Anthropological Academic Estates

The indexing in the academic estate database Kalliope is intended to contribute to the better visibility and accessibility of anthropological academic estates.

The project

Academic estate of anthropologists from various periods, legacies of predecessor institutions, associations, research projects and the like are often inaccessible. They are stored in the cellars and archives of many specialised institutes and museums, are either not, or only rudimentarily indexed - and if they are, the indexing is often not aligned with standards - and cannot be found with common research tools. The material is therefore at best, of limited use and its existence is largely unknown outside the respective institution.

The FID Social and Cultural Anthropology is working on the cursory recording of academic estate from the anthropological disciplines. First of all, an initial overview of materials available at European ethnological and anthropological institutions throughout Germany has been compiled. In addition, the FID has carried out more in-depth indexing work in Berlin and Hamburg.


As a result, existing holdings’ information is to be entered into Kalliope - a long-term institutionalised academic estate database at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Kalliope offers a metadata export, so that the import into other bibliographic reference tools will be possible and is already planned for EVIFA.

The aim of this work is firstly to improve the indexing of anthropological academic estate through exemplary, summary recording. Secondly, the increased visibility can lead to increased demand, which may justify applications for third-party funding for in-depth indexing and/or digitisation at the owning institutions. Our surveys provide best practice experience for further projects. Thirdly, this should open up opportunities for new research, not least because distributed collections will increasingly be able to be processed in a network in the future. Indexing according to common standards is a first step in this direction.

Exemplary indexing

In Berlin, the estate of Ute Mohrmann has been indexed. It is located at the Landesstelle für Berlin-Brandenburgische Volkskunde (at the Institute for European Ethnology at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) and covers the period from the 1950s to the present. Ute Mohrmann (*1938) was a staff member in the ethnography department at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin from 1961 - first as an assistant, later as a lecturer and until 1993 as a professor. In the course of the restructuring of the GDR’s academic landscape after the fall of communism, the Department of Ethnography was re-established in 1993 as the Institute of European Ethnology. Ute Mohrmann was dismissed for operational reasons. She then held visiting and substitute professorships in Vienna, Marburg and Kiel and from 1997 worked in regional associations and exhibition projects on local history, art and experiences of the friendly revolution (“die Wende”).
The documents provide a detailed insight into the teaching and research activities in the field of ethnography at the HU before 1989. In addition to course programmes with the corresponding readings as well as student work, the estate contains a wealth of material consisting of newspaper articles, brochures, photos, academic articles and the author’s own notes and writings on everyday life as well as everyday history in the GDR, especially on celebration and festive culture (May 1st, weddings, youth dedications, etc.), folk art, childhood and youth, East German industrial regions and their transformation. Another large part of the documents concerns the processes at the HU Berlin in the post-reunification period, especially the restructuring or liquidation of individual academic departments. Here, extensive correspondence with protagonists, colleagues and friends provide insight into the questions, tensions and difficulties surrounding East and West German career paths, or their ends, at the beginning of the 1990s.

A partial estate of Richard Thurnwald (1869-1954) will also be recorded, which is currently in the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology at Freie Universität Berlin. Thurnwald taught ethnology and sociology in Berlin, among other things, and founded the "Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie und Soziologie" (journal for people’s psychology and sociology) in 1925 (later "Sociologus"). His estate is in various places, including Yale University.

In Hamburg, the extensive correspondence of Johan Adrian Jacobsen (1853-1947), which is housed in the MARKK (Museum am Rothenbaum - Kulturen und Künste der Welt), has been recorded at document level. Jacobsen was an important player in the acquisition networks of ethnological museums as a collector and dealer around 1900. In 1877, the Norwegian came to Hamburg, where he soon made the acquaintance of the animal dealer and later zoo founder Carl Hagenbeck. Several collecting trips for the Hagenbeck Company followed, during which Jacobsen not only gathered an enormous number of ethnographic objects from all over the world, but at the same time recruited people for Hagenbeck’s ethnological shows in Hamburg and beyond. The collection comprises more than 8,000 documents (letters, postcards, telegrams, official notices, etc.), mostly written in Norwegian and German, dating from between 1871 and the 1930s. They include correspondence with his employers, fellow researchers, financial backers, publishers, etc. as well as intensive correspondence with numerous family members. The documents provide a deep insight into the museum’s acquisition practices of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and at the same time reflect the colonial self-image of the European protagonists. The indexing also reveals the conditions under which and the means with which research and collecting trips were undertaken and how the social and political upheavals of the time influenced them (as well as the entire work of Jacobsen and his colleagues) on various levels.

The scientific estate of the Hamburg folklorist Walter Hävernick (1905-1983) was also listed in the overview. The extensive material, which is kept partly in the Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte and partly in the Institute for Empirical Cultural Studies (formerly Folklore/Cultural Anthropology) at the University of Hamburg, documents both his activities as museum director and his work as a university teacher and researcher.


Dr. Sabine Imeri / Coordinator

Anna Lukasek / Registration Kalliope

Dr. Julia Zenker / Collection Berlin

Michael Münnich, M.A. / Collection Hamburg (completed)