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The GEI is providing academic and public access to historic German textbooks

The GEI-Digital project, launched in 2009 and supported by the DFG, is focussing initially on digitising the Institute’s own collections. The ultimate aim is, however, to formally catalogue and digitally capture all textbooks still held in German libraries that were published between the seventeenth century and the end of National Socialism and to make them available for full-text searches. By the end of this first project phase almost 2000 texts will have been processed.

The project is making a unique resource easily accessible to academics and the wider public for the first time. These source materials are an ideal resource for studying social values systems, particularly in terms of social cohesion and the political legitimation of states. School textbooks play an especially significant role in the creation of nation states. They are used as instruments of state memory politics and identity building and for this reason the first phase of the project will digitise school history textbooks from the German imperial era.

The digitisation centre at the Göttingen State and University Library and the Research Library for the History of Education at the German Institute for International Educational Research (BBF/DIPF) were closely involved with the GEI in the conception of the project; all images from textbooks contained in their digital picture archives will be incorporated. The Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel and the Augsburg University library also made valuable contributions. The Gauß IT centre at the TU Braunschweig will lend its technical support as part of the cooperation agreement between the two institutions and the MIK-Centre in Berlin will be responsible for scanning the textbooks. Intranda in Göttingen have lent invaluable support in the implementation of the open-source system Goobi, which will serve as the digitalisation platform. Without the GEI’s excellent network of regional and national connections such an ambitious undertaking would simply not be feasible.

"GEI-Digital has enabled us to create a user-friendly information system in a satisfyingly short period of time, that can now be filled with content." says Robert Strötgen, GEI-Digital’s technical project manager, "The initial few books that were accessible from the start, will soon be joined by thousands of others in the subsequent project phases."

Professor Eckhardt Fuchs, deputy director of the GEI is also pleased with the progress: "GEI-Digital provides an important resource for the field of international textbook research, for teachers and for the public in general, and one that can be accessed directly from your desk."

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