Since its foundation in April, 1950, the Herder-Institute has been one of Germany's principal centres for the historical research on East Central Europe. Sponsored by the state and all sixteen federal Länder, this non-university institution (member of the Leibniz Association) operates as a centre for research and academic services by
providing, with its collections, a supra-regional infrastructure not available elsewhere
preparing basic aids and tools for research
functioning as a forum of international academic discourse
offering user-oriented information and research services
conducting its own research
Its field of research comprises the history of the countries and nations of East Central Europe within the borders of the present-day states of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Its focus is on the cultural, ethnic and political relationships and processes of exchange which have shaped East Central Europe in a particular way from the early medieval into modern times. An important task is the comparative study of East Central European history and its integration into European history as a whole.
The Institute's activities are based on its collections. They comprise a library on the history and culture of East Central Europe with currently approximately 390,000 volumes, a collection of newspapers in which daily and weekly newspapers from East Central Europe have been archived and analysed in a systematic collection of press clippings since 1952, a picture archive with all kinds of visual materials, especially on the topography as well as the art and cultural history of East Central Europe (currently about 550,000 items), a map collection with approximately 35,000 map sheets, about 1,300 old maps and 6,300 vertical aerial photographs from the years 1942-1945, finally a collection of documents consisting of family archives, estates, individual archival items and microfilmed material from the archives of Riga, Reval/Tallinn and Dorpat/Tartu.
The edition of written primary sources or groups of sources is a traditional task of non-university historical research. The Herder-Institut, too, regards it as one of its major tasks to inspire, support and realize mid- to long-term editing projects. Editing projects are based on the Institute’s own collections and/or external material, and carried out with cooperation partners at home and abroad. Special attention is paid to testing new electronic editing forms and techniques.
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