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WESSWeb > WESS Committees > Research and Planning Committee > Topics in European Studies presentations since 2005 > Baumann Abstract 2007


Colonies and Missions: The Digital Archive of the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft

by
Helene Baumann
Duke University

Topics in European Literature
Saturday, 21 January 2006
San Antonio

Abstract

This paper aims to describe the Bildarchiv der Deutschen Kolonialgesellschaft (German Colonial Society) featuring some 55,000 digitized pictures of interest to 19th and 20th century historians, ethnologists and other researchers looking for primary source material. The pictures are freely accessible and searchable on the world-wide web [link no longer functioning as of 2010]. Part of this Coutts-Nijhoff project was to provide an English-language thesaurus for the database (see Spring 2005 WESS newsletter for a report.)

The photographs document the entire German colonial enterprise, lasting from the 1880s to World War I, spanning geographically from Togo, Cameroon, German Southwest Africa (today’s Namibia), German East-Africa (Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi), to parts of China, Micronesia and Papua New Guinea. Main themes concern activities of natives and settlers, transport of all kinds, economic development, rebellions and wars, exploratory travel, geology, mining, vegetation and agriculture, zoology and animal husbandry, as well as pictures of colonial exhibits held in Germany. This archive is put into the context of other European digital archives focusing on Europeans abroad, such as that of the Basel Mission. These pictures date from the 1850s to the 1950s. To quote their website: “Judging by their photographs many of these men and women [i.e. missionaries] were fascinated by the unknown world around them which they were gradually learning to understand, and had great respect for the people with whom they lived and worked.”

Frequent use of such free online archives, where the preservation and digitization of rare or fragile materials were paid for by public and private funds, may encourage further such projects, ensuring both preservation and access to unique research materials.




WESSWeb > WESS Committees > Research and Planning Committee > Topics in European Studies presentations since 2005 > Baumann Abstract 2007


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