Digital Humanities and Public History as Teaching Tools

I am primarily interested in Digital Humanities as a teaching tool, in particular the intersection between DH and public history. In recent years, I have worked to integrate public history and museum studies projects into my courses. These assignments are designed to help students thing about history both as an academic discipline and as a discipline that engages with a broader public – through work in archives, libraries, and historical societies; the curation of museum exhibits; and the construction of historical narratives for broad consumption. DH tools have been useful in developing these sorts of assignments. They also expose students to different ways of presenting research, other than the traditional research paper, including in digital formats, and train students in working with technology – skills that help prepare them for a variety of careers.

Wende Museum Project

My first foray into DH was when I co-organized a special workshop with Wende Museum: “Museum & Material Cultures: Exhibiting the GDR.” The workshop brought together five LMU students and five students from the University of Leipzig to explore the history of the German Democratic Republic using the museum’s artifacts. This was an exercise in public history, as the students discussed the relationship between history and memory, the pedagogical function of public history, the role of museums, and questions of display, representation, and audience. Over the course of a month, the students did research in museum, with the goal of producing an online exhibit about the everyday life of East Germans in Berlin, Leipzig, and Halle-Neustadt. They selected the artifacts, researched them, wrote the texts, and designed – within the constraints of the museum website – the exhibit layout.

The culmination of the workshop was the production of a prototype for the online exhibition, “Living in a Socialist City,” with five sections, each curated by a pair of students (one German and one American): Marketing a Socialist City, Public Spaces & the Socialist City, Private Spaces, The Marketplace & Consumer Culture, and Social Experiences. The exhibit is now live on the Wende Museum website. I also wrote about the experience, including the benefits and challenges of such a community-based learning experience and international collaboration, for the blog on Undergraduate Research in German & European Studies (in 5 parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Two LMU students who participated in the workshop also wrote about their experiences for the blog: one about doing research in an archive and the other about the collaborative aspect.

Translating the Workshop Experience into My Classes

The workshop students learned how to work with artifacts as historical sources (rather than just with documents). They learned about the importance of audience, how authors must consider their likely audiences when crafting narratives. They learned how to think about the visual – about display and the integration of text and image. They also came to realize that History majors don’t just go to law school or become teachers, that their research and writing skills prepare them for a variety of professional opportunities.

My next step was to think about how to translate the workshop experience into all of my classes. I initially asked students to curate museum exhibits in the form of PowerPoint shows but then shifted to using online tools. A colleague and I, in a team-taught course on Ireland and Poland as European colonies, decided to require students to build a website (on WordPress) in lieu of doing a research paper. They were expected to work as a group (it was a small class) to develop the overall concept and design and to choose the themes. Individual students were then responsible for individual pages. The assignment proved a disaster. In the face of an unfamiliar assignment requiring technology skills, the students just shut down. They were intimidated and overwhelmed by the scale and nature of the assignment, which was compounded by the fact that they were dealing with unfamiliar histories, not having had much past exposure to Irish and Polish history.

I had a better experience in the world history course that I was teaching that semester, where I required students to develop a single webpage presenting their research on a chosen topic. The assignment included very specific parameters – that they had to include at least one audio/visual “artifact,” a link to at least one textual primary source, references to at least two secondary sources. The clear expectations helped students, many of whom produced pretty good webpages, including ones on: the partition of India, Chinese immigration during the Gold Rush, and the link between the Haitian revolution and a yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia.

The lesson that I took from that experience was that students needed explicit instructions about what their webpages should look like. I also decided to try to lessen the technological obstacles that students might face, as building a webpage is far more challenging that using an app. So that they could concentrate on the narrative that they were crafting (for a broad audience, rather than just for me) and on the integration of primary sources and artifacts into that narrative, I switched from requiring students to create their own webpages to requiring students to do blog posts on a class website that I established. I have since required students both to write the traditional research paper and to write a blog entry in which they distill their research for a broader public: European Imperialism course and Weimar Germany course.

Moving Forward

My next step is to expand the assignment again, back in the direction of asking students to create a course website. In spring 2017, I am teaching a course on Nazi Germany, which will include a Spring Break trip to Berlin to explore how the Nazi era and the Holocaust are remembered in Germany and the ways in which Germans have developed a historical narrative around the Nazi era and the Holocaust geared towards public education and memorialization. Students will be required to develop a class website focusing on the history and memory of Nazi Germany. The website will require them to practice the craft of public history – to produce historical narratives and arguments for a broad audience. It will also require them to do work in DH, including blogs, virtual exhibits, videos, and a timeline. In particular, students will draw on their experiences in Berlin to map sites of importance, using GIS technology to layer places, images, and historical analysis. I plan to do a similar assignment when I next teach Honors History – to have students build a website around the social and cultural history of technology, including textual and audio/visual artifacts, historical timelines, historical essays, and video interviews with local experts.

My efforts are part of a broader departmental initiative to focus more on public history, museum studies, historical documentaries, and journalism as part of the LMU history major. Digital Humanities figure prominently in these discussions about presentation, representations, and audience, so I welcome the opportunity to learn more about what others are doing.

The Dialectic of Digital Humanities: A Methodological Reflection

This post examines an ongoing methodological project in the form of two examples: a research article, “Digital Humanities as Translation: Visualizing Franz Rosenzweig’s Archive,” and the results of a semester-long, in-class digital project, “‘The Poor Sinners’ Pamphlets.’” As the focus of this post, however, “method” signifies not just the specific technological tools and processes involved in each instance, but also the general theoretical contention that “digital humanities” means as much the potential enhancement of our study and teaching of German history, culture, and literature through digital tools as it does bringing the conceptual tools of German Studies to bear on the very transformation to our discipline signified by the digital. Such sentiments seek to expand on David Kim’s call for “hybrid methods” in pedagogy that mix digital and tradition techniques and participate in the foundational methodological discussions proposed in articles and led at conferences by Wendy Chun and Lisa Maria Rhody. In presenting the following examples, I contend that the methodical contribution of DH to teaching, learning, and research and its potential inclusivity in classrooms and scholarly communities lies in the dialectical movements between new, digital techniques and those already central to German Studies in particular and the humanities in general. In other words, I want to purpose a methodological vision of DH in which methods such as data visualization, mapping, and algorithmic text analysis can and must draw on, return us to, and allow for iterative revision by their interaction with the methods of our field, such as philology, hermeneutics, and critical theory.

Digital Humanities as Translation” employs and describes for other scholars how to employ a set of digital tools (e.g. Tabula, OpenRefine, Palladio) to visualize the network of correspondences contained in the collection of Rosenzweig’s papers held in the University of Kassel archive (see the archive’s finding aid). Using DH tools to copy, cut, paste, and scrub the archival data (see the final dataset) and plot them (see diagrams), “DH as Translation” serves, on the one hand, as an initial step towards a more detailed and comprehensive understanding of Rosenzweig’s intellectual biography and network, published editions and historiographies of which have come under scrutiny (see Graf and Pollock).

Palladio generated timeline of document dates in Rosenzweig’s archive.
Full network visualization, with Rosenzweig in the middle.

On the other hand, Rosenzweig also theorizes in his theological and philosophical writings the practice of the transformation of texts from one form to another, which, so is my contention, allows us to reflect critically on the acts of “copying, cutting, and pasting,” “scrubbing” and “plotting” required to create the visualizations themselves. If translation means for Rosenzweig radical formal fidelity to literary and religious texts, then, so I take as one potential guide, we should “translate” the data of his archive in such a fashion to retain as much of the structure and nuance of the original as possible. Yet, in practice, my attempt at a faithful rendition does not simply posit a “direct” translation that preserves each and every data point, but rather, by virtue of translation, reveals marginal, non-Rosenzweig voices in his archive that call into question the ideological underpinnings of his theory of translation, as well as our own. What translation theory, recalled in the visualization process, reveals is how the choices we make in the process of visualization are not arbitrary, but carry significant historical and ideological weight.

Twelve undergraduate and graduate students researched, designed, and built the online collection, the “’Poor Sinners’ Pamphlets’” in the digital humanities seminar I led at Michigan State University last spring. Starting with introductory readings in DH, our semester-long goal was to create an Omeka ‘archive’ of the so-called “Poor Sinners’ Pamphlets” (Armsünderblätter) held in the Criminology Collection in MSU Libraries’ Special Collections – a loose genre, consisting primarily of broadsheets sold at public executions mostly in the German-speaking lands during the eighteenth and nineteenth century (see van Dülmen), “programs” of a sort that described for the public what it was witnessing and what spiritual lessons it should draw from it.

Description of the sentence and execution of Caspar Rhain, accompanied by a “moral poem” (1771)

The course (with help from the DH specialists at MSU) taught students how to use a wide range of DH tools: spreadsheets and OpenRefine to normalize the Library’s MARC data (see the data for the 100 documents in our archive or the data for the 1421 documents in MSU’s Criminology Collection), cameras and Photoshop to digitize and color correct the pamphlet images, Omeka to host the collection, and tools such as Palladio, Voyant, RAW, and CartoDB to analyze our data. With each new DH tool, however, a class period was dedicated to a theoretical reading (Burton, Foucault, Derrida, Drucker, etc.) which framed our work within less technical and more critical and humanistic frames of inquiry: the technological manipulation of the body (both physical and textual), epistemology and exhibition, and techniques (and pitfalls) of translation. As much as DH allowed us to broaden access to a very public, but often forgotten moment of cultural history in Germany, so too the use of these DH tools thus returned students (and, for some, introduced them to) to salient questions in the humanities in order to understand better the processes that the use of these tools presupposes but often renders invisible.

Both of these projects raised a number of pressing technological questions concerning German Studies and DH – such as how these digital tools, often designed by English speakers for other purposes, systematically breakdown when they encounter untidy data and formatting, something as simple as diacritical marks and special characters. At this point, I am unsure what direction this larger methodological project will take. For our discussion at the GSA, however, I hope to lay the groundwork for a conversation on how we can establish robust yet also theoretically savvy foundations for the use of DH in German Studies that takes advantage of what the digital offers us interpretively and analytically, without losing sight of the interpretive, critical, and historiographical bedrock that constitutes our discipline.

“Teaching and Learning with Primary Sources”: A New Module to Complement German History in Documents and Images

The Fashion Conscious Man [International Men's Fashion Week in Cologne, 1986]. Coutesy of Inter-Nationes and the German Information Center.
The Fashion Conscious Man [International Men’s Fashion Week in Cologne, 1986]. Courtesy of Inter-Nationes and the German Information Center.
The German Historical Institute’s flagship digital project, German History in Documents and Images (GHDI), is currently being revised and relaunched. Conceived in 2002, GHDI is an online anthology consisting of ten chronological volumes that cover German history from 1500 to the end of the first Merkel cabinet in 2009. The site is completely bilingual; it includes approximately 1,700 primary-source documents (in German and English translation) and 2,300 images, all of which are accompanied by introductory texts that aid in interpretation. One goal of the relaunch is to enhance GHDI’s utility as a teaching tool; another is to make it more interdisciplinary, so that it better serves colleagues in neighboring disciplines, including German studies. In light of these objectives, the combined seminar on digital resources and teaching with authentic historical sources promises to be an ideal forum for discussing ways of presenting primary source materials in a digital environment for optimal pedagogical use.

GHDI recently went through an external academic review. Many reviewers commented that the site needs a hands-on introductory section on teaching and learning with primary sources. In response, the Institute will design a new pedagogical module that will introduce some common rubrics for source analysis, including “The 6 C’s of Primary Source Analysis” (content, citation, context, connections, communication, and conclusion). The rubrics will then be applied to select textual and visual sources in GHDI. To name one example, the writings of nineteenth-century author and women’s advocate Hedwig Dohm (“What the Pastors Think of Women”) could provide the basis for a lively classroom discussion of “communication” and point of view. The module will also include recommended assignments and classroom activities. Again, on the topic of gender, it would be interesting for students to compare the views expressed in texts by Franz-Josef Wuermeling, FRG Minister of Family and Youth Affairs, and activist film director Helke Sander. Another exercise might involve examining texts by authors who advocate opposing stances on crucial issues, such as the introduction of free markets in land, labor, and capital, a hotly debated topic in Vormärz Germany. Lastly, it might be interesting to invite three of four contemporary scholars to interpret a single source from differing interpretative and methodological points of view.

Questions for GSA seminar participants might include: which types of sources and activities tend to work well in classroom teaching; and how can technology be employed both to enrich traditional approaches to primary source analysis (such as the assignments described above) and to create new ones? With respect to the latter question, it would be interesting to discuss the potential of annotation applications, such as Hypothes.Is and Annotation Studio, in the context of source analysis and pedagogy. Multi-textual annotation tools could facilitate comparative approaches to sources; social annotations tools would aid in small group and classroom discussion. Annotation applications also include features that would allow students to create small sub-collections of documents and images from GHDI; this would make it easier for them to create their own historical narratives with select source materials.

The analysis of images will be given equal – and perhaps even greater – weight in the planned module. Today’s students, as is commonly observed, grew up in a media-rich environment; and this fact has given rise to the general idea that they are more visually attuned than earlier generations. But is that really the case? And, if so, then what does that mean with respect to source analysis in the classroom? Are students well versed in the formal analysis of images, and how could this more art historical approach be applied to history and German studies curricula? While most students could likely identify an obviously staged photograph such as the one featured above (published by a German textile lobbying group on the occasion of International Men’s Fashion Week in 1986), they might not be able to do so in all cases. This could be problematic when they are confronted with propagandistic imagery. One relatively common criticism leveled at the GHDI website is that is includes too many portraits (the implication being that they are boring). In response, the Institute plans to author more comprehensive image captions to help point out the richness conveyed by some of these sources. But these criticisms also point to a larger question: what types of images do students and teachers expect to see represented in a large digital collection? Do teachers, for instance, want headshots of politicians and writers to use as basic illustrations – as opposed to “real sources” – in PowerPoint slides? And can images even be responsibly separated into these two categories? Should a site like GHDI feature photos that already appear in countless Germany history texts and websites (e.g. Menzel paintings)? Whereas some scholars regard such images as tired, others view them as iconic or reassuringly familiar. What sort of mixture of the familiar and the new should a site like GHDI strive for?

The GHDI relaunch will involve not only revisions and additions to the academic content, but also the creation of a new technical infrastructure and user interface. The content revisions and the technical relaunch are inseparable, not least because the types of multimedia source materials that need to be included in a revised GHDI (e.g. sound- and video-clips) cannot be published on the current platform. In addition to providing basic information on source analysis, the planned pedagogical module will also include recommendations and activities based on multimedia sources, especially postwar German films. While film and television have long been used in teaching, there are still relatively few pedagogical resources geared toward their classroom application (compared with the resources devoted to texts and images). For this and other reasons, the Institute may develop a blog and an online discussion forum to promote an informal, two-way discussion about teaching with primary sources, particularly film and audio materials. At the moment, it appears that many scholars share interesting tips about current multimedia sources – references to the television shows Deutschland 83 or Ku’damm 56 – through private Facebook or Twitter accounts. Unfortunately, these recommendations are usually limited to the scholar’s personal “friends” or “followers.” Creating a forum where members of the profession could share links and information would ensure that tips about new multimedia sources reached a larger audience and did not disappear in a sea of individual social media accounts.





Investigating Historic Events through the Intersection of Public and Private Spheres – Claudia Lynn & Sibel Sayılı-Hurley

The analysis and interpretation of linguistic structures in authentic, digitized historic sources and materials with the help of data visualization tools has the potential to raise learners’ critical cultural awareness of the target culture while at the same time raising and expanding their linguistic awareness.

Byram’s Model for Intercultural Communicative Competence (1997) defined critical cultural awareness as “…an ability to evaluate critically and on the basis of explicit criteria perspectives, practices and products in one’s own and other cultures and countries” (p. 53) and posited that it enriches and facilitates the acquisition of a foreign language. This definition has also been incorporated into the ACTFL National Standards for Foreign Language Learning. Language serves as the prime vehicle to embed cultural perspectives in its structures and lexicon, describes and reports on the practices within culture(s), and contributes to the emergence of cultural products. Data visualization tools can aid FL learners -especially at the intermediate level -to untangle and decipher these complex, profound relationships between language and culture. By means of dual coding -verbal and non-verbal, learners process the abstract vocabulary and complex structures of authentic sources with a positive effect on comprehension, retention, and production. (Paivio, 2006, p. 181) Additionally, data visualization appeals to the multi-literacy competencies of digital natives since digital natives are “…operating at twitch speed (not conventional speed); employing random access (not step-by-step); parallel processing (not linear processing); graphics first (not text); play oriented (not work); connected (not stand alone).” (Pendergast, 2010, p. 3) Data visualization tools appeal to most if not all of these characteristics: they offer multiple entries to non-linear processing of texts, they produce images to supplement text comprehension and analysis, and they offer options for text manipulation that may appear rather playful on the surface but that can also be harnessed for critical engagement with course materials.

Our project aims to raise learners’ awareness of the multi-faceted nature of language and culture as well as cultural meaning embedded in language. In our project, learners in an intermediate German course at a postsecondary institution will employ text analysis tools for critical observation and reflection of linguistic choices within the source materials. Learners will use text analysis tools to decode embedded cultural perspectives in the target language, assess their own assumptions, and ultimately also reach a better understanding of their own culture. Additionally, our learners will be contributing to the body of knowledge of German language, culture, and history. We hope to achieve this while simultaneously raising learners’ awareness of the possibilities that Digital Humanities offers and introducing them to some of the learning tools used in Digital Humanities research. We believe learners will thereby also learn a transferable skill.

In this particular course, learners will engage with the history of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) through the novel Am kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee.  Our presentation focuses on personal and public accounts of key events during the period of 1945-1990 that are referenced in the novel. We are especially interested in the intersection of public and private spheres as conveyed through historic sources. Our work with the novel for this project will be the culmination of our co-authored textbook Bewegungen (in preparation for submission), which implements an innovative fourth semester bridge curriculum and aims at revealing multiple perspectives within culture embedded in language.

Learners will examine digitized historic sources (digitized archives of newspapers, eye witness accounts, etc.) about significant events through both public and private accounts to complement the fictional account in the novel. This will provide learners with a multi-layered perspective: the sequence of events (reported facts) and the way the source/account frames and presents events linguistically, semantically, and visually and thereby frames meaning for the reader. Learners will be divided into two teams. One team will work with a selection of different public GDR accounts (e.g., newspapers, history textbooks, radio and TV reports etc.) of the events, while the other team will use a selection of private GDR accounts (eyewitnesses, photos, letters, etc.) of the events. Using data visualization tools such as Voyant. Learners will be able to compare the personal and public accounts in an exploratory qualitative data analysis and gain a better understanding of life in the GDR.

This project promotes not only FL acquisition and critical cultural awareness but also develops valuable research skills. Data visualization compels learners to develop what Kramer coined the bridge between evidence and argument because they will have to make decisions on how to select, evaluate and present data (Kramer, 2012). Thus, learners will become active participants in creating meaning in L2: they will make choices (from a selection of accounts), explain their choices, analyze the language, acquire a new skill through the Digital Humanities tools etc., that is, language acquisition will happen dynamically instead of passively. Learners will also become aware of the limitations of their research tools and methods. However, teaching with Digital Humanities in an intermediate foreign language class also poses certain challenges. We anticipate that learners’ limitations within L2 and their unfamiliarity with Digital Humanities will be among the most challenging.

 Future of the project

We have three goals for the future of the project. First, in the near future, we hope to expand our project by having future classes/learners contribute to the project.  Second, we hope to include non-textual accounts of historic events (e.g., photos, videos, artefacts) to develop models of how to analyze and interpret these digital sources. Third, we hope to be able to collaborate with other colleges/universities teaching the novel and have their learners contribute to our interactive and collaborative publishing platform (e.g., WordPress, Omeka, Scalar).

Screenshots of Text Analysis with Voyant

Voyant Screenshots


Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence. Clevedon, United     Kingdom: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Kramer, Michael J. “What does Digital Humanities Bring to the Table” Issues in Digital History. 25 Sept.     2012. Web. 1 Jun 2016.

Paivio, A. (2006). Mind and Its Evolution: A Dual Coding Theoretical Interpretation. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Pendergast, D. (March, 2010). Connecting with Millennials: Using Tag Clouds to Build a Folksonomy from Key Home Economics Documents. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal. 38 (3), 289-302.

Holocaust Memory and Visuality in the Age of Social Media

Project Description
Currently, there are 11,701 images tagged with #holocaustmuseum, 6652 tagged with #yadvashem, and 16,735 tagged with #jewishmuseum on Instagram alone; all photos in these tags represent examples of individual visitor engagement with Holocaust museum and memorial sites, all of which provide me with a rich source base which requires interpretation and analysis. My PhD dissertation is an interdisciplinary analysis of embodied interaction with the presentation of the Holocaust in museum and memorial sites and the documentation of such experiences on the part of the visitor through social media. This project examines the evolving nature of visitor photography in Holocaust museum spaces and memorial sites, dissecting and questioning interactions between official Holocaust museum and memorial spaces and their publics as they support, contradict, and challenge one another using image-sharing platforms Flickr, Tumblr, and Instagram as spaces of expression and memory-making. I evaluate the shared images of visitors in the context of the development of social media policies of three of the largest Holocaust museums: the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington DC), the Yad Vashem World Center for Holocaust Research, Documentation, Education and Commemoration (Jerusalem, Israel), and aspects of Berlin’s Jewish Museum.

My theoretical framework draws from the disciplines of visual culture, performance theory, and public history. This project presupposes the following: that museum spaces, both physically and conceptually, rely heavily on relationships of power to communicate the past to the visitor; that the act of photography is the visitor’s attempt to exercise control and present-ness when engaged in emotional experiences; and, that the act of photography must be seen as a method of active engagement with one’s spatial environment. Photography in museum spaces – particularly self-photography (i.e. the “selfie”) remains controversial; my project calls for a deeper consideration of twenty-first century photographic trends in Holocaust museum spaces, rather than the condemnation of these practices. The power of visitor photography, beyond its easy transmission in the digital age, lies in its dual function as a mode of visual representation and framework for the interpretation of the spaces in which we find ourselves, as well as representations of the self.

Drawing from the existing literature on Holocaust museums and the visuality of the Holocaust, my research is guided by the following questions: How do museums, especially those dealing with painful histories, make use of image-sharing social media platforms? What is the significance of engaging with visual culture in this process, and how can visitor photography serve as a didactic tool within and beyond the walls of the museum? How can visitor photography complicate museum and memorial spaces? How does the act of sharing a photo allow an individual to contribute to a visual memory-making process? Most importantly, how can historians read visitor photographs as sources, and what can they contribute to our understanding of public engagement with the past, in the present? I situate my evaluation of imaged-based social media platforms as important sources for historians within broad and necessary conversations about the nature of contemporary commemorative practices, public engagement with the past, and the changing nature of Holocaust memory in the twenty-first century.

Current Methodology
At the moment, my working archive is composed of a hodge-podge of the sources which I have drawn together: photographic material from guestbooks and biennial reports from the Jewish Museum Berlin; interviews with social media managers and local artists; visitor feedback reports from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; and a rather unwieldy repository of images on Flickr, Instagram, and Tumblr.

One of the issues I struggle with from a methodological standpoint is the ever-growing (and ever vanishing) nature of my social media archive. Currently, I have been spending time scrolling through various hashtags on different platforms to manually screenshot and save new images. While this is a rather tedious method, it has allowed my to collect a wide variety of images.

Future Directions and Challenges
Currently, my approach to my methodology has been that of a social or cultural historian, and I believe one area of my research that I am struggling with is whether my methods reflect the nature of my project. While still in the research phase, I am hoping to expand my understanding of methods and tools through this seminar.

1. One of my objectives for this seminar is to engage in a discussion about the ways in which digital scholars frame their methodologies, and the shifting nature of this discussion as we engage more and more with digital source materials, or rely on digital methodologies to communicate shifts in historical practice.

2. I am interested in whether the group knows of any programs which can analyze a large corpus of images; as I am interested in tracking and analyzing shifting visualities, I believe this may be my first step in attempting to do so.

3. Similarly, I am interested in whether the group has had any experience using Gephi (or similar networking applications) to visualize connections between users of Instagram or Flickr.

‘Mapping German Enemy Citizens’. Digitising Dutch politics of (de) enemisation in the aftermath of the Second World War

In the years preceding, during and after the Second World War, the notion of citizenship with its links to nationality and legal protection by the state underwent radical change. Nazi policies had enforced a strict categorisation and isolation of citizens, with genocide as the ultimate consequence. German aggression and ideological constructions of Germanness and Brudervölkern had a major impact on the meaning of German nationality after the German capitulation as well. Occupied by Germany from 10 May 1940, the Dutch government in exile in 1944 declared all German nationals in the Kingdom of the Netherlands to be enemy citizens. Soon after the German capitulation in 1945, ten thousands of Germans were stripped of their assets, regardless of political allegiance or place of residence and without any Dutch compensation. Some were imprisoned or deported, others left at their own initiative. The project Germans as enemy citizens researches these Dutch policies, as a case in point to investigate how citizenship has been further put to the test after the Second World War.

Citizenship entitlements provide specific mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion in transitional times. In this research citizenship is approached as an essentially contested concept, related to changing sets of definitions in terms of legal status, privileges and rights, social and political engagement and identity.

Before 1940, thousands of German nationals held residence in the Netherlands and its overseas territories. Some had a residence permit, such as Grenzbauern, migrant labourers and housemates, or were German through marriage. Others lived and worked as missionaries, artists and entrepreneurs in Suriname or the Dutch East Indies, or were – now stateless – German Jewish refugees without a Dutch legal status. After 1944, all Germans in the Netherlands were politically categorised as enemy, a decision against which they could appeal. Who were these Germans and what did their German citizenship imply for them? How did international discourse on ‘collective guilt’ and human rights affect Dutch politics on Germans and citizenship in the aftermath of the Second World War? And, how can these Dutch post-war policies be understood in a more global framework? These are central questions in this PhD project (2015-2019).

Internationally, research on Heimatvertriebenen, or homeland expellees, and German refugees and emigrants who themselves or whose ancestors had involuntarily lost German citizenship in other European countries, has resulted in a vast amount of literature. However, regarding the Netherlands, the history of Germans post-1945, as part of the post-war legal redress in general, has received little attention from historians and has long been separated from the historiography about the Second World War. Little research has been done on the German minority in the Netherlands and its overseas territories after May 1945, and to this day it is unclear how many people were affected by the Dutch government’s judicial, economic and policy measures implemented. This can be explained by the trends and phases, the different approaches to the Second World War. For decades, the first post-war years in particular, debate was coloured by moralistic visions, based on the categorisation of ‘right-fully behaving Dutch’ and ‘guilty Germans’. It can also be explained by the fact that there are almost no diaries, memoirs or testimonies. The only source that can provide insight in the experiences of German enemy citizens is the extensive but little researched archive of the Dutch Property Administration Institute, an Institute that was authorized to detect, manage and liquidate confiscated German assets.

The archive of the Dutch Property Administration Institute, stored in the National Archives in The Hague (NL), provides a valuable source to investigate the moral, political and financial considerations at stake in Dutch policies of restorative justice. It is the primary source for answers to questions like “who were declared enemy?”, “how were people categorised?”, and, “who was in a position to appeal against the verdict?”. Jurisprudence, letters of request for de-enemisation and in particular the defences of enemy citizens shed light on the Dutch post-war policies. However, to this day this archive of this Dutch Property Administration Institute has not been completely disclosed. Direct access to the personal records of enemy citizens is due to the Personal Data Protection Act restricted, which makes both qualitative and quantitative research more than seventy years after WWII still almost impossible. The only entry into this complex archive are the original paper index-cards (circa 25000 in total), used by secretaries then to organise and categorise their archives.

These cards contain personal data such as names, nationality, place of birth and place of residence, but also the final court decision. With the information on these cards, I can submit a request to research the personal files. But, using digital tools, the data on these cards provide more interesting information. Therefore, to process and manage archival data, a database was designed. This database functions as an archive of an archive, which considering the fact that the archive of the Dutch Property Administration Institute has not yet been disclosed nor digitalised, and that there are limited options to search through the files, this is a major advantage. More importantly, the database enables me to count, filter and query my archival data (see A first sample test (824 cards) proved that it is possible to count how many enemy citizens had the German nationality, and to filter on for example gender or whether the no-enemy declaration was given or rejected. Furthermore, the test showed that it is possible to plot geographical data, such as place of birth and place of residence, and map the geographical patterns of Germans who left the Netherlands, be it on their own initiative or because of deportation (see Finally, the sample test indicated that entering the data in a database can help disentangle the bureaucratic apparatus the Dutch Property Administration Institute was. The cards also include a variety of stamps, comments and notes. Digitalisation of the cards into a structured database enables to work along and against ‘the archival grain’. That way, large scale patterns in the archival form can be identified and analysed, as well as the semantic information and in particular the used classifications.

Protest Spaces: Peace Movements in the United States and Germany, 1921-2000

Color_kasper-01Shelley E. Rose (Cleveland State University)

Jared R. Donnelly (Air Command and Staff College)

Project Overview

“Protest Spaces: Peace Movements in the United States and Germany, 1920-2000” ( is a transnational collaboration of scholars from Cleveland State University in Ohio, Air Command and Staff College in Alabama, and Mannheim University in Germany. The research team combines historical data on protest and grassroots demonstrations gathered from American and German archives in a location-based multimedia database of protest events and archival materials in the United States and Germany, creating a geospatial research tool for humanities scholars worldwide.

Both the pilot and long-term project use Omeka and Neatline. The database will eventually include an archives section which maps the locations of archival materials gathered and deposited by activists in the United States and Germany. This central digital database will facilitate international cooperation and dissemination of humanities scholarship by providing scholars with a new analytical tool for studying protest and grassroots demonstrations.

“Protest Spaces” builds on Kathrin Fahlenbrach, Martin Klimke, and Joachim Scharloth’s premise that “current research on protest, dissent, and social movements is not confined to traditional boundaries anymore.” (Protest Cultures, 2) The project centers on three categories of protest events:

1.) location-specific events which occupy spaces symbolic to national or movement history like an Erinnerungsort, or memory sites such as the Frankfurt Paulskirche;

2.) issue-specific events which consolidate around a moment in history like the NATO Double Track Missile Decision (NATO Doppelbeschluss), US-Involvement in Latin America, the Vietnam War, and the First Gulf War; and

3.) transnational events which themselves crossed national borders and fostered connections between activists in different locations, such as Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) international summer schools in the 1920s and San Francisco to Moscow March for Peace from 1960 to 1961.

Each of the three categories includes the wide range of protest practices used by activists to appropriate public spaces, both in a literal and metaphorical sense, such as sit-ins, die-ins, military base blockades, nuclear free zones, and vigils. Through these lenses, scholars will be able to visualize patterns in the activists’ use of space which are otherwise obscured by the nature of archival research and the limits of studying protest events within individual archival collections. By curating information from diverse archives in the United States and Germany into the “Protest Spaces” platform, humanities scholars will have access to a unique set of geospatial visual data to enhance traditional academic protest research.


The project originally emerged from the dissertation research of Shelley Rose and Jared Donnelly. In 2014, we collaborated with Philipp Gassert and Philipp Baur of Mannheim University on a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) / Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Biliateral Digital Humanities Grant. We were not successful, but learned much from the external reviewer reports, including the challenges of applying to a program administered by two different national research agencies. One of the most important lessons was to have a small scale pilot project to showcase in the proposal to help reviewers understand what the digital humanities product will look like. This is why we are currently piloting case studies from each of the three categories above for our next cycle of grant applications in Fall 2016. This cycle will not include the NEH/DFG because the program has been discontinued.

Future Directions and Challenges

Protest Voices Project: This summer, two undergraduate student researchers at Cleveland State are collecting oral history interviews from local activists, focusing on anti-Vietnam protests and Cleveland’s active Catholic community which mobilized around four female mission workers who were murdered in El Salvador in December 1980. These interviews will provide material for the issue-specific category of the pilot project, and demonstrate the significance of including both American and German events in the Protest Spaces project.

Archival collaborations: In Germany, most protest movement collections are housed in a variety of movement archives rather than in the larger institutions. Protest Spaces will display information from these archives  to make sources more discoverable and aid in planning archival research trips. In the future, we hope to conclude agreements with the major archival collections in the US and Germany in order to provide rich content for Protest Spaces and publicity for the collections.

Future contributor policies: We need to consider how we will generate content long term. Should this be through an open call, like a call for encyclopedia entries, or keep content creation in the hands of our research team.

Integrating historical map overlays: One of the critiques from our NEH/DFG reviewers was that we need to articulate a clear plan for including historical map overlays. We are currently exploring Geoserver and other options.

Bilingual Interface: should we consider a bilingual interface? What would this look like?