The German Mining Museum Bochum (DBM) already plays a key role in commemorating the Ruhr region's industrial heritage. The end of coal mining in the area in 2018 will further cement this role. Within this context the DBM aims to investigate the problematic aspects of authenticity in industrial culture with respect to the material dimensions of historical remembering and forgetting. Focusing on the Ruhr region's material industrial heritage, it will first look into the role that objects play in forming cultural identity. The aim is to analyse processes of social selection and negotiation, which are influenced and controlled by a variety of agents from the sphere of politics, culture, academia, and by the general public. Furthermore, it is important that research museums, in particular, make transparent selection mechanisms - such as conserving, forgetting, or destroying - and the alteration of historical objects through restoration, for instance.
The investigation of the collection's holdings within the framework of the Deutsches Museum Digital Initiative involves detailed cataloguing and digitalization. The collection of some 3,000 rolls of musical notation for self-playing pianos is the pilot project. The aim is to create a homepage with a database and an audiovisual presentation of the scanned rolls and enable diverse research on the topic. Piano rolls are historical attempts to conserve the ephemeral art of music. Over a century ago they were widely in use as a storage medium for the reproduction of original music. A unique method of notation was developed to conserve the music, thus giving it material form. The aim is to make this music accessible again and to save it for posterity through the process of digitalization. Piano rolls represent the first transformation of the musical performance, the digital transformation the second. Does the digital reproduction convey the original musical interpretation? Or does the transformation create an aesthetic of its own? These questions are central to research into music performance and lead into discussions about how the various layers of authenticity can be reflected in museum displays.
The German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven (DSM) will be exploring the ongoing technical development of virtual reconstruction and the opportunities that it offers to preserve decayed, or reconstruct no longer existing, objects using the example of the “Bremer Kogge” (Bremen cog). The project is being carried out together with a Fraunhofer Institute from the FALKE Research Alliance (Research Alliance Cultural Heritage). The research project aims to examine whether the museum is purely a site of the original or whether it is also a place of authentic experience -inextricably linked to the physical presence of the spectator.
The Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (GEI) in Braunschweig aims to analyze in international comparison the actors, discourses and practices involved in communicating history via the medium of the school textbook and the tension between remembering and forgetting. Its researchers will combine three methodological and theoretical approaches. Firstly, they will examine the negotiation processes that take place prior to the production of history textbooks that define which representations of history are relevant in schools. Secondly, they will carry out a diachronic comparative study of the representations of history that were published in school textbooks. With reference to the concept of path dependence, they will examine to what extent historical accounts currently in circulation make reference to earlier versions. Thirdly, GEI projects ultimately seek to investigate, drawing on practice theory, how pupils and teachers adopt the representations of the past found in school history books.
In museums, the changing representation of the past is an indicator of changing concepts about history and society. By deconstructing those representations, we can reveal practices of authorization and show, too, how the past has been suppressed. The Germanisches Nationalmuseum (GNM) in Nuremberg aims to show the parameters that determine the “reality of the past” in a museum context, using appropriate methods to engage visitors. Societal issues, but also conservation issues, such as age and state of repair, determine what parts of our material culture are deemed to be worth preserving. Sometimes, intentional manipulation or adaptation to new functions also plays a role. The GNM project aims to illustrate this using the example of the Behaim Globe, the oldest existing representation of the earth in spherical form, which was made immediately before the discovery of the New World in 1492. By looking at a range of aspects, such as the numerous revisions of the cartographic information, restorers’ optimizations of the globe, facsimiles, exhibitions and films about its history and the globe’s elevation to the highlight of the collection, we will demonstrate what role museums play and continue to play in such processes. This will be contextualized by displaying it together with comparable objects.
The Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel (HAB), which was inspired by the spirit of the Renaissance and the Reformation, bears authentic testimony to the scholarly and religious learning and the collecting habits in the Early Modern Age in Europe. Manuscripts dating back to the pre-Carolingian era are also preserved in the library. The documents that have been brought together over the centuries are themselves part of a system, by courtesy of the place allotted to them, and have acquired new authenticity through the process of binding and ordering. This palimpsest of authenticity, which served to underpin social prestige, is an object of study at the HAB, which is not just a library, but an independent research centre in its own right. Part of this research includes investigating what was not deemed worthy of collecting, as well as what was.
The project at the Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe – Institute of the Leibniz Association (HI) in Marburg aims to reveal general forms of aesthetization and scholarly conceptualization of the allegedly “original” form of the nation and the national. It will focus, in part, on conflicts of interpretation and the instrumentalization of traditions. Harnessing new media tools, it seeks to investigate how constructions of “authentic national identity” arose and how they were formed. Another important aspect of the undertaking will be to examine the contemporary relevance of ideas of authenticity, for example, pertaining to concepts of the nation, ethnic minorities or regional identities and their implications for political culture and the European idea. In addition, it will look at the various ways in which “authentic” aspects of national identity are popularized, trivialized, subject to irony and showcased in museums. The project is closely linked to the research program of the Leibniz Graduate School "History, Knowledge, Media in East Central Europe".
The work of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF-HSFK), Frankfurt am Main, and the Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) in Berlin will concentrate on conflict resolution, cultures of commemoration and the process of coming to terms with the past in post-conflict societies. The ZMO will focus on topics such as progress and decline and changing historical perceptions of them; local historiographies and competing claims to interpretative predominance and the role of cultural and regional specificities in the handing down of traditions. The regions that we focus on are Africa, the Middle East and Central, South and Southeast Asia. The PRIF, on the other hand, will concentrate on conflicting historical interpretations and the struggle for power and recognition in post-conflict societies. The institute has research expertise about Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Northern Ireland.
The project at the Institute for the German Language (IDS) in Mannheim focuses on the relationship of political and social upheavals, language change and shifting value systems in central commemorative discourses of the Twentieth Century. The goal of the project is to trace, using examples from a diachronic and systematic perspective, how changing ideas about what is “authentic” become visible in texts, how they affect our ideas of history, and how they change over time.
In this project, we will consider the concept of collective memory as a category denoting authentication strategies. Collective memory and authenticity are two directly related categories in the sense that, firstly, when an object is recalled it gains the status of an “instance” of collective memory and, secondly, when a memory community labels it as “true” or “genuine” it fulfils the authenticity criterion. Based on this premise, authentication will be depicted as the outcome of social negotiation processes and re-interpretations. Simultaneously, a special focus will be placed on the relation of these linguistic authentication strategies and the ethics of commemorative discourses, for instance about the guilt discourse after the First and Second World War.
European societies made use of distinct historical and religious values and achievements of civilization, which created a predominantly implicit, but also an explicit canon of cultural traditions. These canonisations correspond with the “fluid” boundaries, the centres and peripheries of Europe as a “space of communication”. Within the scope of this project, the Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) in Mainz will focus on the constructions of authorities that determined cultural heritage in Europe. Heuristically, the project distinguishes firstly between agents and institutions, secondly the linguistic “instances”, which constitute sense in the process of authentication, thirdly the modes of attribution, fourthly the arguments, strategies and modes of action, fifthly the media and discursive formations of such constructions of authority, which are linked with explicit and implicit norms. The IEG will address these questions in the following research topics: the historicity of biblical interpretations; Jewish historiography and social norms; global processes of authentication; ecclesiastical authorisation strategies.
The Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IfL), in Leipzig and in particular its research groups on the “Geovisualisation” and the “History of Geography” will analyse the role of maps and atlases in processes of commemoration and forgetting. They will explore the significance of maps in complex processes of cultural and knowledge transmission and their function in different communicational contexts. With reference to findings from the field of critical cartography, it is assumed that maps are a form of geocoding that function via sign systems and are used to portray “reality”. Maps thus have a major role to play in shaping and ordering knowledge; they can be used successfully as instruments for generating consensus and unity because they establish (certain) collective patterns of seeing and construct apparently consistent spaces. The project will examine their significance as powerful instruments for asserting specific interpretations of the past and in creating (new) communities and identities.
The relationship between perpetrators and victims played a constitutive role in the history of the Twentieth century and its difficult cultural heritage. Identifying oneself as a victim or as belonging to a group of victims appears to be one of the most important strategies in gaining recognition in the culture of commemoration, according to Ulrike Jureit. The project of the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich/Berlin, will focus on the construction of victim groups and the impact of their claims to authenticity on collective memory in international comparison and contexts. The conflicts between history as an academic discipline and as commemorative culture can, in part, be traced back to the discourse about perpetrators and victims. When individuals identify themselves as victims, or are recognized as such by others, this often creates ruptures in collective memory that, in turn, impact on academic historiography.
From a historical and comparative perspective, the project analyses the mechanisms of victim construction in different national cultures. Firstly, it will explore how societies and societal groups constructed victims’ identities. Secondly, it will focus on the experiences of victims caught between the conflicting poles of personal and group experience and their interpretation of historical events. Thirdly, it will explore the activities of victims’ organizations and the public discourse about appropriate commemoration. Fourthly, the project will analyse the influence of state politics, legislation and justice in the process of constructing victims’ identities.
The joint project of the Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning (IRS) in Erkner and the Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF) in Potsdam will analyse urban identity building processes and identity attribution by using examples from selected cities. It will focus on the public and urbanistic discourses about historic city centres as a topos, and on discourses about the controversial reconstruction of lost buildings in the name of “authenticity”. The project will critically examine established research theses such as the “traditional shift” in urban development around 1975. The goal is to describe the different “regimes of historicity” (François Hartog) in specific European and non-European urban areas from the present right back to the Nineteenth Century. In addition to the public debates about the historical aspects of urban development, the project plans to draw on documentation held in museums and the archives of historical associations and grass roots organizations, study urban master plans and analyse reconstructions of historical buildings and city centres.
Digital media are playing an increasingly important role when it comes to communicating historical information, be it in the form of interactive, walk-in reconstructions of historical places or situations, or the three-dimensional reproduction of historical artefacts. But there has been little investigation into how they impact on the construction of historical meaning in the minds of their audiences. For example, do digital reproductions of historical artefacts represent an adequate substitute for real objects? Or do viewers feel deprived of authentic experience by the use of virtual reality and does this have a negative impact on comprehension and historical consciousness? Does the reconstruction of historical places and scenarios help spectators to transport themselves back in time and enable them to better imagine this historical world, or does it lead to a loss of distance and critical reflection? And how can reconstructions make visible the difference between what is factual and what is plausible, so that visitors notice this difference and take account of it in their processes of understanding? The Knowledge Media Research Center (KMRC) in Tübingen intends to investigate these issues on the basis of current theories of perception and cognitive psychology as well as a range of empirical methods in laboratory experiments and field studies and thus make a contribution towards the analysis of reception patterns of authentication.
The significance of natural history collections as an infrastructure for research into biodiversity and evolution has increased steadily in recent years. The cultural aspects of such collections are, in addition, in the process of comprehensive consideration by the natural history museums of the Leibniz Association: the Berlin Museum für Naturkunde – Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science (MfN) and the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung – world of biodiversity (SGN) in Frankfurt. In 2013, the MfN established a new department (PAN) to serve as a place of dialogue about its collections and research within the fields of cultural studies and the humanities. Its aim is to deepen our understanding of “nature” by developing new questions, topics and methods. Furthermore, the Senckenberg natural history museums are taking an intercultural approach to natural history. These and other MfN and SGN initiatives are promoting and setting up research and education projects in cooperation with partners from social sciences, cultural studies and the fine arts. One overarching goal is to investigate and communicate the production and presentation of knowledge at natural history museums in the past and the present and conduct an interdisciplinary discourse about their role in the Twenty-First century. Both organizations are in the process of examining the social, political, cultural and historical contexts in which the concepts of nature, natural history disciplines, the collections and their public presentation have changed over time.
Contemporary methods and procedures in the field of archaeological restoration enable researchers to be much more precise about the manufacture, the function and the history of archaeological artefacts than they could in the past. Scientific methods are being used more and more in restoration work to answer questions about how artefacts were made, identify their constitutive materials and determine their origin. This development has transformed the work of restorers. No longer are they concerned with getting as many objects as possible ready for display. Instead, the focus has switched to an intensive examination of the individual object as a carrier of information. Admittedly, however, this investigation is often not sufficiently systematic, frequently resulting in misinterpretations. There is, in addition, within the field of restoration and interrelated academic disciplines controversy about how far it is permissible to change the existing condition of an archaeological object by, for example, removing deposits on its surface, by augmenting missing parts or even altering the original substance to gain information. To address these questions relating to historical authenticity, the project at the Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums (RZGM) in Mainz aims to formulate and implement, as an example of best practice, new parameters relating to restoration work.
The Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF), Potsdam will investigate the emergence of the witness to history as the bearer of authenticity at various levels of historical representation in the Twentieth and Twenty-First history. This figure has only gained public significance over the last fifty years, rising to prominence firstly with the Eichmann Trial. The idea of the “contemporary witness” linked the “authentic” immediacy of historical experience with the corroboration of contemporary norms and values. The research project compares the rise of this figure with the growing sacralizing aura of the authentic in contemporary material culture and memorial sites, which attempt to make tangible the “authentic place” and the “authentic object”. While researchers have drawn on “contemporary witnesses” since the establishment of Oral History in Germany in the 1980s, the use of methods from Material Culture to analyse historical objects has not yet become established in the field of contemporary history in Germany. We want to take the opportunity in this project to harness these methods for contemporary historical research.
The research alliance brings together various approaches to the subject of historical authenticity, as well as ongoing projects being conducted by the participating institutions. Further joint projects are being planned.<xml></xml>