Friday, 9 June 2017

Found in translation...

This week's blog comes from LHSA's new intern, Kimyana Scherer. Kimyana's with us as part of the Employ.ed On Campus scheme, which offers paid internships to students throughout the University during their summer break. Kimyana's working on an exciting collection of personal papers - which have already become a lot more accessible through her German-language expertise! As you'll read below, she's made some fascinating discoveries:

Hello, readers of the LHSA blog!

My name is Kimyana and I am the new intern working at LHSA through the University of Edinburgh’s Employ.Ed on Campus scheme. I study English Literature and History at the University of Edinburgh and am going into my final year after the summer. I was drawn to this internship and working with the LHSA as I had taken a module in Modern Jewish History which ignited my interest in Jewish history, which I plan to make the topic of my dissertation. My bilingual upbringing by German parents is already proving an advantage in reading the old German documentation and script in the collection I'm working with. I've had little formal experience with archives, and think that many students are unaware that this fascinating discipline is a potential career path! The Centre for Research Collections and all its staff have been exceptionally welcoming in giving talks and tours of their departments and stores, including Rare Books and Art Collections – I find the interdisciplinary, varied nature of these jobs incredible!  

Sample of correspondence in Kimyana's internship collection (Acc15/001)
My work is on the collection of Dr. Ernst Levin (Acc15/001), a Jewish-German neurologist who emigrated from Munich to Edinburgh with his wife Anicuta and their daughter Annakathrin before the Second World War. LHSA received a donation of twenty large boxes of personal archive material including very old photographs (some of which predate the turn of the twentieth century), hundreds of letters, some medical case notes and personal items. My task is to gain an insight into the lives of Ernst and Anicuta through the closer study of their correspondence with family and friends across Europe in the years of the Weimar Republic and beyond. 

An early picture of Ernst from his transport pass, when living in Berlin (Acc15/001)
The young Anicuta

Anicuta, who spent her early life in Bucharest as daughter of the wealthy Belau family, ran in bohemian and artistic circles and had an interest in fashion and drawing, as evidenced by photographs of the group in costume dress and sketchbooks. 

Studio photograph of Anicuta, c. 1910s (Acc15/001)
Anicuta's sketch book showing her interest in costume and fashion (c. 1930s)
Through the eventual creation of an outreach resource, I hope to share this glimpse into a colourful and fascinating past with the public and demonstrate the value of personal archives and the documentation of personal histories. Archives are often necessarily filled with the documents and artefacts of the elite, a symptom of ‘great men’ history, yet the tracing of an ‘ordinary’ life across war-torn Europe provides an invaluable window into the context of history.

Sketches found in the collection so far (Acc15/001)
There have been challenges in working with such a large, mixed collection: not least of which is the difficulty in reading the heavily italicised script of individuals writing in the early 1900s. There are, however, ways to overcome these obstacles, such as by trying to date correspondence between individuals using stamps and addresses. Photographs, too, can be put in context by analysing the photographic paper on which it is printed or notes on the reverse.

Another interesting find.. Anicuta's school report, 1900s (Acc15/001)
Of particular interest were the passports of Ernst and his wife Anicuta, who travelled between Britain and Germany several times. Visas and stamps for landing permission in England are renewed several times over the course of 1936 and 1937. The rise in the Nazi regime’s prominence can be seen in the difference between the ‘nationality’ qualification in the 1929 passport and the 1939 one. In 1929, Ernst is qualified as a ‘Bavarian’ citizen; by 1939, he is a citizen of the ‘Deutsches Reich’, with a list of responsibilities of German nationals abroad glued to the inside cover of the passport.

We'll hear more from Kimyana as her internship goes on and she makes more fascinating finds...

No comments:

Post a Comment