Digital Humanities Showcase Report
Key Documents of German-Jewish History
Dr Anna Menny, project leader and coordinator of the Key Documents, Institute for the History of the German Jews
Christopher Steinbiß, student assistant, Institute for the History of the German Jews.
With more than 200 sources ranging from personal documents as letters and journals to three-dimensional models of historic synagogue buildings, the online source edition “Key Documents of German-Jewish history” presents a variety of material focused on Hamburg’s Jewish history from the early modern period to the present. The Hanseatic city is at the same time considered as a lens for larger developments as it stands for peculiarities within the developments in its 400-year long Jewish history, such as the living-together of Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews. Hamburg’s Jewish history is considered in a national, transnational, and global context. Beyond their significance for local history, the sources are meant to “open doors” to understanding broader developments and questions in (German-)Jewish history. Edited and coordinated by the Institute for the History of the German Jews (Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden, IGdJ), the edition first went online in September 2016. It has been funded by the DFG until January 2021. As Hamburg’s Jewish heritage has been scattered all over the world due to migration and persecution, the source edition aims to digitally reconnect key components of this heritage. The online source edition provides its material in the form of a digital facsimile of the source accompanied by a transcript and an interpretive text. Users may navigate the website in a variety of ways. One can explore the different topics of Jewish history in Hamburg, ranging from demographics and social structures to religion and identity. Every thematic category is presented with an introductory article and a list showing relevant sources (Key Documents). Additionally, a map as well as a timeline are provided to navigate the collection. Besides the different ways of discovering sources, the Key documents also provide a multitude of advanced formats such as online exhibitions, dossiers, city tours, and materials for educators. The different formats aim to open new perspectives on important research questions and topics of (Hamburg’s) Jewish history and at the same time (re)arrange the source material in order to make larger contexts visible. The entire edition is bilingual and available in German as well as English. By presenting previously little studied sources and putting familiar archival documents in new context and formats, new impulses for study and research are to be encouraged. The transcripts are tagged according to the Text Encoding Initiative based on the format TEI P5 (“Base Format” of the Deutsches Textarchiv (DTA-Basisformat, DTABf)) in their basic structure (such as document type, pages, paragraphs, headlines) and annotated with norm data for names, places, organizations or historical epochs according to the Integrated Authority File (Gemeinsame Normdatei, GDN) or the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN). Special terms are explained by glossary entries. The transcripts themselves apply to the guidelines of a “documentary edition,” which means that they are presented as original and as exactly as possible. All sources are accompanied by interpretation texts which base their arguments directly on the sources and thus make larger questions comprehensible by means of a concrete example. Additional information is given by linking to further online offers of the IGdJ or between different entries within the Key Documents edition as well as by the Linked Data Service and the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek’s (DNB) Entityfacts service. Through SeeAlso-services dynamically connected content by third party providers such as biographical articles in the Allgemeine and Neue Deutsche Biografie (ADB/NDB) or relevant estates, manuscripts, and print publications catalogued by Kalliope and library networks can be tagged. Considering different levels of knowledge and of in-depth analysis is all the more necessary since the target audience of the source edition consists of students, researchers, and teachers, as well as the interested public and high school students.
Almost all sources found in the edition can be downloaded for research and private purposes. Also, the institute provides its source code for other projects via Github. Thanks to close cooperation between the publishers and the authors of the interpretation texts, no source is left uncontextualized. The plurality of authors with different interests and thematic emphases guarantees that new research trends and questions are reflected within the edition. The project is ever evolving and keen to grow the collection and improve user experience. The Key Documents of German-Jewish History can be accessed by the following link: https://jewish-history-online.net/. For actual development and news, you can follow us on Twitter: @keydocuments. Proposals for new contributions or requests for further information can be made via E-Mail: info@juedische-geschichte-online-net
Figure 1: Header of the online edition “Key Documents of German-Jewish History”
Figure 2: Digital presentation and tagging of the source material