The Global Archives initiative makes archive material available for research through multilateral co-operation

The Global Archives initiative – and its efforts to document, catalogue, and make archive material available for research worldwide – is a result of the following realisation: a new form of archives establishes itself alongside traditional, localised archives in the twenty-first century. This new, global archive model is based on ideas of de-centralisation and digitization. If scholars of literature and intellectual history do not approach archive material based on the inner logic of the individual holdings, and if their research is instead increasingly led by a logic of question and answer, problem and solution, then they need to be able to better grasp the structure of archive collections and their histories, in order to be able to follow connections beyond individual archive holdings.

Centralised archives that structure their material according to its origin will inevitably reach the limits of their organisational systems when trying to make visible the global lines in the material that run transversely across their holdings. As archival work in the twenty-first century increasingly demands decentralised thinking, centralised archives already make an effort to point out the global dimensions of the ideas, influences, and routes hidden in their holdings. The letters, drafts, manuscripts, and sketches send out by literary, philosophical, or political authors can neither be defined by (and thereby confined to) their geographical place of origin, nor can they be restricted by the criteria according to which the archive that acquires them organises its holdings. This is particularly true for archive material from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, given that they were periods that were profoundly shaped by exile and migration. Considering questions of location is therefore central to archival work: which information is passed on and what is ignored or hidden, and also: does the location affect this? Does the narrative change when the focus does not lie on individual places and protagonists, but instead on a global axis of historical and intellectual points of view or conflicts? The archivist’s and scholar’s own (work) location, interests and perspectives will become more visible for reflection.

First co-operative projects aiming to make archive material available for scholarly research were set up in Israel and Brazil in 2012 and 2015 respectively. Additionally, further pilot projects have been initiated and new contacts established in Turkey, China, India, and Italy. The goals of Global Archives projects are (1) to establish close links between scholarly research and archive work, (2) furthering decentralisation, (3) supporting early career researchers, and (4) enhancing multinational co-operation.

Our staff co-ordinate the collaboration with local collection points and universities abroad on-site. They ensure that early career researchers are involved in the documentation, cataloguing, and exploration of the material. Additionally, the German Literature Archive and its research partners fund Global Archives scholarships, which are designed to enable early career researchers to undertake research projects in our partner archives. The German Literature Archive also regularly organises archive workshops open to all early career researchers working on Global Archive projects.