Europeana1914-1918.eu

Wonderful pan-European website of digitized photos and documents about World War One from libraries, archives, online submissions and, among other things, family history roadshows taking place in many European cities. Now available in the languages Danish, Dutch, English, French, German and Slovenian, the website’s collections are intended to tell the stories of regular people, “simple soldiers,” and their families who were involved in the “war to end all wars.” The collections, research and electronic documentation have been going on for three years now. Organizers said this might be the world’s largest collection so far of European WWI items from private owners, i.e. the families involved. It is intended to “show, well, perhaps unity in suffering,” said historian Frank Drauschke.

Even public school systems that teach more than 0–1 year of history have problems with societal forgetting, it seems. As part of their commemorations of the centenary, German television news programs recently did street interviews with German high school students asking basic facts about the First World War but discovering a shocking lack of answers. Apparently teaching the atrocities of World War Two to German schoolchildren has over time come to overshadow teaching about its causes and its first iteration.

This Europeana.eu project also seems wonderful because it probably preserved so many materials by digitizing them and posting them online. It saved the stories of descendants who still remember why each item is important. The format allows people to see the war from inside more than one of the countries that participated in it. While providing jobs to historians and translators!

Bibliothekarische Bücherkette

“Library book chain,” across the city of Riga to celebrate the opening of Latvia’s new national library after twenty years of construction. Twenty-five years ago, Latvians formed a Menschenkette, a human chain, to protest the Soviet dictatorship.

Riga, Latvia, and Umea, Sweden, will be the European Capitals of Culture for 2014. Umea will be focussing on the regional Saami heritage, while Riga will be celebrating music and theater.

Update on 18 Jan 2014: Fireworks and dancing in the frozen streets kicked off the three-day opening celebration in Riga. Since the start of WWI a century ago, said ZDF heute journal, the twentieth century was a torture for Latvia of one dictatorship after the other, including occupation by the Nazis. Which is why Riga scheduled a cheeky performance of what is said to be Adolf Hitler’s favorite Wagner opera this week, Aufstieg und Fall eines Tyrannen, in very bright costumes and with a live horse.

(Beeb lee oh tay CAR-R-R ish ah   BEE chheah ket tah.)

Betreiber gigantischer Bibliotheken

“Operators of huge libraries.”

From a presentation at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, describing Amazon.com and Apple.com as booksellers no longer but rather operators of gigantic libraries which readers must pay to access.

(Bett RYE bah   ghee GONT ish ah   bee blee oh TAY ken.)

Verschwiemelt

Bloated, swollen, such as one’s face after a long riotous night, or this post.

After investigating for five months, the anonymous blogger who posted instances of Schludrigkeit that he found (on 92 of 326 pages) in Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan’s doctoral thesis has now been confirmed by a report published the next day by the University of Düsseldorf’s expert evaluator. The university report’s author found 60 questionable citations (on 351 pages?) and “recognizes ‘the characteristic pattern of a plagiaristic approach,’” reported Spiegel-Online, which also noted that the anonymous blogger’s report is a “triumph of the plagiarism hunters.” Some political folks said Schavan’s doctorate shouldn’t be taken away because e.g. “there are clearer cases that haven’t been revoked.” Others say if the University of Düsseldorf decides to rescind the 32-year-old degree, then Annette Schavan must step down as federal Education Minister. The media can’t help reprinting statements in support of academic rigor that Schavan made when the doctoral thesis of young charismatic aristocratic Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (FDP) was discovered to contain plagiarism. A Spiegel-Online comparison of the two cases certainly generates some sympathy for Annette Schavan. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s family is worth ca. 400 million euros and he grew up in a castle. He took a long time to finish his doctoral thesis (in law) and said later he didn’t have enough time for footnotes. Grade: summa cum laude. Annette Schavan was the first in her family to go to university and finished her doctorate quite early, magna cum laude. Guttenberg was working during the cut-and-paste Internet era with search engines; Schavan had to find her texts in underfunded German university libraries and wrote her thesis on a typewriter. On the other hand, the Guttenberg situation is indicative that a deeper institutional problem exists.

The anonymous blogger who published first faxed reporters that “The facts are the facts. Even verschwiemelt Schavanesque excuses won’t change that.”

On 16 Oct. 2012 the responsible University of Düsseldorf committee met for three hours, but Annette Schavan unleashed lawyers and the university has been forbidden to make any information about this public without her permission. The university’s rector announced this and apologized. He also said they only advanced as far as the preliminary investigation (Vorprüfung). The university announced that it will take extra time to check Schavan’s thesis because it was interdisciplinary, its age means more of the sources will only be available on paper (and will have to be ordered from Germany’s amazingly cash-strapped university libraries and their interestingly historic systems), and evaluators are going to have to make sure they can be fair in “thinking themselves back” into the state of knowledge that prevailed thirty years ago.

I think German universities are state-funded? Surely though they must be susceptible in some ways to financial pressure from federal ministers, particularly the Minister of Education and Research. Crowdsourcing evaluation of politicians’ plagiarism seems like a very good idea in Germany right now.

(Fer SHVEE melt.)

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