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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.

Which criteria influenced the selection of materials that have been digitized and published online since the portal’s launch? Which specific themes, genres, and types of materials did you choose to include in the portal?

Reichskanzlei Akten betreffend Vollzugsrat des Arbeiter- und Soldatenrats, November 1918-December 1919, R 43/2482

We have digitized textual sources as well as audio sources, maps, films, and photographs. When selecting the sources, we initially focused on the period from 1919 to 1924, but we plan to cover the subsequent years of the Weimar Republic as well. We concentrated on four thematic focal points: first, the radical transformation of the political system (the November Revolution, elections, and the Weimar Constitution, but also political violence and radicalization); second, the reorientation of the Reich’s domestic policy (the social and economic situation, demobilization, and coping with the consequences and aftermath of the war); third, the reorientation of foreign policy (the Armistice, the seizure of territories, the Rapallo and Locarno Treaties, as well as war debts and hyperinflation); and fourth, social and economic changes (the role of women, the development of modern mass media, etc.). Given the large volume of textual materials at the Bundesarchiv, it was inevitable that we would focus on the so called Leitbestände, anchor collections, for example the record group “Reichskanzlei,” Reich Chancellery, where information from the Reich’s various administrative departments is mirrored in the documents of a centralized office. For select questions and themes, we also digitized files from subordinate administrative units, and also from personal papers that are part of the Bundesarchiv collections. Only a limited amount of film and audio footage from the Weimar Republic has been preserved. When it came to those materials, we focused on sources that are in the public domain, since they can be digitized and made available online without any legal restrictions. We took a similar approach to photographs: Prior to the project, many of the relevant Weimar-era photographs were already available online through the Bundesarchiv’s image database. We made an effort to complete this collection for the portal. In general, we prioritized digitizing heavily used sources to preserve the originals.

Which user groups are the primary audiences for the portal?

Digital sources have become increasingly interesting for scholarly research. This is particularly the case when a significant volume of digital surrogates are made available online, thereby making a visit to the physical archives, if not unnecessary, then at least shorter and easier. Still with this project, we hope to  reach beyond scholars and journalists, who — as experts in the areas of research and interpretation–frequently find their way into the archives anyway. We also hope to attract new user groups, such as high school, and college and university students, as well as interested members of the public, who haven’t had any previous contact with archival collections.

What has been the public response to the portal so far?

So far, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly the response to the Wahlkompass, the Election Compass 1919.  [The Election Compass 1919 is an interactive game where users can choose between positions of the parties represented in the Weimar National Assembly.] Most of the negative feedback has been directed at the presentation of archival materials through invenio (the Bundesarchiv research and presentation platform) and we certainly realize that there is need for improvement there.

Are there certain sources or collections that are of particularly broad interest?

The feedback about the digitized film materials was especially positive, particularly the film Anna Müller-Lincke kandidiert (Anna Müller-Lincke Runs for Public Office), which can be accessed directly through the portal. The film, which was produced by the Reichszentrale für Heimatdienst (Reich Central Offices for Homeland Services), advocated for the participation in the 1919 elections for the National Assembly. Anna Müller-Lincke, a fairly well-known actress at the time, played the lead role of Amanda Himmelfahrt, a candidate planning to run for a seat in the National Assembly.  

Screenshots from Anna Müller-Lincke kandidiert (1919), BArch, Filmnummer 4514

Does the selection include sources or collections that are available in English translations as well?

The portal does not include any English translations of the sources [with the exception of the film materials, which include English language summaries.] Considering the volume of holdings at the archives, translation would only be possible in a few selected cases. To maintain the authenticity and integrity of the archival materials, the sources have to be presented in their original form. Scholarly interpretation and translation are not part of the responsibility of an archive. 

Did the Bundesarchiv collaborate with high schools and universities to develop the various thematic modules?

An internal project team, which consisted of members of the academic research staff and subject specialists from almost all Bundesarchiv units, developed the thematic modules. While we did not collaborate with schools and universities during that phase, we hope to do so during the further development of the site. We have already established initial contacts. For example, as part of a University of Hamburg seminar that utilized digitized sources from the Bundesarchiv, students performed a source critical analysis of a document and this analysis, in turn, was integrated into the portal’s Quellen Mind-Maps (Source Mind Maps) section of the portal, which offers systematic guidance for the critical analysis of historical sources.

Excerpt from a mind map analyzing the November 9, 1918 Philipp Scheidemann speech proclaiming Germany a republic.

How important are, in general, pedagogical programs for the work of the Bundesarchiv? How have these programs evolved over the past 10 to 15 years?

At the Rastatt and Ludwigsburg locations in particular, the Bundesarchiv has developed a focus on pedagogical programs in museums and archives. At the Rastatt memorial, professional history educators teach groups of teenagers and young adults about “freedom movements in the 19th century” and “freedom movements in the GDR.” At the Ludwigsburg location (where the files of West Germany’s main agency for investigating Nazi war crimes in the postwar period — the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes are made accessible, the Bundesarchiv cooperates with a teacher to educate visitors about National Socialist crimes and the response to those crimes in the Federal Republic. Currently, given the considerable backlog in processing archival materials, other Bundesarchiv locations are unable to focus primarily on educational programming. The Bundesarchiv’s limited holdings of local materials, which often provide a helpful angle for developing educational programs, is another challenge that complicates archival pedagogy at many other locations.

The portal includes two exciting interactive elements (Wahlkompass 1919/Spiel der Lebenswege). What sparked this idea?

In the course of developing the portal, we realized that the Bundesarchiv has to explore new methods of education and outreach if we hope to attract new users. The idea for the Election Compass and for Spiel der Lebenswege (Life Courses: A Game) originated in our cooperation with the Verein Weimarer Republik and with the consultants from the Team Musealis, a firm specializing in developing museum exhibitions. Musealis eventually conceptualized the two interactive components of the portal.  

The president of the Bundesarchiv, Dr. Michael Hollmann, emphasized in an interview that at this point just a small segment of Bundesarchiv collections have been digitized, and published online as digital surrogates beyond the finding aid information. How does the Bundesarchiv represent the relationship between digitized and analog materials? How do you integrate the digital surrogates into their collection contexts?

Currently, slightly more than 1% of the textual materials at the Bundesarchiv have been digitized; the volume of digitized images is only marginally higher. The digitization of moving images in accordance with archival preservation standards results in extremely large volumes of data, with digital storage infrastructures struggling to keep pace. Prioritizing (with respect to digitizing of materials) are therefore inevitable; at the same time, they are also essential given  that the Bundesarchiv collections include a large volumes of materials that have never been used (by researchers). The preservation of collection contexts, especially in the digital world, is of primary importance to the Bundesarchiv, as it facilitates the understanding and analysis of sources.  The digital surrogates are accessible through the Bundesarchiv research system invenio. Invenio includes information on the respective collections, records and files and follows a thematic and chronological structure. Invenio presents the information on the records and files in context, and the digital surrogates are attached to the metadata about the respective records and files.

Are there digitized collections about the Weimar Republic that are not published through the portal?

So far, all of collections that we have digitized for the Weimar portal have been scheduled for online publication as well. In a few exceptional cases, we may decide not to publish a digitized source for privacy or copyright reasons. In such cases, the digital surrogate can only be accessed on site, with permission, in one of the Bundesarchiv reading rooms. In the future, we hope to make such materials accessible online on the basis of an individualized permission system through an eID.

What opportunities does the publication and presentation of the digital collections about the Weimar Republic open up for the Bundesarchiv?

Mainly, we hope that it offers us the chance to disseminate these important historical sources and to increase the awareness about them. The sheer wealth of information available on the internet can undermine the –frequently challenging– engagement with primary sources in research and instruction. By making primary sources available on the internet, we hope to make it easier for as many researchers and users, who will have the opportunity to analyze and evaluate primary sources directly.

What are the challenges of digitizing such a great volume of materials?

The digitization process requires complex logistical planning and preparation, and is based on set parameters, such as technical standards determining file formats and quality. A major project like this requires considerable personnel resources. This is why the Bundesarchiv cooperated with external service providers to digitize the films and textual records. The biggest challenge, however, is managing the gigantic data volume produced by the digitization, preserving this data based on professional standards, and preparing the files for online presentation.

Do smaller initiatives comparable to the Weimar Portal exist at state and local archives as well? If so, does the Bundesarchiv cooperate with these archives to support the publication of digital collections about the Weimar Republic?

The Baden-Württemberg state archives realized the project “Von der Monarchie zur Republik” [”From the Monarchy to the Republic”], which makes digitized sources available through the state portal LEO-BW. The Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg, the Bundesarchiv, the German National Library and the FIZ Karlsruhe are cooperating in the development of a thematic access point to the Archivportal D (the national portal for Germany’s archival institutions) highlighting collections about the Weimar Republic. Several exhibition projects on the Weimar Republic have been organized at the communal level. The Verein Weimarer Republik has been particularly active in coordinating a network of initiatives.

Which additional collections can users anticipate in the coming months?

In the next months, we will publish a second set of digitized film materials from the Weimar Republic. It includes approximately fifty documentary films or film fragments particularly from Wochenschauen (weekly newsreels), which will be made available through the Bundesarchiv’s film portal. We will also present additional digitized textual sources, for example records from the Reichsinnenministerium [Reich Interior Ministry], about the strikes and unrest in November 1918. German weekly newsreel Messter Woche number 48, 1918, accessible through the German federal film archives. 

Which aspects of the work on the portal did you particularly enjoy?

For me, it was especially exciting to work with so many different types of sources — textual materials, films, audio, maps and photographs. In an archive as large as the Bundesarchiv, staff members usually work in one department, in a very specialized area. I also enjoyed collaborating with so many colleagues from many different departments to develop new presentation forms, while thinking outside of the box.

Thank you very much for taking the time and effort to do this interview!

* Vera Zahnhausen is a staff member of the “Grundsatzabteilung” (general policies division) of the Bundesarchiv, where she is working in the department responsible for strategic planning and archival policies. Since 2015, she leads the digital initiative “Weimar–die erste deutsche Demokratie.”

Interview by Katharina Hering, edited and translated by the Href editorial team: Kelly McCullough, Atiba Pertilla, Katharina Hering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Historiography in Ottoman Europe (1500-1800)” Project (HOE) – Providing More through Metadata

Background and Genesis

Though the Ottoman empire controlled a significant portion of the Balkan region in the early modern era, the historiographical traditions established by historical texts created in the region during that period has received comparatively little attention as a research topic.[1] To fill this gap in research and to make the resulting data publicly available, the Historiography in Ottoman Europe project was developed with the support of the German Research Foundation (DFG) to create a database that would include metadata for several hundred primary sources from the years 1500 to 1800 and over 3,600 secondary works on the history of Ottoman Europe. The project’s funding is coming to an end this year, but the site will remain active and invites feedback, partnerships and additional submissions of relevant data.[2]

Historiography of Ottoman Europe project logo
project logo by André Hagenbruch (†)

The project is a collaboration between the office of the Chair for the History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (Lehrstuhl für Geschichte des Osmanischen Reiches und der Türkei, ORT) of Ruhr University Bochum and Bochum University Library. Both institutions brought their specific expertise to the project and worked in synergy to create fresh research data and conceptualize a customized, optimized way of presenting these findings for added utility. The team members from the ORT office conducted research in libraries and archives worldwide to locate, examine and describe neglected sources and to compile relevant secondary material on these documents. Team members from the library oversaw the project’s web presence and entered data collected by the research team members into the jointly conceptualized system. They validated the information and complemented it with links, filters and further metadata to create the specific data sets that characterize the HOE corpus.

Currently, the collection contains metadata inputted for more than 4000 primary sources and related secondary literature in over 20 languages. The material encompasses a wide range of genres, from primary sources in the form of manuscripts, codices, and maps to secondary literature that includes monographs, edited volumes, journal articles, chapters, translations, editions, and websites. For each item, basic bibliographical information such as persons involved, title(s), length, date, and place of publication are provided. Depending on the source type, additional metadata has been included, such as geodata specifying the institutions holding manuscripts, links to DB-Pedia for keywords, different bibliographical identifiers for works (ISBN/ISSN, HBZ, ZDB etc.), links to person-identifier databases (VIAF, ISNI, GND/DNB), related websites, remarks on and descriptions of the sources, and more.

The project succeeded in negotiating the rights to include images of certain digitized materials (including scans of maps and PDFs of library manuscript catalogues) in related entries.[4] These files add considerable value to the collection, as some of them are not currently accessible anywhere else. A stemma depicting relationships between manuscripts created from research carried out by the team is a new and unique contribution. Providing access to digitized materials hosted on its own servers, however, is not the prime objective of the HOE project.

Where and How to Search?

The website is structured into three main components:

  1. The start page with a counter of materials included, a heat map indicating the geographical distribution of manuscripts treated, and general guidelines.
  2. The “Main Section”, containing all those primary and related secondary sources that were considered to be of vital importance to the project.
  3. The “Tools Section”, which contains material that surfaced over the course of the project and was considered useful to those studying the historiography of Ottoman Europe beyond the focus of the HOE project.

The “Main Section” and “Tools Section” offer a range of search facets. Some mirror basic bibliographical parameters researched for each source by the library (persons involved, dates of publication, publication type, languages used in a source, etc.). Others are based on analytical parameters defined by the members of the ORT research group (analyses of the contents and significance of the manuscripts included, keywords associated with primary sources, primary publication year, genre etc.). These facets can be used to filter the entire corpus according to the criteria described by the facets.

HOE database entry for a world map by Gheorghe Golescu (1768-1848)

Additionally, searches may be entered via the search bar that allows users to search the Tools Section and the Main Section individually. Search results can be refined by activating facet filters. The title, translated title, transcribed title, name of the author or entry ID of a work have been included in the index[5], making them valid search parameters for queries submitted via the search bar.

The facets also mirror the different levels of hierarchical and analytical distinctions used to structure the corpus both from a library-related perspective and according to research-related aspects. These concepts have shaped the structure and functionalities of the system but cannot be addressed in detail here. They will be described in future publications.

What Are the Benefits?

The functionalities included on the entry level are designed for one particular purpose: to draw attention to and offer quick access to (meta)data that not only helps to identify and locate sources, but also adds to the understanding of the source itself. These interconnections are established on two levels: within the system and beyond it.  

Links within the website allow users to navigate the hierarchical part-whole relationships that are commonly indicated in library catalogues. Beyond this common functionality, the system offers two kinds of internal links that transcend standard catalogues: first, internal links that mirror aspects of textual history and migration/development by including an “other version” category for indicating editions, reprints and translations. Secondly, the system has been built to allow for associative linking of entries. Materials can be cross-referenced with each other freely with the relationship between them defined as “primary source,” “secondary source,” “reference,” or “other,” guiding the user to further reading and context. Internal links are also established between the Tools Section and the Main Section, allowing visitors to explore wider contexts of research.    

HOE database entry for “The history of the growth and decay of the Othman empire,” by Dimitrie Cantemir

One major class of links to resources outside the system are those to the previously mentioned person-identifier databases. Catalog records for individuals provide users overviews of all the works they have written included in the database, expanding the circles of possible background reading and the understanding of the overall oeuvre of specific authors. The second major class of hyperlinks are those to other online resources, mostly open-access materials, such as digitized manuscript folios and journal articles, as well as other useful related materials found in the course of project research. These links allow users to access useful additional material or even the sources themselves at a click.      

This combination of internal and external links offers users options for fresh approaches to the sources by highlighting options to expand their perception of and background on the materials in question and on their historical and prosopographical context. Additionally, the filters mentioned can be used to define new approaches towards and questions to be addressed using this metadata collection. The HOE database is consequently a detailed and comprehensive research tool that both saves researchers time and effort when looking for literature and provides them food for thought.    

Stemma by Sonja Rosenberger of source/manuscript relationships for “The history of the growth and decay of the Othman empire,” by Dimitrie Cantemir (HOE database)

On a more general note, and with regard to the increasing importance of research data management in university libraries and departments, the HOE system may also be relevant for a wide range of other projects. Bibliographical (meta)data is an essential starting point of almost any research project. The amount of bibliographical data accumulated over the course of a project may vary between projects and disciplines, but gathering, complementing and interlinking data sets when the opportunity presents itself could result in specific bibliographies that may prove to be useful auxiliary elements to the websites and reports of projects, as well as useful, state-of-the-art tools for university teachers and students. This is even more true for the increasing number of Digital Humanities projects and digitalization initiatives, which could use similar systems to supplement their catalogues of digitized materials with extensive bibliographical metadata on related publications and relevant digitized resources from the growing range of online materials.

The system developed at Bochum for the “Historiography of Ottoman Europe” project can therefore serve as a possible role model for one way of interlinking traditional elements of library catalogues, identification databases and digitized materials on specific topics that are found web-wide.

Vivian Strotmann studied Middle Eastern Studies/Islamic Studies and English at Ruhr University Bochum and at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (Co. Kildare). She conducted research in Egypt and Yemen and wrote her Ph.D. thesis on Majd al-Din al-Firuzabadi. Her research focuses on the history of sciences (with a particular interest in Arabic lexicography and Islamic philosophy), on networks and on the migration of knowledge between countries and cultures. She also takes a special interest in open access publishing and digital humanities.

She has taught in and outside of university and worked as a translator. For several years, she served as Editorial Assistant to The World of Islam/International Journal for the Study of Modern Islam. From June 2014 to November 2016, she worked as Managing Editor of Entangled Religions – Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Religious Contact and Transfer at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg “Dynamics in the History of Religions between Asia and Europe“.

In December 2016, she joined the University Library of Ruhr University Bochum as a metadata expert for the DFG-funded project “Historiography of Ottoman Europe” and became Managing Editor of Moving the Social – Journal of Social History and the History of Social Movements at the Institute for Social Movements, Bochum.

ORCID-ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6009-5182

GND-ID: http://d-nb.info/gnd/1015589669

ISNI-ID: 0000 0004 5210 6333

VIAF-ID: 317097433


[1] See Ovidiu Olar’s definition of “Ottoman Europe” at http://www.ub.rub.de/oh/concepts.html as well as Das osmanische Europa. Methoden und Perspektiven der Frühneuzeitforschung zu Südosteuropa, ed. Andreas Helmedach, Markus Koller, Konrad Petrovszky, and Stefan Rohdewald (Leipzig: Eudora, 2013) and Konrad Petrovszky, Geschichte schreiben im osmanischen Südosteuropa. Eine Kulturgeschichte orthodoxer Historiographie des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2014).

For different views on the appropriate dating of the “early modern” (“Neuzeit”) period see Friedrich Jaeger, “Neuzeit,” in: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit Online (J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 17 September 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0248_edn_a2985000. First published online: 2014. By selecting the timeframe of 1500 to 1800, the project accounts for important historical developments and encompasses both the heyday of Ottoman hegemony and the beginning of the empire’s decline. See on this: Stefan Reichmuth/Henning Sievert, “Osmanisches Reich,” in: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit Online. Consulted online on 17 September 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0248_edn_a3101000. First published online: 2014.

[2] Feel free to use our flyer to spread the word (http://www.ub.rub.de/imperia/md/content/oh/flyer_osmanen_dh_day.pdf) or contact us at ottomanhistoriography@rub.de. You can also use our guest sign-in to submit data. This will require you to create an ORCID-ID beforehand, if you do not already have one.

[3] A brief German-language page describing the project is available at http://www.ub.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/projekte/osmanisches_reich.html. More extensive information in English is available from our info page at http://www.ub.rub.de/oh/index.html.

[4] We thank our supporting institutions for these materials (see bottom section at http://www.ub.rub.de/oh/partners.html).

[5] A Github entry of the 2016 status quo was created by our late head of development, André Hagenbruch, and is available at https://github.com/ubbochum/hoe.

Announcement: Crossing the Atlantic/Bridging the Divide

As part of the Year of German-American Friendship 2018/19 (Deutschlandjahr USA), the German Historical Institute Washington (GHI) is cooperating with the Deutsches Auswandererhaus, Bremerhaven, on a joint project entitled Crossing the Atlantic/Bridging the Divide. Co-sponsored initiatives include a digital exhibition of maps of Germany and America; workshops on German-American family history in three U.S. cities; and the launch of an English-language online portal for documenting German-American family history. These planned initiatives align with the primary themes of Deutschlandjahr, which include German heritage and German language, and digitization and innovation.

Last month, the GHI began work on its core contribution to the joint project: an online exhibition provisionally entitled Mapping Germany and America. The exhibition is being developed in partnership with Vanderbilt University’s Center for Digital Humanities, which is led by Prof. Helmut Walser Smith. Beginning with Martin Waldseemüller’s world map of 1507, the exhibition will feature approximately sixty maps: thirty maps of America by Germans and thirty maps of Germany by Americans. Exhibition curator Dr. Martin Mulford is currently at work on a selection of historical maps that will show how cartographers portrayed Germany and America over the course of a centuries-long relationship characterized by engagement, partnership, intermittent periods of conflict, knowledge transfer, and dialogue.

History teachers Stacey King (M.A.) and Dr. Katharina Matro, both of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, will develop teaching materials to accompany the exhibition. Among other objectives, these materials will encourage students to think more critically about maps as historical sources. By devoting equal attention to German and American maps, the exhibition and the teaching materials will differ from most U.S.-based online map projects, which generally focus on maps of America. Additionally, the exhibition aims to forge a middle ground between American map projects that are informed by a public history tradition and German projects that are shaped by research questions.

Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii alioru[m]que lustrationes (the 1507 Waldseemuller map).

Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii alioru[m]que lustrationes, the 1507 Waldseemüller map. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division

For its contribution, the Deutsches Auswandererhaus will host a series of workshops entitled German-American Roots: Share Your Family Story in three U.S. cities: Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Washington, DC. The target audience in each case is local German-Americans, who will be invited to tell their own immigration stories or share family narratives. The interviews will be recorded and will eventually become part of the museum’s oral history collection. Furthermore, in early 2019, the Auswandererhaus will launch a new English-language online portal, whereby any German-American immigrant, regardless of location, will be able to document his or her own personal or family history.

The GHI exhibition will be launched in spring 2019 – please check back!

Mapping Black Central Europe: Digital History in the Classroom

The GHI benefits tremendously from the help of its many talented interns. The following post was written by GHDI project intern Milena Kagel, who first learned of this website at the Defining Black European History conference at the GHI in June 2018.  — Editorial note, Href

By Milena Kagel 

Every spring, Kira Thurman teaches an undergraduate course on “Germany and the Black Diaspora” at the University of Michigan. Since 2016, this course has included a digital history component – Thurman and her students have worked to construct a visual representation of the history of Black people in Central Europe by recording figures, objects, and events related to that history. Each student is required to contribute five entries to an online mapping project entitled Mapping Black Central Europe.

The map currently features around two hundred pins, each of which is connected to a detailed profile on a person, object, or event. The pins are geographically widespread, with the greatest concentration appearing in Germany. As a whole, the map creates a powerful visual representation of the significance of Blackness and Black people as historical players in Central Europe. Professor Thurman plans to expand Mapping Black Central Europe by continuing to plot new pins each year with her students.

Map from Mapping Black Central Europe

Continue reading Mapping Black Central Europe: Digital History in the Classroom

Halle Pastors, German Settlers, and Lutheran Congregations in North America

One of the contributors to our new German History Intersections project brought our attention to this important project, which touches upon many areas of current research at the GHI, including the histories of migration, knowledge, and religion. We thank our colleagues in Halle for this article. — Editorial note, Href

By Wolfgang Splitter

The Francke Foundations in Halle are currently at work on a DFG-funded project entitled Halle Pastors in Pennsylvania, 1743–1825. A Critical Edition of Sources Relating to Their Ministry in North America. The editors are Mark Häberlein, Thomas Müller-Bahlke and Hermann Wellenreuther.

Whereas research on the history of the Lutheran Church in North America up to the early nineteenth century has concentrated so far on the journals and correspondence of Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg (1711-1787), this project will transcribe and edit the extant curricula vitae, journals, and correspondence of Mühlenberg’s pastoral colleagues – i.e. those Lutheran pastors who were sent from the Francke Foundations in Halle, Prussia, to Pennsylvania between 1744 and 1786. Among other sources, the project will feature letters and reports from the New World sent by these pastors to the directors of the Francke Foundations in Halle and to the Lutheran Court Preacher in London. By moving away from a singular focus on Mühlenberg and considering a larger circle of pastors, this project will substantially expand the base of published documentary materials relating to the Halle pastors’ North American ministry and thereby lay the groundwork for new insights into the history of Pietism in the Atlantic world. The materials shed light on the spread and development of Lutheran congregations in North America, the significance of those congregations to German-speaking immigrants, and the place of the Lutheran Church within the multi-confessional mid-Atlantic region (Pennsylvania and its neighboring colonies or states). They also show how German Protestants in the Old and New Worlds perceived each other. Continue reading Halle Pastors, German Settlers, and Lutheran Congregations in North America

Economic Texts and Letters – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Go Online

The idea for this article emerged in the course of the April 2018 symposium Marx at 200, which the GHI hosted in collaboration with the Friedrich- Ebert Stiftung and the Goethe Institute Washington, DC. Dr. Jürgen Herres, a research fellow at the BBAW, was one of the panelists, and introduced us to MEGAdigital and to Dr. Roth. Professor Jürgen Kocka’s Keynote address on Marx and the History of Capitalism will be published in the GHI Bulletin in the fall of 2018 — Editorial note, Href

By Regina Roth

The Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA, for short) is a project whose goal is to publish the complete legacy of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) through producing a complete critical edition of their publications, manuscripts and correspondence.

The Editor is the Internationale Marx-Engels-Stiftung (IMES), an international, politically independent network, with the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW) in charge, together with the International Institute of Social History (IISG, Amsterdam), the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI, Moscow), and the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (Bonn) as members. The Marx-Engels papers are preserved in the archives of the IISG in Amsterdam (roughly two thirds) and at the RGASPI in Moscow (about one third). IMES was founded in 1990 to continue work on MEGA which had begun in the 1970s in Moscow and Berlin, GDR.

Continue reading Economic Texts and Letters – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Go Online

A Call to Action on Digital Cultural Heritage in Germany

The GHI Washington is part of the Max Weber Foundation — German Humanities Institutes Abroad, which includes ten research institutes worldwide. Innovation in digital research, scholarship, and preservation is a central concern of the Foundation and many of its constituent institutes. This post was authored by two Max Weber Foundation colleagues: Fabian Cremer from the administrative office in Bonn and Thorsten Wübbena from the German Center for Art History in Paris (DFK Paris). — Editorial note, Href

By Fabian Cremer and Thorsten Wübbena

Mass digitization of cultural heritage objects is an urgent need: In Germany, this is the common ground on which stakeholders from multiple fields have formulated a “wake-up” call to political decision-makers. Whether perceived as the last chance for the preservation of soon-to-be-lost culture, as in Syria (e.g. the Syrian Heritage Archive Project),[1] or as an opportunity for education and inspiration through free access to museum objects (e.g. Europeana), digitization enables people to see and use cultural material beyond its physical limitations. Continue reading A Call to Action on Digital Cultural Heritage in Germany

From Source to Document: “Key Documents of German-Jewish History”

Many German projects are making new text corpora available in digital form, complete with transcriptions, facsimiles, and English translations. Much can be learned from the work of our colleagues, in this case historians from the Hamburg-based Institute for the History of German Jews.  — Editorial note, Href

By Daniel Burckhardt and Anna Menny

The bilingual (German/English) online source edition “Key Documents of German-Jewish History” (http://jewish-history-online.net/), which is published by the Institute for the History of German Jews (IGdJ) in Hamburg (http://www.igdj-hh.de/IGDJ-home.html), uses primary sources, so-called key documents, to highlight central aspects of Hamburg’s rich and multifaceted Jewish past from the early modern period to the present. The project currently includes seventy-five sources with new materials being added on a regular basis. The project focuses on Hamburg but is outward- rather than inward-looking. Put differently, the project uses the city as a case study to examine topics and trends whose significance is not just local but also national, transnational, and even global. Generally speaking, the “key” sources featured in the project are meant to “open doors” to understanding larger developments and issues in (German-) Jewish history.

The target audience for this source edition is students, researchers, and teachers, as well as the interested public. In keeping with the broad nature of the audience, the edition includes a wide range of secondary-source texts and commentaries: general texts, for example, offer background information on important topics, such as “Memory and Remembrance” or “Family and Everyday Life,” whereas source-based interpretative texts develop argumentation on the basis of close textual analysis. Continue reading From Source to Document: “Key Documents of German-Jewish History”

Goebbels’ “Total War” Speech – Which Is the Primary Source?

GHI interns contribute to the Institute’s digital projects in a variety of capacities: as researchers, proofreaders, fact-checkers, and bibliographers. In the course of their work, they often arrive at interesting insights. — Editorial note, Href

By Martin Hamre

The digital revolution has, without doubt, changed the way that young people research history. Previously, students pored over books and printed encyclopedias; today, with Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube, access to a broad range of historical source materials – including multimedia files – is only a mouse click away. On the one hand, this makes it easier for students to research topics that would have been difficult to investigate only twenty years ago; on the other hand, it also raises completely new questions. Continue reading Goebbels’ “Total War” Speech – Which Is the Primary Source?

Read All About It (Online)! Accessing Digitized Historical German Newspapers

With thanks to our GHI librarian, Anna Maria Boss. — Editorial note, Href

Articles from historical newspapers typically play an important role in primary-source document collections in both printed and digital form. GHDI is no exception: it presently includes hundreds of texts from German newspapers dating from the early nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. During the course of the relaunch, scores of new German newspaper articles will be added to this existing base. Likewise, newspaper articles will feature prominently in the German History Intersections project.

Central Institute for Journalism and Journalistic Studies at the University of Leipzig (Das Zentrale Institut für Publizistik und Zeitungswissenschaft der Universität Leipzig). Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-10739-0008.

Many German research libraries have recently completed ambitious newspaper digitization projects, often with the support of the German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft or DFG). These projects offer new access to German historical newspapers and thus make it possible for students, scholars, and researchers from all over the world to work with these sources firsthand. Continue reading Read All About It (Online)! Accessing Digitized Historical German Newspapers

Welcome to Href

Published by the German Historical Institute (GHI), Washington, DC, Href is a new blog dedicated to the use of digitized primary source materials in studying, teaching, and researching German and global history. The name Href points to the blog’s dual purpose, which is to spread awareness about source-based digital projects in German and global history (in HTML code, href is the attribute used in an <a> tag to generate a hyperlink reference), while serving as a general history reference.

The launch of the blog coincides with the start of the DFG-funded relaunch of German History in Documents and Images. This being the case, Href will report on interesting developments as work on the project proceeds. Additionally, it will highlight the contributions of various project participants, both inside the GHI and within the broader profession. The blog will also introduce other GHI digital initiatives, such as the new German History Intersections project and the up-and-coming German History Portal for Online Research and Teaching. Interesting projects by other institutions will feature prominently as well.

The focus of Href is broad: some blog posts will offer practical tips on locating and accessing digitized historical sources; others will discuss issues regarding translation, reproduction, and provenance; and many will pose critical, case-specific questions relating to the use of digitized source materials in historical interpretation. Insofar as the blog will address not only research but also academic teaching, considerable attention will be given to source-based assignments and curricula.

The GHI welcomes relevant contributions to its new blog from members of the historical profession, in the widest sense, from information professionals, from teachers and students at any level, and members of the interested public. Ultimately, Href aims to function as a link between digitized primary sources in German and global history and the scholarly community that engages with them.