“I feel like a not-as-cool Indiana Jones:” An AJY student discusses her internship in the Historical Archives of the Universität Heidelberg

DSC_0225While there are certainly fewer life-threatening boulders and poisonous darts, Andrea (Linfield College) has certainly had an adventure through her internship at the Universität Archiv Heidelberg. The archives are responsible for preserving the history of the Universität Heidelberg in documents, images, and artifacts, and then making these materials available for people who are doing personal or professional research about the University.

A full-year AJY student, Andrea began her internship in the archives in January during the winter break between her two semesters at the Universität Heidelberg, and she has since continued throughout the summer semester. As a German major and history minor, this internship helps to bridge her interest in archival work and her interest in German history and culture. When she began, she was responsible for taking out and returning things from their collections as well as digitizing the doctoral presentations of Heidelberg PhD students. As her internship has progressed, she has begun doing translations for the archives, including news updates, legal forms, and flyers for the university. She also responds to English e-mails and telephone calls to the archives, some of which have allowed her to assist authors and genealogists whose research ties into the Universität Heidelberg.

DSC_0234One of her current projects has been to translate the disciplinary records of the University from 1918 until 1967. Prior to 1918, the University was responsible for its own judicial system and disciplinary actions; however, following the beginning of the Weimar Republic, University disciplinary matters were filed by the University and then became a matter of the local and state police. Following 1967, the student protests in Heidelberg began, and those documents belong to their own specific collection. This project has led to some colorful discoveries, including a student who sold syphilis medication in the 1930s and a single year in the 1920s when several people independently decided they should destroy streetlights in Heidelberg. Along with being fascinating, dramatic, and occasionally funny, Andrea states that this project has helped her to view people in history as indeed people instead of two-dimensional figures.

Andrea has greatly enjoyed this internship, stating that she finds it fascinating to actually “be able to hold a piece of history in your own hands.” Through this internship she has truly learned to appreciate the depth and breadth of archival work, “there is a lot more to archives than people think…. a lot of people think it is just keeping old documents.” Andrea points to the diversity of materials included in the archives, from fraternity uniforms to musical instruments to paintings done by University faculty. Materials in the archives can range anywhere from a few years ago to student rosters from the 1400s. Andrea states, “it’s kind of mind-boggling to hold a book or document that is older than my country.”

In conclusion, Andrea cites numerous examples of times where she has stumbled upon new information that has changed the way she looks at the history of the Universität Heidelberg, the history of Germany, or archival work in general. Because of this internship, she has been able to learn about “so many parts of history I didn’t even really know existed.” Whether it is about course catalogs from the 1400s or records about the Bavaria’s 9 month long experiment with a Communist government system, this internship has provided her with a wealth of new knowledge and experiences. In summation, Andrea states, “There is always something new to find every day that makes me so happy.”


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