Summer Visit in Marburg for “Playing Soviet”

First, I want to thank everyone at the Herder Institute for supporting my research stay in Marburg for six-weeks this summer. This fellowship period was an invaluable and productive time for me in my own continued development as a scholar of Russian visual culture.

Nearly each day of my fellowship period, I made extensive use of the collections and reading space of the Institute’s library. There I was able to complete revisions on an article and my book project, each relating to visual culture in Russia and the west. I utilized not only the Herder Institute’s holdings, but also those from the University of Marburg, the University of Giessen, and other collections via the Institute’s interlibrary loan networks in Germany. The library staff was accommodating and enormously helpful in every undertaking.

Office where Children can play while Parents are working
Office where Children can play while Parents are working

As my time at the Herder Institute was short, I was only able to begin working with its massive image collection holdings. In brief, I spent hours working with images related to the history of the Kaliningrad region along with highlights from the memory cultures/reconstructions sections of the image archive. It is my hope that I will be able to return in the coming year to complete more extensive research with these rich holdings. And as was the case in my experience with the library staff, the archival staff were equally responsive and helpful in their support of my research questions and in facilitating access to the collections.

I also had the great pleasure to make two presentations during my fellowship period. As part of a meeting of the colloquium, “Transfer and Circulation (of Knowledge),” featuring readings and discussions of important texts on Eastern European politics, culture, and economics, I presented a short report on the State of Slavic and Eastern European Studies in the United States. The ensuing discussion, with scholars and graduate students, shed light on the shared and diverging directions of both German and American institutional scholarship and funding, and the challenges we each face in moving forward in our shared field.

Digital Childhood. How to Present the Histories of Children in the Digital Age
Workshop Digital Childhood
Workshop Digital Childhood

The second excellent forum organized by the Herder Institute was titled “Digital Childhood. How to Present the Histories of Children in the Digital Age.” Here I presented my ongoing digital humanities project, based at Princeton University, “Playing Soviet: The Visual Language of Early Soviet Children’s Books, 1919-1953.” It was my great pleasure to meet Andreas Weiss and Sandra Mass, and to hear more about their project (based at Braunschweig) on systems of knowledge in children’s books between 1850-1918. These presentations and our discussion led to an even more productive exchange on not only the issues of presenting/reading children’s material, but also on the role and shape of digital humanities in both Germany and the United States. Peter Haslinger’s own excellent comments in that area were enlightening and challenging as he reflected on his many years’ involvement in the development of digital humanities and digital history in Germany. It is my great hope that the seeds planted in these exchanges will continue to grow in the years to come.

It is clear to me that the Herder Institute is devoted to growing cooperation and collaboration – two necessary characteristics necessary for the continued development of Eastern European studies in the west. My thanks again for their ongoing work and support.

Katherine M. Hill Reischl, Assistant Professor Slavic Department, Princeton University

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