160.000 Menschen aus aller Welt. 

Das Bauhaus als deutsche Institution lag mir schon immer am Herzen, es hat mich schon als Kind fasziniert. Ich bin in Stuttgart aufgewachsen und während der Schulzeit haben wir im Kunstunterricht jedes Jahr das Museum besucht, in dem die Figuren des Triadischen Balletts von Oskar Schlemmer ausgestellt sind, um sie zu besprechen oder zu zeichnen. Das war meine erste Begegnung mit dem Bauhaus und sie hat – dank guter Kunstlehrerinnen – einen bleibenden Eindruck hinterlassen.

Im vergangenen Jahr begann ich meine bisherigen Bauhaus-Funde auf einer eigenen Webseite zu sammeln, zunächst waren es ein paar Bücher und interessante Publikationen, dann wurde es immer mehr und irgendwann zur Mission: eine Quellensammlung, die den kostenlosen Download ermöglicht. Bauhaus-Wissen für alle. Das Jubiläum war ein zusätzlicher Anreiz, das Projekt auch zeitnah zu realisieren.

Wie sind Sie bei Ihren Recherchen vorgegangen? Nach welchen Publikationen und Quellen haben Sie gesucht? Haben Sie nur Online, oder auch in analogen Sammlungen recherchiert?

Was die Suche betrifft, bildeten die Original-Quellen aus der Bauhauszeit die Grundlage, dazu Publikationen der Bauhäusler oder Beiträge von Zeitzeugen. Die Recherche lief zunächst nur online, da die Verfügbarkeit im Internet eine zwingende Option war. Als das Gerüst stand und die Liebe ins Detail ging, konnte ich auf meine eigene kleine Bauhaus-Bibliothek zurückgreifen. Der Katalog der Stuttgarter Ausstellung von 1968 war z.B. eine ausgezeichnete Quelle und da ich auch die englische Ausgabe besitze, erwies sich das bei der Übersetzung der bauhaus-typischen Begriffe als große Hilfe. Dieser Katalog ist online übrigens nicht verfügbar, manchmal kommt man also an analog nicht vorbei.

Welche Entdeckungen haben Sie bei Ihren Recherchen besonders gefreut oder erstaunt?

Ein Glanzlicht war das erste Katalogbuch zur Ausstellung in Weimar, dessen Titel oder einzelne Seiten ich so oft gesehen hatte. Unter dem Dach der SLUB wurde ich schließlich irgendwann fündig: ein wunderbarer Moment, das ganze Werk zum ersten Mal in Ruhe durchzublättern und zu studieren, das Ganze in einer recht guten Qualität – vielen Dank nach Dresden!

Auch die kompletten Jahrgänge der „Form“, die von der Universität Heidelberg zur Verfügung gestellt werden, sind eine prima Sache, um in die umtriebigen Zwanziger Jahre einzutauchen, inklusive Anzeigenwerbung

Erfreulich ist, dass meine Arbeit dazu geführt hat, dass ein Vortrag, den Ise Gropius 1978 in Harvard hielt, nun auch in der englischen Original-Fassung online zu lesen ist. Zunächst hatte ich den Text in einer deutschen Übersetzung im DDR-Magazin “form und zweck” entdeckt. Mit Hilfe des Harvard Archivs fand sich das Original-Skript, das ich brav abgetippt habe und danach in mein virtuelles Bücherregal stellen konnte. Es ist ein lesenswerter Beitrag von “Frau Bauhaus”, wie sie dort genannt wurde.

Einer der Schwerpunkte des 100jährigen Jubiläums liegt auf der Geschichte der mit dem Bauhaus verbundenen Frauen. Welche Herausforderungen sind Ihnen bei der Recherche aufgefallen?

Natürlich ist das Thema der Bauhausfrauen ein Herzensthema, in meinen Vorträgen ist es mir generell wichtig, jene Frauen aus der Geschichte vorzustellen und damit wiederzubeleben, die über Jahrhunderte “vergessen” wurden, sei es Sappho oder Sofonisba Anguissola. Was das Bauhaus betrifft, zählen Anni Albers, Gunta Stölzl oder Marianne Brandt schon seit geraumer Zeit zu den bekannten Persönlichkeiten, auch zu Ise Gropius gibt es beispielsweise neue Publikationen. Beim Studium der Bauhausbücher und Zeitschriften sind mir Arbeiten von Hilde Hubbuch, Rosa Berger, Hilde Horn oder Lotte Burckhardt aufgefallen, doch es findet sich nur wenig oder keine Information zu diesen Namen. Auch Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp oder die Architektin Wera Meyer-Waldeck sind eher einem kleinen Kreis bekannt und hätten mehr Aufmerksamkeit verdient. Zu Michiko Yamawaki, die (gemeinsam mit ihrem Mann Iwao, ein Architekt) am Bauhaus Weberei studierte und das “bauhausu” später in Japan bekannt machte, wurde Anfang 2019 im Rahmen des Jubiläums erste Ergebnisse einer Studie vorgestellt. Bis dato war über die Textildesignerin im deutschsprachigen Raum nicht viel zu erfahren. Es gibt von vielen Seiten Interesse, über diese noch nicht so bekannten Frauen mehr zu erfahren und ihre Arbeit zu würdigen.

Welche thematischen Schwerpunkte haben Sie bei der Konzeption Ihrer Seite gesetzt, die ja nicht nur eine Liste von Links ist, sondern auch eine kleine Online Ausstellung, mit Kurzporträts und Exzerpten aus Originalpublikationen?

Gerade die Vielfalt des Bauhauses zu präsentieren, war mir ein Anliegen, doch genauso wichtig sind Schwerpunkte zur Orientierung. Das Bauhaus war eine Schule. Am Bauhaus haben Künstler gelehrt. Am Bauhaus gab es viele starke Persönlichkeiten (und dadurch auch Konflikte). Das Bauhaus war Kunst und Handwerk, Theorie und Praxis. Am Bauhaus gab es viele neue Entwicklungen – nicht nur in der Architektur oder im Produktdesign, sondern auch in der Fotografie, Typographie, Werbung, PR. Das Bauhaus war irgendwann zu Ende, doch eigentlich war das erst der Anfang. Wenn nur ein Punkt beim Besuch der Webseite hängenbleibt, dann hat meine Mission schon viel erreicht.

Welche besonderen Herausforderungen gab es bei der Entwicklung und Gestaltung der Chronologie?

Es lag nahe, den Aufbau der Webseite chronologisch zu gestalten, ein hilfreicher roter Faden in der ganzen Themenvielfalt. Doch da ich nicht streng nach Plan vorging, wurde immer wieder etwas thematisch  “dazwischengeschoben”, daraus ergab sich plötzlich einen anderen Kontext – es kam bei der Arbeit jedenfalls keine Langeweile auf. Visuell sind mir in diesem Zusammenhang Infografiken wichtig, umgesetzt z.B. auf den Seiten “Bauhaus Chronik” oder “Bauhaus Meister” – Wer war wie lange am Bauhaus wie aktiv? Dafür hatte ich eine perfekte Vorlage aus dem Ausstellungskatalog von 1968, die noch von den lebenden Bauhäuslern abgestimmt wurde. 

Welche Prinzipien hat Ihr Webdesign inspiriert?

Zu Beginn gab es kein definiertes Konzept, die Webseite entstand nach dem Prinzip “Learning by doing”, aus Spaß an der Sache. Die Seite gewann im Prozess an Ordnung, immer mehr Content floss ein, das Erscheinungsbild entwickelte sich beim Machen. Eine Inspiration für die Grafik war z.B. das Foto eines Bücherregals, das Josef Albers in den Anfängen seiner Bauhauszeit in Weimar umsetzte (zu sehen im Bauhausbuch Nr. 7/ Seite 18). Genauso geometrisch, ausgewogen und solide sollte der Charakter des Auftritts sein. Und von den grafischen Kunst eines Moholy-Nagy kann man sich auch heute noch einiges abschauen.

Welche Herausforderungen gibt es bei der digitalen Übertragung des historischen Bauhausdesigns?

Es ist eigentlich einfach, im Bauhausstil zu gestalten, der Look der Moderne entspricht immer noch unseren Sehgewohnheiten, “Less is more“ ist zeitlos. Wichtig ist ein klares und konsequentes Raster als Grundlage, alles schön geordnet und aufgeräumt, kein Schnickschnack. Die Grundfarben dienen als Akzente oder man wählt die Kombination Schwarz-Weiß oder Schwarz-Rot. Quadrat und Kreis dürfen natürlich nicht fehlen, wobei ich auf das Dreieck verzichtet habe, mein persönlicher Geschmack.

Was macht Ihnen bei der Arbeit am Bauhaus Bookshelf besonderen Spaß?

Spaß macht, dass es eigentlich eine unendliche Geschichte ist – ich habe bis jetzt nicht das Gefühl: “fertig!”. Es gibt noch so viele Personen, Texte, Ereignisse, die von Interesse sind, meine Ordner auf der Festplatte sind gut gefüllt. Das Regal wird zumindest in diesem Jahr erweitert, wann immer ich dazu komme. Die Beschäftigung mit dieser virtuellen Bibliothek ist ein Hobby, das sich auf die Abendstunden beschränkt, leider. Es wäre als Freiberufler schön, wenn sich damit Geld verdienen ließe, dann könnte ich noch mehr daran arbeiten. Aber genau darin liegt auch das große Glück: die Unabhängigkeit, dass ich in meiner Bibliothek schalten und walten kann, wie ich will, was sicher der Sache dient, nämlich die besten Bauhaus Quellen mit der Öffentlichkeit zu teilen.

Besten Dank!

Quellen: Alle Bildschirmaufnahmen sind Andrea Riegel’s bauhaus bookshelf entnommen.

Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar 1919-1923. Veröffentlicht vom Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar and Karl Nierendorf. Weimar-München: Bauhausverlag, 1923. Umschlag entworfen von Herbert Bayer. Weitere Informationen und Link zum Digitalisat.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today is the perfect occasion to feature the Digitales Deutsches Frauenarchiv (DDF), the digital German women’s archives, as well as Atria, the institute on gender equality and women’s history.

The DDF, launched last year, is a new portal dedicated to making select historical sources documenting the history of women’s movements in (mostly) German-speaking countries available online to broad audiences. The portal features thematic essays that provide context for featured documents, as well as biographical essays on key actors, for example Louise Otto Peters and Clara Zetkin. The portal combines digitized sources from over forty archives, libraries, and other cultural institutions that collect resources documenting the history of women’s and lesbian movements.

The forty-six essays that are currently online focus on specific sources, such as Claudia Schoppmann’s essay about Anna Elisabet Weirauch’s novel trilogy Der Skorpion, or cover broader thematic areas based on a range of sources, such as the influence of the 19th century bourgeois women’s movement on the professionalization of social work.

Continue reading Happy International Women’s Day!

Interview about German Federal Archives Portal „Weimar: Die erste deutsche Demokratie“ [Weimar: The First German Democracy]


The German Bundesarchiv (Federal Archives of Germany) launched the portal „Weimar: Die erste deutsche Demokratie“ [Weimar: The First German Democracy] in March 2018. The portal offers access to thousands of digitized records, maps, photographs, films, audio recordings, and posters from the Weimar Republic, with new materials being added on an ongoing basis. Href interviewed Vera Zahnhausen* about the portal, which is one of the major recent digital initiatives of the Bundesarchiv. –Editorial note, href.

What sparked the development of „Weimar: die erste deutsche Demokratie”?

We realized that the upcoming centennial of the November Revolution of 1918 and subsequent centennial anniversaries commemorating the Weimar Republic would draw considerable public attention to this period in German history.

The Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archives), as “custodian” of significant and unique historical sources documenting that period, wanted to seize this opportunity and direct the attendant public attention toward the “treasures” that are housed in the archives. At the same time, we hope that the project will enhance the overall public perception of the Bundesarchiv as one of the most important institutions for preserving history and cultural memory in the Federal Republic. We also hope that making digitized sources available on the internet will lead to greater collaboration with universities and research projects. We have already started forging stronger ties with other archives and projects, for example with the Verein Weimarer Republik (https://www.weimarer-republik.net/5-0-Verein.html) in the city of Weimar. Finally, and not least, the Bundesarchiv hopes that the new Weimar Republic portal will attract new users, while strengthening the bonds with existing users.

Continue reading Interview about German Federal Archives Portal „Weimar: Die erste deutsche Demokratie“ [Weimar: The First German Democracy]