Digitally exploring places of freedom of expression in the region
A guest contribution by Prof. Dr. Jens Ivo Engels of the Institute of History, winner of the Athene Award “Digital teaching 2018”.
Contributions to the living culture of remembrance
In the teaching research project “Places of freedom of expression in the region“, students visited fourteen places of remembrance of persons or events from the history of freedom of expression in the 2017 summer semester and the 2017/18 winter semester, and researched their history on the basis of literature, sources, photos and, in some cases, interviews. The students developed the material further into dossiers for the “Interactive map” of KulturRegion FrankfurtRheinMain gGmbH [information in German only].
The places of remembrance include places as diverse as
- a plaque commemorating the burning of books in Neu-Isenburg,
- the tomb of the pre-March Democrat Johann Adam von Itzstein in Oestreich-Winkel,
- the Schöffer memorial in Gernsheim,
- the destroyed home of the writer Sophie von La Roche in Offenbach
- and two commemorative plaques at Georg Büchner’s former home in Darmstadt.
Successful cooperation with non-university partner
KulturRegion was an indispensable project partner. This non-profit organisation brings together cities and counties with the aim of promoting local and regional culture in an inter-municipal cooperation.
Magdalena Zeller of KulturRegion supported the course with information on content, editorial aids and by establishing contacts with representatives from historical associations or political leaders in the municipalities. So for instance, the students were able to determine the reasons for policy decisions in the municipalities. KulturRegion also provided the technical implementation. At the same time, thanks to the students’ contributions, for the first time the interactive map was given in-depth information on the places they had covered.
Sharing (digital) skills
The event was based on standards of scientific work as taught in ‘normal’ everyday student life. It included research learning, as there is no standard literature on most of the places covered. In addition, the event was attended by participants with a view to certain occupational profiles. They learnt the conditions of so-called “public history” (history as a contribution to public debate) – including the problem of upholding scientific standards while at the same time being oriented towards the public. The students learnt about the principles and conditions of cultural education, and gained an insight into public cultural promotion in the region. Students also learnt that the skills they acquired during their studies can have concrete benefits in the field of cultural promotion.
All participants were able to publish their contributions in the net [information in German only] (with the names of the authors), which means they are permanently visible. Meanwhile, the project continues. In the 2018/19 winter semester, students prepared a further eight dossiers. In addition, a mobile app was to be created with a city walk to places of freedom of expression in Darmstadt.
The Athene Award “Digital teaching” [information in German only] (formerly the E-Teaching Award) is awarded annually to teachers at the TU Darmstadt for outstanding offers in the field of digitally supported teaching by the Carlo and Karin Giersch Foundation.