DigiBaeck: 5 Centuries of German-Jewish History Online

Teacups w/ portraits of Albert Einstein & his sister Maria (“Maja”) from the Digibaeck Archives.

This morning I had the privilege of attending the launch of DigiBaeck, a comprehensive digital gateway to the continually growing collection of the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI). LBI, founded in 1955, “…is a research library and archive that contains the most significant collection of source material relating to the history of German-speaking Jewry, from its origins to its tragic destruction by the Nazis and continuing to the present day.” The DigiBaeck project was a massive effort to digitize everything in LBI’s collection. The finished result is a digital archive that makes available over 4,000 linear feet of archival materials that document 500+ years of German-Jewish history for free to anyone with an internet connection.

The 3.5 million pages of archival materials range from the personal effects of luminaries like Albert Einstein and Moses Mendelssohn to correspondance, recipes and other ephemera chronicling the lives of the everyday German-Jewish people. Additionally, DigiBaeck also includes 2,000 artworks, 25,000 photographs, 2,000 unpublished memoirs as well as numerous rare books and other multimedia.

It was very exciting to learn about the success and importance of this undertaking and what it took to get to the finished product. DigiBaeck is truly an inspiration and serves as a model for the potential of the digitization of archival collections. As Deborah Hertz, Jewish studies scholar, pointed out during the launch event panel discussion, other groups groups can look to DigiBaeck to see how “this so-called private history is becoming public.” You can watch the entire launch event, which includes opening remarks from Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle (and who I will be blogging about soon), on the LBI website here.

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