New Directory of German Resources

WESS Newsletter

Fall 2012, Vol. 36, No. 1

Over the summer, I conducted a survey of libraries, archives, museums, and genealogical societies in California to determine which organizations had primary resources of German interest. I started this project after realizing how many German archives and collections were housed in California, rather than in Europe. As a graduate student, I worked at the Wende Museum of the Cold War in Culver City, which has perhaps the biggest collection of Cold War relics outside of Europe and yet is still relatively unknown. I based the survey and the project on LA as Subject, started by the Getty Research Institute in 1997. At that time, it was easier to find German materials in Los Angeles than materials on Los Angeles. That has, of course, changed.

To urge institutions to participate, I spoke with many librarians, posted on listservs, and attended a southern California genealogical meeting. California is home to dozens of genealogical societies, many focused on German-American history. Although genealogical societies have rich resources, they tend not to publicize their materials beyond their member base and have not been used significantly in academic research.

The information is now compiled and available in a public directory.

The biggest surprises were collections that are close to home—Cal State University Fullerton has a strong oral history program, and they have several recordings of German-Americans who survived the Holocaust and World War II, for example. I was also surprised to learn that the Museum of Natural History has a large collection of Nazi ephemera and the papers of Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal Pictures.

It is not too late to participate in this directory: if you represent an institution in California and would like to be included, please contact me. If you work with students who are interested in conducting German research in California (or through online repositories), please direct them to the site. My goal is for students and scholars to come across this site in a basic Web search. I have added a link to the Wikipedia article on German Studies and am looking for more places to link the site.

In addition, I would like to set up a roundtable at the 2013 German Studies Association meeting so that more Germanists and scholars are aware of resources in California and the United States. Given that academic (non-library) conferences focus on papers and research results, it would be helpful for new scholars and grad students to learn more about conducting research in the United States. Please contact me if you are interested in working on such an endeavor.

Lindsay Hansen
Music Librarian
California State University, Northridge