Data meets History

New Essay on Research Data Management for History (online)

Data Meets History: A Research Data Management Strategy for the Historically Oriented Humanities by Fabian Cremer, Silvia Daniel, Marina Lemaire, Katrin Moeller, Matthias Razum, and Arnošt Štanzel

Example of a digital historical research workflow

The growing relevance of research data to practices, methodology and policies poses challenges for the historically oriented humanities in developing their own concept of research data management. A broader definition of research data is derived from recent discussions and an examination of the historical research workflow reveals its ongoing digital transformation. Based on current developments in Germany, this article provides an outline for a strategic approach towards a domain-specific research data management strategy including applicable metadata concepts, cultural conditions for data sharing and initial suggestions regarding the specification of the FAIR principles for the historically oriented humanities. The essay is the collaborative work of scholars engaged in NFDI4Memory, a consortium for the historically oriented humanities.

Fabian Cremer, Silvia Daniel, Marina Lemaire, Katrin Moeller, Matthias Razum, and Arnošt Štanzel are members of NFDI4Memory, a consortium for the historically oriented humanities.

Sovereignty Beyond the Modern State

Out Now – Open Access

New issue of the European History Yearbook on “Cultural Sovereignty Beyond the Modern State: Space, Objects, and Media”

In the past 25 years or more, political observers have diagnosed a crisis of the sovereign nation state and the erosion of state sovereignty through supranational institutions and the global mobility of capital, goods, information and labour. This edition of the European History Yearbook seeks to use “cultural sovereignty” as a heuristic concept to provide new views on these developments since the beginning of the 20th century.

 

ed. by Gregor Feindt, Bernhard Gissibl, Johannes Paulmann (Introduction), with contributions by:

FORUM

Data Meets History: A Research Data Management Strategy for the Historically Oriented Humanities by Fabian Cremer, Silvia Daniel, Marina Lemaire, Katrin Moeller, Matthias Razum, and Arnošt Štanzel

 

 

The Digital Knowledge Order and Data Quality

Contributions by Historical Scholarship and Challenges

Digitisation has taken hold of research in the humanities for some time: In everyday work at the computer, in searching books and articles, in reading sources online, in collaborative work and via electronic publishing, whether open access or not. The humanities are not awaiting but they are already in the middle of a new digital era.

New issue of the archival journal  “Der Archivar” with contributions by archivists, historians and digital historians (Der Archivar 1/2020)

The issue contains an essay by Johannes Paulmann, Director of the Leibniz Institute of European History, and Eva Schlotheuber, President of the German Historical Association. The write on the challenges for historians posed by the new digital knowledge order and on the issue of data quality. Paulmann Schlotheuber Essay in Archivar 2020

They content that digital research, that is research with digital tools and methods, works more or less well at the level of individual projects – or it just doesn’t work, especially when higher-level structures and links are needed: Technical and content standardization, data integration and interoperability, reusability, long-term preservation, copyright and rights of use and scientific evaluation have a variety of problems. In this situation, the initiative to establish a national research data infrastructure has been taken up positively on all sides in Germany. The initiative came from the German Council for Information Infrastructures (RfII) – a science policy advisory body to the federal government and the states.

From the point of view of the historical sciences, there are fundamental issues. We are, on the one hand, in the midst of building a new knowledge order. On the other, we deal with the essential question of how in the framework of a digital order data quality is ensured, can be checked and made transparent. For both areas – new knowledge order and data quality – the development of a scholarly led (inter)national data infrastructure is urgently needed. Reflecting ont the challenges for the historical scholarship also makes an essential contribution to the critical reflection of digital research and work in general as well as on societal use of knowledge in the present and the future .

These concerns are central to the 4Memory consortium initiative in which they are envolved . The initiative aims to establish systematic, sustainable links among three main categories of the producers and users of historical data: historical researchers, memory institutions (archives, libraries, museums, and collections) and information infrastructures. For more information see the 4Memory website.

 

The Path of Escape in the Age of Touristic Reproduction

Phil Kuehlthau

Graffiti at the wayside (photo: Phil Kuehlthau)

Walter Benjamin’s last resort for escaping the National Socialists in the autumn of 1940 was a path across the Pyrenees, which led from the French village of Banyuls-sur-Mer to Portbou in Spain. However, this path ended in a “situation with no way out” (Brodersen, p. 245). After Benjamin arrived in Portbou and was forced to return to France by Spanish authorities, he committed suicide.

Since 2007, Benjamin’s escape route has been marked as the Chemin Walter Benjamin. It invites those interested in cultural history to follow the path. But what exactly is marked by the Chemin Walter Benjamin?

The source material is problematic. Our knowledge depends on the memories of Lisa Fittko, Walter Benjamin’s escape agent, who described the path they took together in her memoirs. Her autobiography was written 40 years later, based on blurred and overlain memories, after her innumerable ascents of the Pyrenees. In historical science, one has to treat such a record as a questionable source. Continue reading

Pursuing the Past on the Spot as a Historiographical Method?

Alexander Milešević

The Pyrenees, 2019 (photo: Alexander Milešević)

It is difficult, almost impossible, to experience the past in the present, and this might be one of the reasons why historical methods usually do not include the after-perception of previous experiences. Sometimes, people try to experience the past via the method of re-enactment. Re-enactment is a social practice through which people attempt to recreate aspects of historical events. One the one hand, this practice enables one to experience and retrace the past. On the other hand, it is problematic because of the limited awareness about differences between the actual past and its faithful reproduction through re-enactment. Can empathizing thus lead to a better understanding of the past and of the decisions people took in their lifetime? Should we use such methods even in historical research to understand the past in a better way? The case of the German philosopher Walter Benjamin is a good example for discussing these questions. His flight from France to Spain across the Pyrenees in 1940 can be experienced by hiking from the French village Banyuls-sur-Mer to Portbou on the Spanish side of the border. Continue reading

The Aftermath of the First World War: Humanitarianism in the Mediterranean

Convenors: Silvia Salvatici (University of Milan) and Johannes Paulmann (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz) in  co-operation with the German Historical Institute Rome and the Villa Vigoni – German Italian Centre for European Excellence

Date: 3 – 4 December 2019

Venue: University of Milan, Italy

Download Humanitarianism_programme

Escape Assistance in the Course of Time: From Lisa Fittko to Carola Rackete

Julian Kaiser/Marieke Wist

“We couldn’t judge anymore how people would react. For example, from the beginning there were people who said that they would go on hunger strike. Or we had people who, after there was a partial evacuation, asked if they would all have to get sick first or jump overboard to be rescued. And then you have to ask yourself if this could become real. No one can think clearly in such a situation.”

Sea-Watch Captain Carola Rackete

By recounting this emergency situation, the captain Carola Rackete justified her decision to call at the port of Lampedusa and bring 43 remaining refugees ashore on the night of 29 June 2019, after 17 days on board the “Sea Watch 3.”Rackete’s solo efforts created a media and political storm: Italy’s Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, described her as an “accomplice of human traffickers” as well as a “rich and spoiled German communist” and a “criminal captain.” Right-wing populist parties in Europe, like the Lega Nord and the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), did not hold back harsh criticism of Rackete and the refugee phenomenon itself. Different attempts were made to delegitimize her actions.

Others expressed support for Rackete’s decision by providing financial support in the form of massive donations (a total of almost 1.4 million euros was raised by 9 July in Germany and Italy alone). NGOs like “Sea Watch” were recognized as necessary in maintaining a minimum of humanity when dealing with refugees. Thus, effective publicity campaigns questioned European laws and procedures and worked to legitimize Rackete’s actions. Continue reading

Escape Assistance: An Enterprise with Varying Risks

Filip Schuffert

(photo: Filip Schuffert)

What in the photograph looks like a beautiful landscape today, used to be a dangerous border crossing zone between France and Spain in the first half of the 20th century, which many people crossed in flight.

Flight refers to escape by way of physical movement. However, people are not always able to flee by relying only on themselves. In some cases, people are locked up, as in the case of prison inmates, and perhaps hope for the aid of guards. Others stand in front of seemingly insurmountable seas, mountains or rivers and depend on the help of people who know the landscape and its secret pathways. One such example is Walter Benjamin, who fled across the Pyrenees, this beautiful landscape depicted above, in September 1940 with the help of Lisa Fittko. Others are confronted with “closed” borders and need the support of border guards. People who flee with the help of others take risks. They have to trust others out of necessity, and thus put their destiny in their hands.

Escape assistance can take various forms. Those who provide aid can furnish provisions and hide refugees, they can also issue new passports or lead refugees across a mountain range – as Lisa Fittko did. She not only helped Walter Benjamin but also numerous other refugees to cross the Pyrenees. Escape aid is any action that is carried out to help those escaping risk of death by persecution, torture or death. Escape assistance should not be considered as lugging (Schlepperei), which is motivated by enrichment, in principle. It can be an act of resistance against a political regime, but can also be carried out for humanitarian or altruistic reasons without material motivation (even today, human trafficking without intent to enrich goes largely unpunished). Continue reading

Memory-Work in Process? The Internment Camp in Gurs

Sarah Noske

Memorial site in Gurs (photo: Dennis Riemann)

In 1939, around 100 internment camps were created in France, among them the one in Gurs at the bottom of the Pyrenees. Originally, this camp was built for refugees leaving Spain in the context of the Spanish Civil War. Under the Vichy Regime, the camp was used primarily for the internment of German Jews, fighters of the Résistance, and so-called hostile foreigners. During this time, the camp consisted of 428 huts, which were composed of little “ilôts” (islands), each “ilôt” separated from others by barbed wire. In 1944, the camp was used for the internment of fleeing Spanish refugees and about 300 members of the Wehrmacht. Because of the bad hygienic conditions, more than 3000 humans died in the internment camp in Gurs.

Gate of the cemetery (photo: Sarah Noske)

The “memory work” at the camp in Gurs began very early, shortly after the end of the Second World War. In 1945, the Jewish communities of the Basses-Pyrénées set up a monument to remember the Jews who had suffered or died in Gurs. In 1957, the mayor of Karlsruhe became aware of the dilapidation of the cemetery in Gurs. As 6504 Jews from Baden had been deported to Gurs in October 1940, he pleaded for the reconstruction of the cemetery. The rebuilt cemetery was officially opened in March 1963. Other communities of Baden were also involved in the renovation of the cemetery. Furthermore, two steles were erected on the grounds of the cemetery: one in the middle of the cemetery in order to commemorate the Jewish victims and another one in the entrance area. It remembers the victims of the International Brigades.

Cemetry (photo: Sarah Noske)

Continue reading

The “Chemin Walter Benjamin” in the Competition of Remembrance

Sarah Noske

“Passages” by Dani Karavan (photo: Dennis Riemann)

“Schwerer ist es, das Gedächtnis der Namenlosen zu ehren als das der Berühmten. Dem Gedächtnis der Namenlosen ist die historische Konstruktion geweiht.“

(“It is harder to honour the memory of the nameless than that of the famous. Historical construction is dedicated to the memory of the nameless.”)

“Passages” by Dani Karavan (photo: Phil Kuehlthau)

These two phrases are written on the monument “Passages” created by the artist Dani Karavan in front of the Mediterranean Sea in the bay of Portbou in memory of Walter Benjamin. They are drawn from Benjamin’s last essay “On the Concept of History,” written in 1939, one year before he committed suicide in Portbou, Spain. Both phrases give an idea of what historical work should be dedicated to according to Benjamin: to the remembrance of the nameless, whose memory is more difficult to honour than that of the famous.

Memory is closely linked to oblivion: According to Aleida Assmann, oblivion is, in contrast to memory, the norm. In communities such as societies, not everything can be remembered, and that is the reason why such communities need to decide what (events, experiences, acts etc.) and who (individual persons or collective groups) to remember. But who are the agents of remembrance? Continue reading

A View from the Past of the Flight across the Mediterranean Sea: Walking the “Chemin Walter Benjamin”

Phil Kuehlthau

View of the Mediterranean Sea (photo: Phil Kuehlthau)

Walking the Chemin Walter Benjamin means commemorating both the escape of Walter Benjamin from National Socialist Germany and further movements of flight and migration in the 20th century. Besides, connecting the chemin to our present day can hardly be avoided. The view of the Mediterranean Sea, which slips constantly into the visual field while one hikes to Portbou, provides access to Benjamin’s notion of the relationship between past and present.

Why do we hike along the Chemin Walter Benjamin just at a time when there is a lot of migration and movements of escape towards Europe? At a time when people put their lives at risk at sea? At a time when there is a contentious debate about the legitimacy of sea rescue?

According to Benjamin, interest in historical events is fed by a feeling of recognizing oneself and one’s own fate in the past. Only in specific ages are specific historical knowledge and perceptions intelligible. Any historical knowledge refers to its origin in time. Our 2019 view on German Unification, for example, differs from that of twenty years ago. Awareness of a phenomenon like the success of a right-wing extremist party – not only, but especially – in the eastern Federal States of Germany, has led us to think differently about politics and its possible failures in the last decades, or the social and cultural legacy of the German Democratic Republic. Without the appearance of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), we would not have thought of those aspects. Continue reading

Following the Fugitive: Reflections on the Concept of Memorial Routes and the Possibilities of Representing Escape

Anne Friedrichs & Bettina Severin-Barboutie

Multilingual remembrance of the escape situation in Portbou, Spain (photo: Anne Friedrichs)

As recently as 2015, travellers to Turin and eight other south and west European cities (Milan, Genoa, Florence and Rome, Paris and Marseille, Valencia as well as Lisbon) could take advantage of a special offer: a city tour provided by migrant residents. This initiative, co-funded by the European Union, aimed to allow visitors to experience the city “through different eyes.” The tourists took on the role of migrants whereas the latter functioned as locals. Thus, different forms of mobility – such as migration and travel – and their appendant overlaps and effects could be explored conjointly.

But the question arises: Can we indeed trace the historical experiences of heterogeneous migrants through such participatory tourist practices? Can we apply the public enactments and shared personal experiences of guided tours likewise to forms of mobility such as escape, which are associated with existential threat and which have been controversially discussed and managed, for instance since 2015? What can historians contribute in view of recent disputes in Europe and elsewhere, particularly given the necessity of balancing different historical experiences, interpretations and memories?

Following a frequently used refugee route

In some regions, refugee movements form part of public commemorative culture. Among numerous other memories, histories of flight and escape are thus immediately visible there. As part of a curricular excursion, we travelled to such a region, namely the French-Spanish Pyrenees, along with students of the Justus Liebig University Giessen in the summer term of 2019. Our focus was a 15 km trail that cuts through the mountains. This trail follows the refugee route taken by Walter Benjamin in his attempted escape from French Banyuls-sur-Mer to Portbou in Spain. Continue reading

Bomber’s Baedeker

Rare edition of the 1944 edition of “Bomber’s Baedeker” has been digitalised. The volumes from the Leibniz Institute of European History are now available through Gutenberg Capture, the online portal of the University Library at Mainz.

“Bombers Baedeker” (1944) – copy held at the Leibniz Institute of European History

In 1943 the British Ministry of Economic Warfare published a “Guide to the Economic Importance of German Towns and Cities” listing bombing targets in Germany. An enlarged second edition came out in 1944. One of the very few copies is held by the library of the Leibniz Institute of European History. It has now been made available online as the original can no longer be used for reasons of preservation.

 

Open acess to digital edition https://visualcollections.ub.uni-mainz.de/urn/urn:nbn:de:hebis:77-vcol-20056

Bomber’s Baedeker lists German cities with an evaluation of their importance for the German war economy, the available infrastructure und transport facilities. The first edition focused on cities witth 15,000 or more inhabitants; the second edition included locations with less than 1,000 inhabitants if they appeared important for the war economy. Targets were asigned “priorities”.

A seminar on the digital copy and its potential for digital history will be held at the Leibniz Institute of European History on 15 October 2019 at 4 p.m.

Continue reading

Terms of Art: Understanding the Mechanics of Dispossession During the Nazi Period

Symposium – Call for Papers, May 7 – 8, 2020; New York, New York

The Department of Financial Services’ Holocaust Claims Processing Office is hosting the first New York State symposium for practitioners in the field of art restitution to explore the methods of involuntary loss from a historical, art historical and practical basis.


The aim is to inform and guide future discussions about the disparate views on these historical events and how a common understanding of these terms can effectively contribute to resolving claims in a more consistent and expeditious manner.

  • Participants at the symposium will include claimant representatives, attorneys, members of the art trade, cultural institutions, provenance researchers, historians and art historians.
  • The symposium will include expert paper presentations and panel-led discussions.
  • Following the symposium, papers will be published as a free online book.
  • The goal of the online publication is to further the dialogue concerning this issue and promote greater understanding about the mechanics of dispossession.

International Claims Process Diagram 2017 – Holocaust Claims Process Office (https://dfs.ny.gov/consumers/holocaust_claims)

 

 

Download CfP Terms of Art,  deadline for submitting a proposal is Thursday, October 31, 2019.

Link to symposium website

 

Continue reading

Europe, 1850 – 1914: Global Dominance and the Belief in Progress

Globale Vorherrschaft und Fortschrittsglaube. Europa 1850 – 1914 (C.H. Beck Geschichte Europas)

In his newly published history of Europe, Johannes Paulmann describes the major changes Europeans experienced and brought about during the second half of the nineteenth century. They laid the material and intellectual foundations some of which affect the continent and the world until today.

Europe saw an encompassing transformation between 1850 and 1914. The use of fossil energy enabled enormous gains in productivity. People, goods, and ideas were mobilised across Europe and the globe with the speed of communication increasing rapidly. The future seemed dynamic and open. Yet, the far-reaching changes also generated doubts. The belief in progress went hand in hand with criticism of materialism, the pollution and destruction of the environment, political and social repression, and violent colonialism.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Europe had reached the peak of its imperial dominance of the world. Competition and nationalistic rivalry as well as manifold cooperation across boundaries were characteristic of the time. The outbreak of a general European war was therefore more likely than in previous decades but the various diplomatic crises had been manageable – and 1914 would have been avoidable if governments had not chosen to take great risks.

The book has received warm reviews in the press for its masterly survey of the period and its clear arguments. See for example Ernst Pipers review in Der Tagesspiegel.

For more information, see C.H. Beck with an extract on locating Europe in the nineteenth century (“Grenzen und Entgrenzen: Wie weit reicht Europa im 19. Jahrhundert”).