Institute of Historical and Cultural Anthropology

Networked Learning, Researching, and Teaching: Working in Collections

A collaboration between ethnological collecting institutions and universities

Funding Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst [Ministry for Science and Art] in Baden Württemberg under the state initiative “Kleine Fächer” [Small Disciplines]
Project Management Karin Bürkert (LUI), Thomas Thiemeyer (LUI), Cornelia Ewigleben (Württembergisches Landesmuseum Stuttgart [Württemberg State Museum Stuttgart]), Michael Fischer (Zentrum für Populäre Kultur und Musik, Uni Freiburg [Center for Popular Culture and Music, University of Freiburg], Eckart Köhne (Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe [Baden State Museum Karlsruhe]), Markus Tauschek (Uni Freiburg)
Duration 09/2017-03/2020

The collaboration develops and supports work with cultural-historical collections according to the principle of networked learning, researching, and teaching. The newly founded “Forum für Alltagskultur in Baden-Württemberg” [Forum for Everyday Culture in Baden-Württemberg] brings the state’s anthropological teaching, research and collecting institutions in contact with each other in order to make the cultural heritage of everyday life accessible for university-level teaching and to the public. In addition to the Freiburger Institut für Kulturanthropologie und Europäische Ethnologie [Freiburg Institute for Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology] and the Zentrum für Populäre Kultur und Musik [Freiburg Center for Popular Culture and Music], participating institutions include the Landestelle für Volkskunde [Office for Ethnology] in Stuttgart, the Museum für Alltagskultur [Museum for Everyday Culture] in Waldenbuch of the Landesmuseum Stuttgart [State Museum Württemberg], and the Außenstelle Südbaden [Südbaden Branch Office] of the Badischen Landesmuseums Karlsruhe [Baden State Museum Karlsruhe] with its archival documents on regional everyday life. The goal of the envisaged close collaboration is the sustainable reinforcement of the discipline of Cultural Anthropology/Empirische Kulturwissenschaft [Historical and Cultural Anthropology] through the use of comprehensive popular and everyday culture collections as resources for teaching and societal knowledge transfer. Through this collaboration, the integration of collections into teaching formats will substantially encourage praxis-oriented teaching according to the principle of “research-based learning.” Beginning with lectures on the topic of work cultures, the diverse holdings in Baden-Württemberg will be systematically interlinked, made accessible, and published (through homepages, exhibitions, and publications).

The group builds on the traditionally strong connection between the discipline of ethnology and museums and archives, a connection that will be strategically developed under new auspices in the context of this project. The cooperation sustainably perpetuates itself through the anchors provided by cooperatively developed courses in the curricula of the participating universities, improved accessibility to the valuable holdings for university research and teaching, and the transfer of knowledge to a wide public.

European Ethnology (German Volkskunde) emerged as a scientific discipline in the 19th century – among other things, out of the collecting practices of museums. In Baden-Württemberg today, the discipline is represented in Freiburg im Breisgau and at the University of Tübingen with its own institute. While in the post-war years, the rescue and preservation of supposedly threatened cultural forms of expression were of paramount importance, in the course of the modernization of the discipline beginning in the 1960s, approaches and theoretical frameworks have changed radically. It is only in the last few years that universities have once again begun to recognize the enormous scientific potential of collected artifacts. The examination of these artifacts using cultural analysis and new didactic models of “research-based learning” can lead to knowledge about processes of sociocultural change.

Collections Inside and Outside of Universities
The value of objects for university teaching, whether they were collected inside or outside of academic contexts, has only recently begun to receive attention beyond the boundaries of smaller departments, as seen in the founding of university museums in many places. The comprehensive university and non-university collections in both Tübingen and Freiburg (for instance, in the Zentrum für Populäre Kultur und Musik [Center for Popular Culture and Music]’s Deutsches Volksliedarchiv [German Folk Song Archive], founded in 1914, or the extensive everyday culture collection of the state museums) have special structural characteristics. Another special characteristic lies in the close collaboration between the Landesstelle für Volkskunde [Office for Ethnology] of the Landesmuseums Württemberg [State Museum Württemberg] and the Außenstelle Südbaden [Südbaden Branch Office] of the Badisches Landesmuseum [Baden State Museum], which acts as a “hinge” between university and museum. Their holdings (mainly visual and written sources) document changes in living conditions and lifestyles beyond high culture. With the current societal reassessment of popular culture (frequently connected with the key phrase immaterial heritage), the ethnological collections must be considered from a new perspective. The forms of expression of the culture of the masses documented in the ethnological collections have, up until now, barely been deliberately collected in state archives or collection sites. In the context of this project, they should be made usable as a resource for societal analysis with historical dimensions. Currently, the ethnological collections of the state are not always used in their full complexity. This is due to the fact that the heterogeneous holdings are not all accessible in the same ways (only portions are digitally accessible and researchable). This in turn is explained by the huge supervision- and work-intensive care of the collections that universities – and establishments outside of universities – can barely afford due to a lack of infrastructure and resources.

Two Pillars: “Networked Teaching” and “Societal Transfer”
With the help of the initiative “Kleine Fächer” [Small Disciplines], two pillars – “networked teaching” and “societal transfer” – should be implemented for the sustainable reinforcement of the discipline. For this purpose, two initial infrastructural steps were taken in July 2016 with the founding of the “Forum Alltagskultur in Baden-Württemberg” [Forum on Everyday Culture in Baden-Württemberg]. The goal of the forum is to use the material and immaterial everyday culture collections as a diverse resource, to sustainably develop them, and to make them accessible to academic teaching and research as well as non-university education. In the long term, such dormant knowledge can be reawakened with current research focuses and the collections can be made usable for historically- and contemporarily-oriented research on culture and lifestyle. Through the collaboration, research questions and results that are currently in use can be brought into the collections and a mutual flow of knowledge and methods between collections inside and outside of university contexts will be generated. The goal of this is to overcome the falsely assumed gap between theory and praxis, to bring together university teaching and research in museums, and finally to increase the potential of collection- and archive-based research and to communicate it to the public with appropriate formats.