Bosch Foundation Archival Summer School for Young Historians 2014

American History in Transatlantic Perspective

September 1-12, 2014
Archival Seminar in Chicago, IL; Madison, WI; Boston, MA; Washington, DC
Co-organized by the German Historical Institute, Washington DC; University of Chicago's Department of History; Newberry Library, Chicago; Robert Bosch Stiftung
Convener: Mischa Honeck (GHI)

Participants: Daniel A. Elkan (Bowling Green State University), Stefan Laffin (University of Bielefeld), Todd Barnett (University of Missouri), Christian Zech (Technical University of Berlin), Amy Coombs (University of Chicago), Philipp Wendler (Hamburg University), Johanna Ortner (University of Massachusetts), Jan Hildenhagen (University of Bochum), Elizabeth Stack (Fordham University), Felix Lüttge (Humboldt University, Berlin).

  • Seminar Report

    The Bosch Foundation Archival Summer School for Young Historians convened for the second time under its new name in September 2014. Once again the tour spanned four cities (Chicago, Madison, Boston, and Washington DC), and the ten seminar participants from Germany and the United States were introduced to the holdings and policies of a broad spectrum of American archives and research libraries. The goal of the seminar was to prepare doctoral students from both countries working in diverse fields of American history for their prospective research trips; to teach them how to contact archives, use finding aids, and identify important reference tools; and to help them gain a greater appreciation of the various kinds of archives and special collections located in the United States.

    The Bosch Foundation Archival Summer School 2014 began with a historic walking tour of downtown Chicago on Labor Day, September 1. The following day was spent at the University of Chicago, where Professor Jane Dailey hosted the traditional thesis workshop. The seminar participants, grouped into five transatlantic tandems consisting each of one German and one American student, commented on the work of their respective partners, exposed their projects to academic scrutiny, and received valuable feedback from their peers. On Wednesday, September 3, the Seminar met Diane Dillon, Acting Vice President of the William M. Scholl Center of American History and Culture at the Newberry Library, for a daylong introduction to the institute's collections as well as for a general overview of American archival policies and practices. Among the topics discussed were the purchase of rare books, how to browse manuscript collections, the expedience of maps for historical research, and the opportunities and pitfalls of digitalization. On Thursday morning, before the group departed for Madison, Wisconsin, the Bosch Archival Seminar 2011 visited the Cook County Court Archives. Archivist Phil Costello pulled a selection of spectacular items from the Court's archival collections to demonstrate the breadth of legal sources that can be used to do all kinds of history.

    Our first destination in Madison was the Wisconsin State Historical Society. Chief archivist Michael Edmonds welcomed the Seminar participants in the morning hours of September 5. He spoke about the history and holdings of their institution within the broader context of American state historical societies and impressed the students with the Wisconsin State Historical Society's dedication to accessibility and public education. After that, time was set aside for individual research before the group reassembled at the local University of Wisconsin history department for a roundtable talk with Steven Kantrowitz, Adam Nelson, and Thomas Archdeacon on doing U.S. history from a European perspective. The participants weighed in on the question to what extent locality and national origin mattered in the writing of national histories, making all kinds of connections to their own work.

    On Saturday evening, September 6, the group arrived in Boston, the third stop on our itinerary. On the following morning, the participated got a chance to witness public history in action with a guided tour of the Freedom Trail. The rest of the day was free for recreation and individual explorations. On Monday, September 8, the Bosch Archival Summer School 2013 resumed at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library at Columbia Point. Enjoying a two-and-a-half hour tour of the museum and library archives, including the Ernest Hemingway Collection, under the supervision of Stephen Plotkin, the group benefited from staff presentations on audiovisuals, declassification, and the library's manuscript collections and oral history program. The day concluded with a visit to the Massachusetts Historical Society in downtown Boston. Public Relations Director Kathleen Barker and members of the staff acquainted the students with the wealth of the Society's holdings, which touch upon almost every issue pertaining to the history of the state from colonial times to present-day America. The Bosch Archival Summer School continued at Harvard University the next morning. Our first stop was Schlesinger Library, one of the leading U.S. research facilities for women's history. Head librarian Ellen Shea showed and explained letters, pamphlets, books, and visual material related to topics ranging from domesticity and black women to the female suffrage movement. The final destination on our Boston schedule was Houghton Library, where Peter Accardo walked the group through the library's precious Early Americana collections and gave valuable advice on how to use them for various research agendas.

    After reaching Washington DC in the late afternoon of Tuesday, September 9, the Summer School resumed the following day at the Library of Congress. A guided tour of the Jefferson Library was followed by a presentation from archivist Bruce Kirby, who spoke to the participants about the breadth of manuscript collections available through the Library of Congress Manuscript Division. The group then put in a stop at the Prints and Photographs Division, where Sara Duke and her coworkers showcased illustration samples related to the participants' individual projects, underscoring the significance of visual material for historical research. In the afternoon, the group met Ida Jones, curator at the Howard University's Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, who introduced the participants to the Center's remarkable array of collections on African American history and culture.

    On Thursday, September 11, the group visited the Smithsonian's National Museum for American History. Craig Orr, one of the museum's veteran curators, spent time with the students to talk about ways in which everyday objects from the realms of technology to fashion can enrich historical research. Next, Executive Director James Grossman and Special Projects Coordinator Emily Swafford hosted a brown-bag lunch for the group at the Washington headquarters of the American Historical Association (AHA). They drew the students into a vibrant debate over the ethical stakes involved in the study and teaching of history, touching on issues of plagiarism, civility, access to sources, trust, and truth-claims. Following this fruitful discussion, the Summer School put in a final stop at the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA I). Historian Richard McCulley welcomed the group and introduced them to the structure of the National Archives and ways to access source material pertaining to the different branches of government. In the afternoon, the group met for a wrap-up discussion at the German Historical Institute. They were greeted by Deputy Director Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson, whose presentation focused on the institute's work, research projects, as well as the many fellowship and networking opportunities. The farewell dinner that evening concluded a successful Summer School. All participants were grateful for the useful information, contacts, and prospects for future collaboration the program had opened up for them.

    Mischa Honeck (GHI)

  • Call for Applications

    With the generous support of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the German Historical Institute, together with the University of Chicago's Department of History, offers an archival program for doctoral students from Germany and the United States.

    The summer school prepares Ph.D. students working in the field of American history for their prospective research trips. Participants learn how to contact archives, use finding aids, identify important reference tools, and become acquainted with miscellaneous American research facilities, among them the Wisconsin State Historical Society, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, and the Library of Congress. They gain insight into how historical materials are acquired, preserved, and made accessible to historians. In addition, they have the opportunity to meet a number of prominent scholars and discuss their research with them.

    We hope that participants will gain an appreciation for the various kinds of archives and special collections located in the United States, either for future reference or for their general training as scholars of American history, culture, and society. Students are also welcome to extend their stay in the United States to do their own exploration and research after the program ends.

    We welcome individual applications but also encourage potential participants to apply together with a transatlantic partner. Participants are expected to form small working groups and initiate cooperation with a partner PhD-student in their respective fields. Applicants should note, however, that they will have limited opportunity to do their own work during the course.

    Applicants must be registered as Ph.D. students or enrolled in a Ph.D. program at a German or US institution of higher education. The program seeks qualified applicants interested in historical studies in a broad range of fields (art history, economic history, history of consumption, social history, cultural studies, diplomatic history, etc.), and whose projects require consulting sources located in US archives.

    Preference will be given to those who have already chosen a dissertation topic and written a dissertation proposal. Prospective candidates must have excellent knowledge of written and spoken English. All parts of the program will be conducted in English.

    The stipends cover expenses for travel and accommodation and include a daily allowance.

    A complete application consists of:

    • a cover letter outlining the candidate's motivation to participate;
    • a curriculum vitae;
    • a dissertation proposal (4-8 pages);
    • a letter from the candidate's doctoral advisor. 

    Applicants are encouraged to submit their materials via e-mail. Advisors' letters can be sent directly, by post, or by email to:

    Bosch Archival Summer School for Young Historians 
    German Historical Institute 
    1607 New Hampshire Ave, NW 
    Washington, DC 20009-2562 

    Deadline for submission is April 30, 2014. For more information, please contact Dr. Mischa Honeck at the German Historical Institute.