Baltic Archive Treasures in Lüneburg: The Federal Government Supports their Indexing

Baltic Archive Treasures in Lüneburg: The Federal Government Supports their Indexing
Dr. Peter Wörster in the Brömsehaus talking to political scientist Editha Kroß about an 18th century theological manuscript from Riga. Editha Kroß, deputy chairperson of the "German Baltic Cultural Foundation", initiated the archive project in 2015/16 together with Dr. Bernhard Schalhorn (Lüneburg) and supports it to this day, among other things by raising third-party funds, which are a prerequisite for further state funding.  Photo: Dipl.-Ing. Christian Toop

For three years, the federal government is funding the development and preservation of the archives of the Carl Schirren Gesellschaft on the history of the Baltic Germans.

The archive in Lüneburg can now use 400,000 euros for its approximately 23,000 archival records – in addition to about 60,000 euros of its own or third-party funds.

 Minister of State for Culture Grütters explained:

The diverse culture and the long history of the Germans in Eastern Europe are part of our identity and meanwhile also a unifying element in a common Europe. This also includes the valuable traditions of Baltic German history, which must be safeguarded for future generations and made accessible for international research.

The Carl Schirren Gesellschaft collects, preserves and communicates the cultural heritage of the Baltic Germans, i.e. those Germans who themselves or their ancestors lived in Estonia and Latvia. It publishes its own publications and organises a varied programme of events. The archive was created in addition to an extensive library and an impressive collection of museum goods in the early 1950s and was under the direction of the highly deserving Renate Adolphi, who was born in Riga in 1923 and died in Lüneburg in August 2021, for more than three decades.

More than 50 personal estates are stored here, including those of Ernst Fedor Spehr (1863-1935), the most important researcher of the city history of Libau/Liepaja in Latvia (Courland) in the 20th century, and the estate of Georg Julius Schultz-Bertram (1808-1875), the doctor and writer who promoted the creation of the Estonian national epic “Kalevipoeg”. 

The archives of the Baltic German student corporations are also important. There are collections of documents, manuscripts, maps and photographs.

 These are archival treasures that are already attracting researchers from home and abroad. Some examples: A researcher from Lüneburg is urgently waiting for the records of the student corporations to be processed. An Estonian researcher from Tartu/Dorpat and a Russian researcher from Moscow would like to access the Schultz-Bertram estate as soon as possible. 

In the course of time, the archive holdings have grown considerably. Due to the tight staffing situation and the precarious space situation up to now, it has been difficult to systematically index the holdings, to store them and to make them available to the interested public for use. This is why the new federal funding is so important, says Dr. Peter Wörster, head of the Carl Schirren Gesellschaft’s major archive project, which has now begun: the money will be used to fill 1.5 positions and to rent a large storage room suitable for archives. In addition, technical equipment can be purchased. This will ensure that the archival holdings are organised and indexed as well as properly stored for the long term. This federal funding is an important step on the way to professionalising the archive’s work. It clearly underlines the importance of the archive for international research.

On 1 September, Dorothee M. Goeze begins her service at Brömsehaus. She had been selected in an international procedure for a full-time position in the project.

by Jürgen Buch

Contact for interviews and research

Carl-Schirren-Gesellschaft, Am Berge 35, 21335 Lüneburg: Dr. Peter Wörster, Telefon: 0171 171 0976, e-mail: [email protected]

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