17 February 2020
To intensify their cooperation, the three institutions moved even closer together in 2013 in the Marbach-Weimar-Wolfenbüttel Research Association (MWW), which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The overarching goal of the MWW is the advancement of research into its holdings using the methods of the digital humanities. The MWW entered its second funding phase in March 2019. To mark the occasion, reports about the association, its structures and results as well as its future projects were compiled from various different perspectives over the months that followed.
The story so far
The core of the first funding phase consisted of three research projects: ‘Authors’ libraries: Materiality – Knowledge systems – Performance’; ‘Image politics: The portrait of the author as an iconic authorisation’; and ‘Text and frame: Modes of presentation of canonical works’. Various sub-projects were realised at the HAB in this framework. Four of them have been completed to date, including the research project ‘The social and epistemic productivity of authors’ portraits in the early modern period’. Within the scope of this project, the exhibition Luthermania: Ansichten einer Kultfigur (Luthermania: Views of a cult figure) was held in 2017 to mark the 500th jubilee of the Reformation. Curator Hole Rößler and staff of the MWW in Wolfenbüttel studied the numerous portraits of Luther whose influence can still be felt to some extent in Luther’s reception today: Luther as a saint, heretic, prophet, Antichrist, Church Father, schismatic, enlightener, anti-Semite, genius, charlatan, national hero, and prince’s lackey. So who was Martin Luther really? The exhibition, which was accompanied by a catalogue and can still be viewed as a virtual exhibition, integrates the various and sometimes contradictory portraits into the social, political, and cultural context of the time in which they were created.
The projects ‘Production and reception of the Psalter (c.1450–1700)’, ‘Digital humanities: Data modelling and metadata’, and ‘Early modern scholars’ libraries’ were also formally completed during the first funding phase. Their contents, however, will continue to be developed and studied in new contexts during the second funding phase.
Guest researchers visited Wolfenbüttel on MWW internships lasting several months and contributed to academic exchange within the research association. At the same time, they were able to make use of the HAB’s extensive holdings for their own projects. A special highlight in this context took the form of the MWW summer school. Run by Randolph C. Head in 2017, it was devoted to a ‘New history of archives’ and directed specifically at young researchers.
Additionally, the periodical Zeitschrift für digitale Geisteswissenschaften (ZfdG) was established as a new medium for discussing digital research in the humanities. Here the MWW’s themes come together with numerous external contributions to create a digital publication. However, there are also classical print publications, such as the Kulturen des Sammelns series, which provide access to the MWW’s findings and the latest trends in collection research.
And what comes next?
The second funding phase is likewise devoted to the goal of inventorying, editing and preserving the holdings in digital form. A digital laboratory for humanities research will be established to serve as an umbrella structure for this purpose and bring together the expertise of all three organisations.
Another innovation concerns the distribution of work between the different institutes. Three research groups will be formed, each of which will focus on a different key aspect of collection research: ‘Space’ (Marbach), ‘Provenance’ (Weimar) and ‘Economies’ (Wolfenbüttel). The research field of Economies covers the capital gains and losses incurred by collections as well as questions about their value. Additionally, the objects in the collection will be regarded as goods that circulate in different contexts and networks. This perspective will also be addressed by the case studies conducted in Wolfenbüttel: ‘Intellectual networks: Early modern scholarly libraries as places of knowledge and communication’ and ‘World knowledge: The cosmopolitan collecting interests of the early modern nobility’.
Both case studies, as well as the ‘Economies’ research emphasis as it relates to collections and working with collections, will be presented in forthcoming posts.