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London Calling! – The Library of Lost Books in Britain

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We are excited to announce that the Leo Baeck Institutes in Jerusalem and London celebrated the launch of their international collaboration on 28 November 2023 in a grand opening ceremony at the German National Library (Staatsbibliothek Unter den Linden) in Berlin. On this occasion, the innovative online exhibition and citizen science project Library of Lost Books (www.libraryoflostbooks.com) was released to the public in Germany. This international project aims to commemorate and educate about the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies, Berlin (Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, 1872–1942) that was dedicated to the study of Jewish history and culture and to rabbinical studies in Liberal Judaism. The team also pursues a pioneering innovative methodological approach in provenance research, seeking to recruit predominantly young citizen scientists in secondary schools to join the global search for the institute’s unique expert library that was looted by the Nazis and dispersed across the world in the wake of the Shoah. The project also entails physical exhibitions that tell the story of the Hochschule library and the paths its books took to their current destinations at locations around the globe, but predominantly in Germany, the Czech Republic, Israel, the USA and, last but not least, in Britain. 

The Library of Lost Books has already made its debut in a classroom setting in Germany. Following the launch in Berlin, the LBI London’s deputy director Kinga S. Bloch accompanied Dr Regine Dehnel and a team of librarians from the Staatsbibliothek to introduce a group of pupils at the Lise-Meitner-Gymnasium in Falkensee to the project. The pupils were excited to participate in the search for lost books and it was a delight to witness the project’s launch into an educational setting where it was very well received.

 

Stabi group

 

 

The Library of Lost Books in Britain

Secret paths of provenance: Stories beyond the textIn the meantime, preparations for the project’s launch in the United Kingdom (scheduled for summer 2024), are well underway. A spin-off exhibition presenting the project to students in East London is currently on display at Queen Mary University of London’s Library (20 November 2023 – 31 January 2024). The exhibition, titled The secret paths of provenance: stories beyond the text offers an introduction to different kinds of provenance markers found in the books at the LBI London’s library. It explores how the institute’s books can be seen as historical objects that can provide insights into the fabric of the German-Jewish refugee community in Britain. The showcases, located in the foyer at Queen Mary’s Mile End Library, are backed by a wall display of the Library of Lost Books campaign posters, embedding our reflections about provenance research at libraries into the specific context of the Library of Lost Books project.

In 2022–2023, Queen Mary University of London, one of the Library of Lost Books’ first partners in the UK, supported the project by being a laboratory space to test the exhibition’s narrative and design, as well as the application of our methodological toolkit in a British setting. Two cohorts of Queen Mary students at the School of History were involved in reviewing the concept and methodology throughout the developmental phase. QM StudentsStudents on the modules ‘The Germans and the Jews’ and the ‘Holocaust in Literature and Film’, convened by our deputy director Kinga S. Bloch, who is also a Teaching Fellow at Queen Mary’s School of History, were of invaluable support in testing the website and in the development of our educational materials. This year’s cohort also probed our citizen science approach in an experimental setting ahead of the launch. Katie Ormerod, lead archivist of Queen Mary’s library team, generously lent us some of her time and joined four seminars in the first UK-based search days to introduce the students to handling antique books and archival materials.

In the past year, the LBI London has also engaged in academic discourse about the Library of Lost Books’ innovative paths in crowd-sourced provenance research. We were invited to speak at the workshop Germanic Collections in Britain at UCL on 10 November 2023. Kinga S. Bloch, who has been working on the project leadership team with Irene Aue-Ben-David and Bettina Farack of the LBI Jerusalem since 2022, presented a paper titled The Power and Perils in Addressing a Nazi Crime in the 21st Century – Global Citizen Science and the Search for the Library of Lost Books to experts from British libraries and archives specialised in Germanic collections. The talk was followed by a fruitful discussion about the concept of crowd-sourced citizen science and related methodological reflections that lie at the heart of the Library of Lost Books. On 4 December, the LBI London also ran a workshop titled Crowd-Funded Provenance Research in Britain, hosted by our UK partner for the project’s launch and physical exhibition in Britain, the Wiener Holocaust Library. First contacts between schools, archives and libraries interested in the search for the Hochschule’s books in Britain were established on this occasion, and we were delighted to discuss our endeavour with a diverse group of experts from many different backgrounds, representing archives, libraries, educators, and teachers. We will continue our outreach and discourse with these partners and hope to generate wide interest for the project in London in the time leading up to the launch of the Library of Lost Books in Britain.

If you are an institution or a school in Britain that would like to participate in a search day for the Library of Lost Books in London in 2024, please contact Kinga S. Bloch at [email protected].

 

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LBI LondonLBI Jerusalem

 

Wiener Holocaust Library

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