Elisabeth Steiger, M.A.: With the pen of a soldier: The western front in drawings landscapes, quarters, trenches - everyday scenes from the war
Elisabeth Steiger, M.A.:
"With the pen of a soldier - the Western Front in drawings: Landscapes,
quarters, trenches - everyday scenes from the war"
"With the pen of a soldier - the
Western Front in drawings:
Landscapes, quarters, trenches -
everyday scenes from the war"
Elisabeth Steiger, M.A.
Abteilung Kulturelles Erbe, Stadtarchiv Speyer
Hello, my name is Elisabeth Steiger and I come from the Speyer city archives.
Speyer, City archives
work in an archive above all on the inclusion of the Web 2.0 and on digitization, shortly summarized:
On an “Open Archive”.
Speyer city archives @ web 2.0
In the year 2011 there started a pilot experiment. In the course of this experiment we attempted the
integration of the new media. So lots of stocks have been digitized, which are available online and
our attendance on different Social Media platforms had been started. Meanwhile we sustain
accounts on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Slideshare, Pinterest and Youtube. We have a comprehensive
homepage and our own Wikipedia-page. In addition we conduct also six weblogs about different
What role plays now the First World War in our region?
FIRST WORLD WAR
IN OUR REGION
A lot of months ago had begun the reprocessing of this issue in the south-west of Germany. They
collected material to the subject “First World War” all over the country, which fitted into the
particular region. In our region, the “Pfalz”, they collected to the topic “home front”.
From these collections there accrued a circulation exhibition in collaboration of several archives from
the surrounding area. Involved were among others Heidelberg, Worms and certainly we in Speyer.
Parallel to this the big museums in the surrounding area organized separate exhibitions to this topic
whereby you have to regret that there is often a lack of coordination because of the missing
agreement of the institutions. But this information is only at the edge.
Furthermore there are cross border-projects on this issue, so for example an exhibition of the
archives Colmar and Karlsruhe with the title: “Humans in the war 1914 til 1918 on the upper Rhine”.
In Strasburg there is actually an archaeological exhibition about the First World War.
Despite of all these activities of the surrounding archives the prosperity of resources unfortunately
shows not to advantage, how it was desirable, because the museums which exhaust the same issues
have much more and also other possibilities to advertise their inventory. The inventories of the
archives unfortunately perish a little in respect of this background.
Nevertheless we as archives use certainly all platforms which provide themselves to bring our
“treasures” to the public. As I mentioned, one of the focuses of our work lies in the contact with
Speyer, City archives , Flickr
1 ½ years ago we began to take selected presentations about the First World War on Flickr. In these
Flickr-presentations we delivered for example suggestions for the abovementioned exhibition “home
front”. The thereby used photos afford an overview above the situation in Speyer in this time. The
album went down well with the public; meanwhile it has more than 1.400 clicks!
Speyer, City archives , Flickr
In addition we present for the purposes of other projects on Flickr photos from the estate of Karl Lutz
for example, which descend from the Second World War indeed, but which are made by an archivist
who already documented the First World War as an officer. His photos from the 2nd
descend above all from the east. There is also a special weblog existing for this topic. Summarizing,
the topic “First World War” will be held up to date and managed over different channels.
Comprising we can say, that we sustain some kind of “virtual shop window” in our inventory: Therein
we show, that we have a lot of written heritage, which partly has an impressive age, as mentioned in
the beginning. We have chosen this way of public relations work, because digital presentations offer
undisputed lots of advantages:
They are temporal unlimited
We can spread them very simple and share them on social media platforms like Flickr,
Pinterest or Facebook
Theoretical they are visible worldwide
Beyond that they present possibilities to for crowdsourcing by inclusion of local and trans-
- TEMPORAL UNLIMITED
- SPREAD THEM SIMPLE
- SOCIAL MEDIA
For this reason we are also part of the german-french EU-Project “Archivum Rhenanum”: In the
course of it we showcase digital inventory transnational and make it hereby accessible for the public.
How is all of that associated with this special estate from the First World War mentioned at the
WHAT ABOUT THIS ESTATE
FIRST WORLD WAR?
There is an exhibition about the First World War at the university library of Heidelberg which has
been designed and realized by the city archives of Speyer.
Heidelberg, University library
It is in process since June 2014. It shows paintings which have been sketched by a soldier in the
trench during the war. The name of this officer was Wilhelm Weber.
Wilhelm Weber descended from Neustadt an der Weinstraße, not far away from Speyer. Before and
also after his time at the front he was a teacher in the region and finally he died in Speyer. His estate
is spread on three institutions: The federal archive Freiburg, the Bavarian war archives Munich and
the city archives Speyer. At the military archives Freiburg there are lots of field post letters from
Weber, at the war archives Munich his personal file as an officer.
Wilhelm Weber, Painting
Weber was not a famous artist; he is in no sense comparable with Otto Dix or other prestigious
performers of the First World War, which painted their drawings for the depiction of the war-related
events to the public. His paintings acted much more as an explanation in addition to the letters he
sent home from the front.
Wilhelm Weber, Painting with letter
There are not too many drawings; we talk about an extent of barely 70 works, none of it bigger than
format A 4. Nevertheless they provide us an interesting insight into the life in the trenches and also
behind the line of battle. For that reason we decided to present this estate despite his quite little
extent in the university library of Heidelberg, because the topic is regional anchored, but at the same
time very extraordinary.
The difficulty in the conception of such an exhibition insists therein, that the “show window” affords
a view into the stock of the archives: The archive itself has to stay visible, it does not retire behind
the exhibit, like a museum, but it merchandises itself THROUGH the displayed inventory. On that
account we planned the exhibition I two steps:
Step 1 is a little, but for that very public exhibition in the university library of Heidelberg. Here we
have a student, but also a touristic center of attraction, which is passed unavoidable by thousands of
humans. The exhibition is here in tight contact with the visitor.
Speyer, City archives, Pinterest
Moreover we published a document on Slideshare with an extensive biography of Wilhelm Weber.
Speyer, City archives, Slideshare
This virtual implementation was to ensure very easily, because the inventory had already been
digitized for the database findbuch.net, where you can recall it in the next time. Also the license-
question was no problem: All of our pictures are published under a Creative Commons-license.
An innovation toward our previous exhibitions was the integration of QR-Codes into the exposition:
We printed QR-Codes on our description-shields; they should encourage the viewer to look at the
other paintings from this category, which had not enough room in the showcases. The QR-Codes are
linked to Pinterest and Slideshare.
The ideal visit of the exhibition proceeds as follows:
Inform yourself via our virtual presentations – virtually the extension of the presentation via
The exhibition stays in the university library of Heidelberg til September 2014; afterwards it comes,
like already mentioned in an extended version to the Speyer city archives.
Thank you very much for your attention!