When visiting a museum, one expects to encounter
and interact with historical objects, artefacts and their materiality.
Especially after the turn of the millennium, museums increasingly introduced (and
embraced) new digital components. Today, audio guides, for example, have become
indispensable for many institutions. According to the National Museum of
American History, it has more than 1.7 million objects “and a 22,000 linear
feet of archival documents”[i] in
its collection. The Deutsches Historisches Museum (German History Museum) in
Berlin has also more than 60,000 historical documents and more than 900 movie
clips from the past.[ii]
These are too many historical objects and media to exhibit on the walls of
museums. Therefore, museums have been discussing and experimenting with ways of
using digital technology to make objects from their archives and storage
facilities more visible. Would you expect that there will be a next level of
presenting museal artefacts digitally to visitors?
Many graduate history students will be familiar with the moment (or phase) in their studies when they have to make a decision about the topic of their final thesis. Some students may already know the topic early on. Others may take a few productive detours on their way to developing their final thesis topic. I am a history student from Germany who is working on the final thesis and in the latter category. With this blog contribution, I would like to share insights into the perspective of me as a historian at the end of my graduate academic education, whose final thesis research also marked my first foray into the field of digital history.
At the beginning of my Master’s degree
program at Bielefeld University, Germany, I was sure that I wanted to do research
on a different topic than my Bachelor thesis. World War I, albeit an
exceptionally cruel war, has always been fascinating to me. I was especially
interested in researching the fate of soldiers with neurotic/ psychiatric symptoms
during or after their military service (today it would be called PTSD)
Therefore, my general topic was clear. What was less clear was my exact research
question and, related to this, the accessibility of sources.
As a German high school or college student,
you will be familiar with the scenario: A homework assignment requires you to
locate reliable information about William II, theEmperor of the German Empire,
and the deadline is tomorrow. It’s late
in the evening, every library is closed, and the only tool left is the World
Wide Web. If this sounds familiar to
you, don’t panic. Take a moment and let me take you on a digital journey to
Historisches Museum (DHM), physically located in Berlin, Stiftung Haus der
Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (HdG) and the German federal archives,
the Bundesarchiv, provide a virtual
museum called LeMo, Lebendiges Museum Online. [i] It represents a
historically reliable introduction in modern German History and is the biggest
virtual museum in the digital landscape in German speaking countries.
LeMo addresses everyone who is interested in German History beginning in 1800 until the present day. It is a virtual museum for everyone – K-12 students, college and university students, adults, including senior citizens.
The Teutoburger Forest is rich on
having myths and essays about Hermann the German. [i]
According to history Hermann, in Latin called Arminius, has fought the battle
of Varus against the Roman Empire successfully 9 years AD. [ii]
Because of the crushing defeat of three Roman
legions the Empire has sacrificed the further extension of the Roman regions –
it remained in German hand.[iii]
In this heart of German history the
city Halle is located and the home of approximately 21.700 residents.[iv]
This medium-sized city has grown substantially in recent years. The established
fashion industry with its most popular brand “Gerry Weber” and the nearby
highway have contributed to the growing population. Halle is particularly
well-known for its history of transportation and the tennis stadium OWL Arena. Once
a year, the best tennis professionals from all over the world visit Halle to participate
in the big tournament.