Growth, loss and circulation

The research group "economies of collecting" introduces itself

An essential feature of all collections is their involvement in economic processes. Therefore, in addition to "provenance" in Marbach and "space" in Weimar, the topic "economies of collecting” is investigated in Wolfenbüttel by a research group dedicated specifically to this purpose.


The topic

Research on collections cannot be conducted without analysing the acquisition, growth, loss and circulation of the collected items. Although these aspects are inherent to collections, they have rarely been explicitly addressed by the scientific community. This is where the work of the research group in Wolfenbüttel comes in: The attention is drawn to the collectors and their collecting practices. How are they embedded in an economy of collecting? Which collection practices and associated working practices can be described as economic? Which market mechanisms influence collections? How do value attributions and value change work? Expenditures in logistics, storage and infrastructure development are also of interest, as they are often necessary prerequisites for building a collection.

The wordcloud visualizes the different research interests of the members of the MWW research group "economies of collecting".

The sources that form the basis of our research are as diverse as the perspectives. Traces of economic activities can be found, for example, in invoice slips, correspondence in the context of acquisitions, donation and sales documents as well as in testaments, inventories or catalogues. A central concern of the group is therefore to make methodological considerations and develop new evaluation procedures.


The group

The research field of economies of collecting thus encompasses a whole range of issues, such as the accumulation and loss of capital, attributions of value, the circulation of items and trade networks. This diversity is also reflected in the composition of the group, which so far consists of 18 researchers from various disciplines and contexts. We are pleased to welcome representatives from the fields of book and literary studies, history, ethnology and the history of knowledge. One of the first steps of the newly formed group was to compile a collection of texts which, on the one hand, reflects the current state of research and, on the other hand, seeks out economic aspects in "classics" of collection research. The aim is to create a common theoretical foundation on the basis of which the group can develop its own research questions, which are tailored to the specific needs of its members, but can also be of interest to a larger research community.



The first meeting of the group had to be postponed to autumn 2020 due to the pandemic. In order to shorten the waiting time, a website was set up in the virtual research room of MWW, which provides materials as well as a digital bibliography and additionally enables the exchange of information between the members. In the future, all information about the group will also be made available here to the interested public. By the end of the year, focal points are to be defined on the basis of this digital networking, which can be further worked on in individual workshops. One focus will be on digital methods: How can we extract and model economic data from our sources? What processing and evaluation options are there? Which visualizations are conceivable? In addition, a summer school is planned for 2022 to introduce young researchers to the topic. The final goal is the publication of a jointly authored handbook on the economies of collecting which will draw together our research results.

The Marbach Weimar Wolfenbüttel Research Association focusses on networking and collaboration in the field of collection research. The three research groups, each with their own specific focus, serve as an instrument to strengthen the link between the institutions even further. The focus of economies of collecting is also taken up in two case studies located in Wolfenbüttel: Intellectual Networks. Early Modern Scholarly Libraries as Spaces of Knowledge and Communication and World Knowledge. The Cosmopolitan Collecting Interest of the Early Modern Nobility. We would like to present both projects to you in our next contributions on the MWW Research Association.







About the author

Dr. Joëlle Weis is a research associate in the MWW project "World Knowledge. The Cosmopolitan Collecting Interest of the Early Modern Nobility". Her research focuses on Early Modern history of knowledge and collection research.