Sources on German Colonial History online

Frankfurt University Library digitized some of the books and journals originally collected by the German Colonial Society (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft). The journals Deutsche Kolonialzeitung, Amtlicher Anzeiger für Deutsch-Ostafrika, Amtsblatt für das Schutzgebiet Deutsch-Südwestafrika, Amtsblatt für das Schutzgebiet Kamerun, Amtsblatt für das Schutzgebiet Togo and several books including even a colonial cook-book are available online.

Administration & everyday life in German colonies

DKZAt the beginning of 2016 we could acquire digital black-and-white copies of

some official gazettes, like

and some more important historical sources like

German colonialism in books and images

SchwabeTogoSf17-44-afterpage24Additionally, some deluxe editions containing several images also in colour have been digitized:

Some older accounts are documents of the pre-colonial and general history of colonialism:

  • Caput bonae spei hodiernum : das ist: vollständige Beschreibung des Afrikanischen Vorgebürges der Guten Hofnung von Peter Kolben (1719)
  • 3. Afrika, Die Länder und Völker der Erde oder vollständige Beschreibung aller fünf Erdtheile und deren Bewohner von Johann Andreas Christian Löhr, Leipzig (3rd edition 1819)

    Die Länder und Völker der Erde oder vollständige Beschreibung aller fünf Erdtheile und deren Bewohner, Teil 3. Afrika / Johann Andreas Christian Löhr, 3., nach dem jetztigen politischen Stand der Dinge neu umgearb. Aufl., Leipzig : Fleischer, 1819, before page 269

    Die Länder und Völker der Erde oder vollständige Beschreibung aller fünf Erdtheile und deren Bewohner, Teil 3. Afrika / Johann Andreas Christian Löhr, 3., nach dem jetztigen politischen Stand der Dinge neu umgearb. Aufl., Leipzig : Fleischer, 1819, before page 269

Some of the works inter-relate with the Colonial Picture Archive:

  • WohltmannSq17-99-page14120 Kultur- und Vegetations-Bilder aus unseren deutschen Kolonien von Ferdinand Wohltmann (1904) shows images also available in the image archive. The caption below the pictures in the book offer much more detailed information than the meta-data in the Colonial Picture Archive, e.g. the image on page 14 shows the “Theobroma Cacao Linné” and explain details of cacao farming: “Man pflanzt ihn in Kamerun im Verband von 5×5 oder 5×4 oder 4×4 Meter und hat demnach 400 bezw. 500 bezw. 625 Bäumchen auf 1 Hektar.”

Further individual works were digitized in lower quality during the course of the preparation for interlibrary loans. Finally, the Deutsches Kolonial-Lexikon by Heinrich Schnee (1920) has been completely digitized. This invaluable contemporary source – published in 1914 and 1920 respectively by the Governor of German East Africa – is full-text searchable and the index words are linked by hypertext (click on “Deutsches Kolonial-Lexikon 1920” at the website of picture archive).

The Special Collection

During the second half of the 19th century numerous societies arose that concerned themselves with caring for German emigrants, and spreading of colonial ideas. The colonial library consists of the libraries of several colonial societies. The most important was the “German Colonial Society” (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft, DKG) founded in 1887. For their propaganda activities its members collected not only books (ca. 18,000) and journals, but also more than 50,000 photographs (mainly lantern slides), which were used to illustrate their publicity lectures in Germany. The Colonial Picture Archive is already online since 2004, and includes also the collection of photographs, photo albums and postcards owned by the Sam Cohen Library, Swakopmund, Namibia.

The special collection “Colonial Library” with the signatures S 17, Sq 17, and Sf 17, stemming mainly from the library of the German Colonial Society and the Imperial Colonial Office, is completely listed in the Online Catalogue and can be searched by means of the original subject classification. In addition, the catalogue of the Colonial Library is available online as a PDF file: Volume 1 contains the alphabetical division and Volume 2 the division according to the arrangement of the catalogue of the German Colonial Society library.

The books in the collection suffer a lot of acid deterioration (see an example). Therefore usage of the books is restricted to the special reading room.

Please note: Due to German copyright restrictions and other contractual obligations some of the digitized works can only be accessed at the premises of Frankfurt University library.

50 years DFG-funded Special Collection “Africa South of the Sahara” (1964-2014) at Frankfurt University Library

Since 1964 Frankfurt University Library (at that time called “City and University Library”) is in charge of the Special Subject Collection 6.31 “Africa South of the Sahara” in a co-operative acquisition scheme funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). Some 20 German university, state and special libraries cover more than 100 academic disciplines and regions. The aim is to acquire at least one copy of every relevant book for a German library. Nationwide access is guaranteed via interlibrary loan. With more than 210,000 volumes, “Africa South of the Sahara” is the largest collection on sub-Saharan Africa in Germany and one of the top collections in Europe.

CoversNewAquistions2014

Between 1964 and 2014 the funding of the DFG allowed to collect continuously books, journals and other materials published in African countries with the help of local vendors, on acquisition trips, and with the help, e.g., of the Library of Congress Nairobi Office and the Goethe-Institut. In 1970 the DFG sponsored 32000 DM to acquire 1077 volumes, in the 1980s and 1990s the DFG-part raised up to 100000 DM allowing to add on average around 3000 books a year to the collection. In 2014 the DFG-budget exceeded 100000 EUR. The library in Frankfurt added the necessary own contribution and especially the funds for staff and space. These numbers demonstrate the strong continuity in funding and collection building.

Additionally, it was possible to develop and maintain bibliographic and current awareness services in a broad sense and to adapt these services to the general technical development: e.g. from the printed “Current Contents Africa” (1975-1993) to the “Online Contents”-database (2009-) included in ilissAfrica. At all times it was possible to raise extra funds for the acquisition of special collections, like those of Janheinz Jahn or Janos Riesz.

Finally, beside the regular tasks of collection building, indexing and information services two large projects were managed to get realized: first the digitization of the Colonial Picture Archive (1991-2004), second the set-up of the ilissAfrica subject gateway (2007-2010). In the following a survey of the stages of development, services and projects is given.

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Guide to historical photographs from Africa on the web

This guide gives an overview about selected web-projects making (historical) photographs from Africa available online in digital format.

Introduction

Kurt v. Schleinitz, 1907/1914, Tanzania, 004-1051-14

Kurt v. Schleinitz, 1907/1914, Tanzania, 004-1051-14

Image databases mainly result from large digitization projects making these important visual traces accessible not only for the African studies scholar but also for the people in Africa interested in their own history.

Often, these historical sources are not available in the country where the photograph has been taken in the past. So an unrestricted, worldwide access improves the local knowledge about the visual past and supports the preservation of the local cultural heritage. While the indexing of some of these projects was done from a very European point of view (prejudices and habit), local African people may add their interpretation and knowledge of persons, objects and places to the metadata attached to the pictures. Also they are encouraged to offer counter-interpretations and local productions of meaning.

An attempt to offer a Togolese interpretation of German colonial pictures is made by the research project of Dr. Koukou Azamede working on a critical interpretation and didactic presentation of historical photographs from the archive of the German Colonial Society (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft).

Kolonialfotografie-ScreenshotRight now most of the image databases offer a somehow static presentation of pictures in sequence, deprived of their storage in the physical collection. Most of the projects tell not much about the contemporary use of the pictures. Open questions concern the flow of images across spaces, the re-use of pictures in other media (e.g. newspapers, books etc.) and the continuing (even unintended) effects. There is a growing literature on visual history and visual anthropology with some brilliant studies on individual photographs. However, right now, this did not have an impact on the design, interfaces, organization and contextual framing of image databases.

While interpreting photographs is a very demanding task, locating images on the web is only seemingly easy. Especially, it is difficult if one looks for photographs of very specific places, persons or material objects. One has to rely on verbal descriptions of the visual content. Often image databases use classifications or special thesauri to index the content. However, one has to look very closely on how theses thesauri do work, how the terms are spelled, not all do offer a search with synonyms, etc.

Another possibility to make the discovery of photographs from Africa easier would be the aggregation of scattered content in one digital place. An example might be the project “WikiAfrica” with over 30,000 African contributions to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia project thanks to the involvement of 100 institutions. It contains e.g. the image collections of the Brooklyn, the Tropenmuseum and the National Archives UK.

Some works to enter the academic discussion:
  • Heike Behrend: Contesting visibility. Photographic practices on the East African coast, Bielefeld: Transcript 2013.
  • Adam Jones (ed.): Through a glass, darkly: photographs of the Leipzig Mission from East Africa, 1896 – 1939, Leipzig: Univ.-Verl. 2013.
  • Richard Vokes (ed.): Photography in Africa: ethnographic perspectives, Oxford: Currey 2012.
  • Thomas Jack Thompson: Light on darkness? Missionary photography of Africa in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans 2012.
  • Jens Jaeger: Colony as Heimat? The Formation of Colonial Identity in Germany around 1900, German History 27 (2009), 4, pp. 467-489.
  • Wolfram Hartmann (ed.): The colonising camera : photographs in the making of Namibia history, Cape Town: Univ. of Cape Town Press 1998.
  • (in German:) Christine Brocks: Ist Clio im Bilde? Neuere historische Forschungen zum Visuellen, in: Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 53 (2013), pp. 453-486.
  • more literature via ilissAfrica
Photographer E. Hecker in Ovamboland, A_0ii_6874

Photographer E. Hecker in Ovamboland, A_0ii_6874

Digital collections of individual libraries and archives

  • Colonial picture archive, Frankfurt University Library, includes the image collection of the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft (DKG) documenting especially the German colonial activities. The database presents 53000 digitized historical pictures covering the whole of Africa and comprises the collection of photographs, photo albums and postcards owned by the Sam Cohen Library, Swakopmund, Namibia. While the general search interface is in German, the Africa-section can be retrieved in English via ilissAfrica.
  • Photographs of Africa, University of Florida Smathers Libraries, includes photographs of Africa from various research projects and photographers, e.g. by cinematographer/photographer Martin Rikli (1898-1969) documenting his Ethiopian expedition from 1935-36.  Another example ist the 1940 photograph album by Entomologist and Professor Lewis Berner conducting malaria research in the Gold Coast.
  • The Humphrey Winterton Collection of East African Photographs: 1860-1960,  Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University, includes about 7,610 photographs organized in 76 separate albums, scrapbooks or loose collections and 230 glass lantern slides.
  • University of Wisconsin Digital Collections in African Studies, with the Harold E. Scheub Image Collection and “Africa Focus: Sights and Sounds of a Continent” offering 3000 slides and 500 photographs drawn from contributions by UWM faculty.
  • Liberian Photograph Collections as a part of Indiana University Liberian Collections, with Willie A. and Lucile S. Whitten Photography Collection (Liberia in the 1960s and 1970s), William V. S. Tubman Photograph Collection and Frederick D McEvoy Photograph Collection (1967-1968 Sabo labor migrants in southeastern Liberia).
  • Visual resources Relating to Africa at Yale, e.g. photographs taken by professor David E. Apter to complement field research on African nationalism and the transition to independence from 1952 to 1960.
  • Frobenius Institute’s online image database consists of 60.000 images produced mainly during numerous expeditions in the first half of the 20th century to Africa.
  • DEVA – Digitalisierung, Edition, Vernetzung, project by African Studies in Bayreuth. Available are the photographic archive by the linguist and theologian Ernst Dammann and his wife Ruth, mainly from field research in Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa, 1933-1975; photographs taken by the anthropologist Professor Otto Friedrich Raum during his teaching and research journeys in South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, 1938-1968; and photographs taken during field research by Professor Gerd Spittler in North and West Africa since 1967, mainly on Tuarag and Hausa in Niger, Nigeria and Algeria.
  • Picture archive “African Independence Jubilees” of the Department of Anthropology and African Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, with more than 12,000 photos of the different events that were part of the official jubilee anniversary programs as well as other events that also celebrated the nation in some way (User’s Guide).
  • Photographic and Film collections, University of Cape Town, UCT Libraries
  • Digital Namibian Archive (DNA), a collaborative project by Utah Valley University and the Polytechnic of Namibia operating in conjunction with the Namibian National Archive. The digital photo collection includes e.g. the Stolze Album about Swakopmund.
  • Online photo archive of the University Library of Antanarivo, Madagascar.
  • The Cape Coast Archive, an effort by Ghanaian institutions together with the University of Virginia Library, and the United States branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), to document the unique cultural landscape of the Cape Coast, Ghana region. See especially the “Images from Military Museum” sub-collection.
  • Memórias de África e do Oriente, digitized photographs on lusophone Africa, e.g. a political activism collection of the Arquivo Histórico de São Tomé e Príncipe, 1975.
  • Swaziland Digital Archives, photo archive with photographs from Swaziland from 1860 to the 1990s, including explanations about the photos and small texts about the respective era. Many pictures were taken by the photographer Joseph Raucher.
  • picture archive of the Royal Geographical Society Picture Library
  • picture archive of the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (Photothèque Indigo)
  • the photograph holdings of the Genocide Archive Rwanda
  • the work of photographer and publisher of postcards Edmond Fortier, CENTRE EDMOND FORTIER, with photo exhibitions on Guinée 1905, Bénin 1908/09, Djenné 1906, Dogon 1905, St-Louis 1900, Tombouctou 1906
  • Nigeria’s Pan-Atlantic University presents its collection of rare historical documents and photographs via the Google Cultural Institute. Spanning 1851-1914, they tell the story of Nigeria’s formation as a colony. The second exhibition traces the transformation of Lagos from a cosmopolitan colonial trading center to West Africa’s largest metropolis.

Missionary archives

On Display: Translations as examples of German-African cultural cooperation to preserve the cultural heritage of the Ewe people in present-day Togo and Ghana

Recently a new translation of Jakob Spieth’s book on the Ewe people was published:

  • Jakob Spieth: The Ewe people : a study of the Ewe people in German Togo. – Accra : Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2011.

Already in 2009 a French translation appeared:

  • Jakob Spieth: Les communautés ewe. – Lomé : Presses de l’UL, 2009

The stories behind these two translations give examples for the successful collaboration of a multitude of dedicated persons and institutional stakeholders. Academics, publishers, diplomats, librarians and representatives of cultural institutes joined efforts, time and money to make an important historical source available to the local people.

For more than twenty years the German missionary Jakob Spieth (1856-1914) lived in Ho, located in former German colony of Togo, now part of the modern Ghana. In his magnum opus called “Die Ewe-Stämme: Material zur Kunde des Ewe-Volkes in Deutsch-Togo“ published in 1906 by Reimer in Berlin he gives a detailed account of the history, the social, cultural and economic life of the Ewe. He also translated the bible into the language of the Ewe people.

The English translation of 2011 was edited by Komla Amoaku of the Institute for Music and Development, Ho, Ghana. The translation work was made by Marcellinus Edorh, Emmanuel Tsaku, Raphael Avornyo and Mary Esther Kropp Dakubu. The German Goethe Institut in Accra, Ghana, provided organisational support and contacts to Germany’s Federal Foreign Office which contributed a substantial amount of money. Already in 2007 Akoss Ofori Mensah from the Sub-Saharan Publishers, Legon, became involved. We got in contact at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2007. In the colonial special collection two copies of the original German publication of 1906 are available. Given its age and rarity an international interlibrary loan was not possible. However, I could find the kind support of the colleagues at the Bavarian State Library. They quickly digitized the roughly 1000 pages by Spieth and put the high quality scans on the web for free and worldwide usage of the German original document. Then the Goethe Institut in Ghana printed this version as the physical base for the translation team.

The French translation was done at the “Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Germon-Togolaises” (CERGETO) at the Département d’Allemand, Université de Lomé, by Séna Akakpo-Numado, Dotsé Yigbe, Kokou Azamede and Komi Kossi-Titrikou under the direction of the professors Nicoué Gayibor and Amétépé Yaovi Ahadji. The German embassy at Lomé supported the work and the publication financially to support the preservation of the Ewe culture in Togo, but also to make this source available to the francophone public worldwide. Frankfurt University Library could support the work of Kokou Azamede in 2009. For further information on the Ewe see our “internet library sub-saharan Africa” (ilissAfrica).

The laborious translations into English, French and contemporary Ewe might create a revival of interest amongst researchers, contribute to the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Ewe people and become reading material in schools and universities.

Dr. Hartmut Bergenthum, head of the Africa department, Frankfurt University Library