Image: Joa­chim Heid­rich Nach­lass, Zen­trum-Moder­ner Ori­ent, pho­to­graph by aut­hor, Decem­ber 2017

Table of Con­tents
Tra­jec­to­ries of the coll­ec­tors – Joa­chim Heid­rich and Petra Heid­rich | Emer­gence of coll­ec­tions and the life worlds of an archi­ve | “Who­se coll­ec­tion?”: From mate­ri­al­ly ent­an­gled sources to a vir­tual­ly ent­an­gled data­ba­se | Sus­tai­ning Inner Archi­tec­tures, Arti­cu­la­ting new Struc­tures | End­no­tes | Biblio­gra­phy

The Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent (ZMO) was estab­lished in 1996. Its pre­de­ces­sor insti­tu­ti­on, the For­schungs­schwer­punkt Moder­ner Ori­ent, emer­ged in 1992 from the Insti­tu­te for Uni­ver­sal Histo­ry (Insti­tut für All­ge­mei­ne Geschich­te) of the Aca­de­my of Sci­en­ces (Aka­de­mie der Wis­sen­schaf­ten) of the Ger­man Demo­cra­tic Repu­blic (GDR). The ZMO libra­ry and archi­ve con­sist of signi­fi­cant coll­ec­tions of pri­va­te papers bes­i­des hos­ting mul­ti­fa­rious and exten­si­ve lite­ra­tu­re on his­to­ri­cal, anthro­po­lo­gi­cal and poli­ti­cal the­mes enga­ging with the Midd­le East, Asia and Afri­ca as its regio­nal focus. The pri­va­te papers’ hol­ding of the archi­ve com­pri­ses coll­ec­tions by three emi­nent East Ger­man scho­lars – Horst Krü­ger (1920–1989), Joa­chim Heid­rich (1930–2004) and Petra Heid­rich (1940–2006) – who rese­ar­ched on South Asia rela­ted the­mes. In the case of the­se three scho­lars spe­ci­fi­cal­ly, the archi­val hol­ding con­sists of rese­arch rela­ted papers and no per­so­nal dia­ries or other ego docu­ments of the indi­vi­du­als. Tem­po­ral­ly, their coll­ec­tions com­men­ced in the 1960s and con­tin­ued through the Cold War years (the the­mes rese­ar­ched have files that date back to colo­ni­al India of the ear­ly twen­tieth century).

In a semi­nar orga­nis­ed within the frame­work of the BA and MA cour­ses offe­red at the Depart­ment for South Asi­an Stu­dies, Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin (one of the three part­ner insti­tu­ti­ons of the MIDA pro­ject), the team and the atten­ding stu­dents stu­di­ed, cata­logued, inde­xed and digi­ti­zed the papers of Joa­chim Heid­rich and a part of tho­se of Petra Heid­rich. This ent­ry will out­line the theo­re­ti­cal and metho­do­lo­gi­cal con­side­ra­ti­ons which inform the pro­cess of cata­lo­guing a pri­va­te coll­ec­tion. It is orga­nis­ed along three pri­ma­ry axes and uti­li­zes the coll­ec­tions as an illus­tra­ti­ve case stu­dy for revi­si­ting lar­ger ques­ti­ons on archi­val archi­tec­tures. The main objec­ti­ve of the post is thus to trans­par­ent­ly share the pro­cess of cata­lo­guing a coll­ec­tion into a data­ba­se with rea­ders and initia­te a dis­cus­sion on ques­ti­ons rela­ted to the ent­an­gled natu­re of archi­val coll­ec­tions and how rese­ar­chers de-and re-con­sti­tu­te their architecture.

The boxes containing the estate of Joachim Heidrich at the archive of the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
Figu­re 1: Joa­chim Heid­rich Nach­lass, Zen­trum-Moder­ner Ori­ent, pho­to­graph by aut­hor, Decem­ber 2017.

Trajectories of the collectors – Joachim Heidrich and Petra Heidrich

Joa­chim Heid­rich (13.07.1930–08.07.2004)
Joa­chim Heid­rich, born in 1930, stu­di­ed eth­no­lo­gy (Volks­kun­de) and suc­cessful­ly finis­hed his doc­to­ral dis­ser­ta­ti­on in 1958. His ori­gi­nal trai­ning was in Indo­lo­gy cou­pled with a pro­found know­ledge of the histo­ry and lan­guages of India. Bet­ween 1973–81, Heid­rich lived in India and held seve­ral port­fo­li­os for the GDR’s Minis­try of For­eign Affairs, inclu­ding dif­fe­rent posi­ti­ons at the embas­sy in New Delhi and that of the Con­su­la­te Gene­ral of the GDR in Cal­cut­ta. From 1981–1989, he work­ed at the Cen­tral Insti­tu­te of Histo­ry (Zen­tral­in­sti­tut für Geschich­te) fol­lo­wed by the Insti­tu­te for Uni­ver­sal Histo­ry (Insti­tut für All­ge­mei­ne Geschich­te) at the Aca­de­my of Sci­en­ces (Aka­de­mie der Wis­sen­schaf­ten) of the GDR. After this, and until 1995, he work­ed at ZMO’s pre­de­ces­sor insti­tu­ti­on, the For­schungs­schwer­punkt Moder­ner Orient.

Petra Heid­rich (13.11.1940–31.1. 2006)
Petra Heid­rich was born in 1940 in Ber­lin. She stu­di­ed Indo­lo­gy and Social Anthro­po­lo­gy at Hum­boldt- Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin. In 1965 she joi­n­ed the Insti­tu­te of Ori­en­tal Stu­dies, at the Aca­de­my of Sci­en­ces of the GDR. Her rese­arch pri­ma­ri­ly focus­sed on social aspects of the agra­ri­an ques­ti­on in India as well as on the Indi­an peasant move­ment and its lea­ders in preand post-inde­pen­dence India. During the 1970s, she spent seve­ral years with her fami­ly (Joa­chim Heid­rich, men­tio­ned abo­ve was mar­ried to Petra Heid­rich). In 1983 she obtai­ned her Ph.D. from the Aca­de­my of Sci­en­ces of the GDR and was a staff mem­ber of the Insti­tu­te of Histo­ry till the dis­so­lu­ti­on of the Aca­de­my of Sci­en­ces after the uni­fi­ca­ti­on of the two Ger­ma­nys. In 1992 she joi­n­ed the Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent in Ber­lin and con­tin­ued her rese­arch on social pro­blems of modern and con­tem­po­ra­ry India. Her publi­ca­ti­ons (main­ly in Ger­man and Eng­lish) include con­tri­bu­ti­ons on rural deve­lo­p­ment pro­gram­mes, on the peas­an­try and peasant lea­ders, on the role of agri­cul­tu­ral labour and on social and reli­gious reform move­ments in colo­ni­al and inde­pen­dent India. In the last years of her employ­ment at the cent­re, she work­ed on a com­pa­ra­ti­ve bio­gra­phy of the two peasant lea­ders– Swa­mi Saha­ja­nand Saras­wa­ti and N.G.Ranga

The Heid­rich coll­ec­tions at the archi­ve of Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent com­pri­se copies of Indi­an news­pa­per artic­les, rare lite­ra­tu­re and files from diver­se Indi­an archi­ves and libra­ri­es in Pat­na, Delhi, Kolk­a­ta and Mum­bai. Among others, the boxes con­sist of copies of pam­phlets, maga­zi­nes, minu­tes and pro­cee­dings of mee­tings, let­ters, reports, micro­films and their prin­ted out hard copies as well as hand-writ­ten notes (see figu­res 2a and 2b) and inde­xes. The­se dif­fe­rent kinds of sources cover num­e­rous the­mes that are rele­vant for social his­to­ri­ans of India– the labour and peasant move­ments in India, agri­cul­tu­ral pro­blems in post­co­lo­ni­al India, the deve­lo­p­ment of the All India Kisan Sab­ha (All India Peasants’ Uni­on), the emer­gence of dif­fe­rent poli­ti­cal curr­ents during the nine­te­enth and twen­tieth cen­tu­ries, com­mu­nism and sources rela­ted to the histo­ry of trade unio­nism in India.

When stu­di­ed clo­se­ly the coll­ec­ted files show that their indi­vi­du­al rese­arch inte­rests also inter­sec­ted on num­e­rous the­mes. The coll­ec­tions beco­me a win­dow to their aca­de­mic world and the spe­ci­fic the­mes that evo­ked their intrigue.

Handwritten notes from the Joachim Heidrich estate at the archive of the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
Figu­re 2a: “Bols­he­vism. Histo­ry Sheets of Com­mu­nist Lea­ders in the Bom­bay Pre­si­den­cy” [Home Spe­cial, Sta­te Archi­ves Maha­rash­tra, File no. 543 (18) C], Hand-writ­ten details of files and notes, Source: Joa­chim Heid­rich Nach­lass, Box 1.9, Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent Archi­ve, Berlin.
A bundle of documents from the estate of Joachim Heidrich at the archive of the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
Figu­re 2b: Ibid, Source: Joa­chim Heid­rich Nach­lass, Box 1.9, Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent Archi­ve, Berlin.

Emergence of collections and the life worlds of an archive

Any attempts at cata­lo­guing and under­stan­ding the inter­nal orga­ni­zing archi­tec­tu­re of a coll­ec­tion or an archi­ve neces­si­ta­tes gai­ning back­ground know­ledge of the histo­ry of the coll­ec­tion or the hol­ding. The inten­ti­ons and the cri­te­ria that led to the coll­ec­tion of sources (documents/texts/objects) help gain a com­pre­hen­si­ve over­view of the his­to­ri­cal moti­va­tions that trig­ge­red the coll­ec­tion and its even­tu­al incor­po­ra­ti­on in a par­ti­cu­lar archi­ve. In the case of the Joa­chim and Petra Heid­rich pri­va­te papers’ coll­ec­tions (Nach­lass), the­se moti­va­tions are some­what obvious. As two GDR scho­lars who were his­to­ri­cal­ly and anthro­po­lo­gi­cal­ly inte­res­ted in Bri­tish and post-colo­ni­al India, their coll­ec­tion opens a vibrant spec­trum of topics that they dee­med cru­cial for rese­arch on India within the over­ar­ching frame­work of aca­de­mia in the GDR. Their per­so­nal tra­jec­to­ry also adds an inte­res­t­ing lay­er to the coll­ec­tions. As resi­dents in India for over eight years, a rari­ty for most his­to­ri­ans as well as anthro­po­lo­gists, both inde­ed pro­fi­te­e­red from exten­si­ve archi­val visits, often also coll­ec­ting an exhaus­ti­ve ran­ge of sources on the­mes, which did not neces­s­a­ri­ly find their way into their publi­ca­ti­ons direct­ly. Thus the coll­ec­tions, when con­tras­ted with the lists of publi­ca­ti­ons of the two scho­lars, also show which sources were effec­tively used to mate­ria­li­ze publi­ca­ti­ons as well as sources on tho­se topics that con­tin­ued to evo­ke inte­rest for a sus­tained peri­od of time but could not take the shape of published work.

As men­tio­ned, the the­mes one encoun­ters in the sources are diver­se and mul­ti-laye­red. Among others, they rela­te to – The All India Trade Uni­on Con­gress, the role of reli­gious lea­ders in the peasant move­ment in the 1920s up to inde­pen­dence, agra­ri­an and peasant histo­ry, peasant revolts, trade unio­nism and strikes, the cas­te ques­ti­on, pro­cee­dings of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of India and its role in the inde­pen­dence move­ment as obser­ved in secret reports of the Home Depart­ment of the colo­ni­al govern­ment and a com­pre­hen­si­ve over­view of the histo­ry of the poli­ti­cal Left in India. The­se con­scious­ly elec­ted the­mes not only reve­al the kind of aca­de­mic inte­rests in India that were trig­ge­red by the two scho­lars within the GDR, but they also reflect the over­ar­ching frame­work of socia­lism and com­mu­nism inspi­red aca­de­mic tra­di­ti­ons of the GDR more generally.

Joa­chim Heidrich’s coll­ec­tions also beco­me inte­res­t­ing from ano­ther per­spec­ti­ve. As an anthro­po­lo­gist who pur­sued a care­er in diplo­ma­cy and acqui­red posi­ti­ons within the embas­sies soon after the GDR was reco­gni­zed by the Indi­an govern­ment, his life tra­jec­to­ry offers tel­ling details about the ranks and files of GDR diplo­ma­cy in India more generally.

The­se were not diplo­mats who did rapid crash-cour­ses on the sub­con­ti­nent befo­re embar­king onto their diplo­ma­tic care­ers, but very often, careful­ly sel­ec­ted indi­vi­du­als who had had a sus­tained, long-term aca­de­mic inte­rest in South Asi­an histo­ry and poli­tics. Joa­chim Hei­de­rich, even­tual­ly re-tur­ned to aca­de­mic rese­arch after being in diplo­ma­tic posi­ti­ons bet­ween 1973–81. Thus, his coll­ec­tion, when view­ed from the his­to­ri­cal lens, reve­als cer­tain important ele­ments– (1) The inter­sec­tion of diplo­ma­tic and aca­de­mic care­ers; (2) A long peri­od of resi­dence in India which enab­led the Heid­richs to exten­si­ve­ly con­sult and copy an exhaus­ti­ve list of pri­ma­ry and secon­da­ry sources on Indi­an histo­ry from very diver­se archi­ves across the coun­ty and (3) The refle­xi­ve awa­re­ness that the coll­ec­tion could be high­ly rele­vant for the future gene­ra­ti­on of scho­lars enga­ging with South Asia, as is also reve­a­led by their careful index­ing, orde­ring and lis­ting of sources.

Whose collection?”: From materially entangled sources to a virtually entangled database

The Heid­rich coll­ec­tions are uni­que in that they con­sist of sources from Indi­an archi­ves and libra­ri­es sole­ly and, unli­ke most hol­dings from Ger­man archi­ves that have been cata­logued and inde­xed in the MIDA data­ba­se, they do not have a sin­gle file in the Ger­man lan­guage. They are a spe­cial illus­tra­ti­on of ent­an­gled archi­ves wher­eby it is not just the con­tents of files but also rather the phy­si­cal pre­sence of sources on India from India in a Ger­man archi­ve that inter­links hol­dings in India to tho­se in Ger­ma­ny. Bes­i­des, the coll­ec­tions also indi­ca­te the ent­an­gled life tra­jec­to­ries of the two GDR scho­lars of India who were also a cou­ple in pri­va­te life. This has also bor­ne con­se­quen­ces for how the sources have been lis­ted in a for­mat that is based on the struc­tu­re of the data­ba­se. For exam­p­le, Box 2.4 from Joa­chim Heidrich’s coll­ec­tions con­sists of sources on Swa­mi Saha­ja­nand Saras­wa­ti, an asce­tic and a peasant lea­der, who also foun­ded the All India Kisan Sab­ha in 1929. A brief over­view of Petra Heidrich’s scho­lar­ly inte­rests and publi­ca­ti­ons may sug­gest that the­se were sources coll­ec­ted by her for her com­pa­ra­ti­ve rese­arch on N.G. Ran­ga and Saha­ja­nand Saras­wa­ti. As rese­ar­chers cata­lo­guing the coll­ec­tion, we are una­wa­re if the con­tents of Box 2.4. came to be inser­ted in the Joa­chim Heid­rich coll­ec­tion as an act of coll­ec­ting by the two rese­ar­chers them­sel­ves of by the two per­sons who assem­bled the mate­ri­al and were respon­si­ble for enab­ling their trans­fer to the archi­ve after Petra Heidrich’s death. This realm of uncer­tain­ty and ambi­gui­ty is almost cer­tain­ly part of the pro­cess of cata­lo­guing for all archi­ves. In this case, offi­ci­al­ly, the Box con­ti­nues to be part of the Joa­chim coll­ec­tion at the archi­ve and pre­ce­dence was given to the orde­ring in which the sources were inhe­ri­ted. Thus, in order to ensu­re that the files appear as part of the Joa­chim Heid­rich coll­ec­tion to not dis­turb the pro­ven­an­ce of the ZMO archi­ve and, at the same time, indi­ca­te that they cle­ar­ly were in fact coll­ec­ted by Petra Heid­rich, such files have been lis­ted under the Petra Heid­rich Nach­lass cata­lo­gue in the final list based on the struc­tu­re of the MIDA data­ba­se. Howe­ver, tho­se lis­ting the sources for the data­ba­se have ensu­red that rea­ders, when rea­ding the descrip­ti­on of the box’s con­tents are duly awa­re that it actual­ly is phy­si­cal­ly pla­ced in Box 2.4 of the Joa­chim Heid­rich coll­ec­tion. The team lis­ting and index­ing the­se sources was often con­fron­ted with the ques­ti­on of whe­ther in such obvious cases the files should be sepa­ra­ted and pla­ced in the respec­ti­ve collection’s boxes or if it would be bene­fi­ci­al to put both the coll­ec­tions tog­e­ther as one coll­ec­ti­ve hol­ding in the name of both the rese­ar­chers. We thus see how the act of ‘vir­tu­al’ or ‘digiti­al’ re-orde­ring, whe­re­as actual­ly bea­ring no con­se­quen­ces for the phy­si­cal place of the sources (all boxes, whe­ther from Petra or Joa­chim Heidrich’s coll­ec­tion, are pla­ced on neigh­bou­ring shel­ves in the same cel­lar) does bear con­se­quen­ces for how sources will be seen, acces­sed and re-pla­ce­d/­con­tex­tua­li­sed in future indi­vi­du­al rese­arch. All of this can thus result from a minu­te act of the cata­lo­guing researcher.

On a simi­lar tone, in one of the other boxes, one encoun­ters a hand-writ­ten list of archi­val ent­ries for micro­film­ing, which has been signed by Horst Krü­ger (per­haps part of the regu­lar exch­an­ge which Krü­ger had with the two Heid­richs?). The list was inhe­ri­ted from the Heid­rich house and thus con­ti­nues to be a part of the Heid­rich coll­ec­tions (see figu­res 4) and not the Krü­ger papers though once again, the descrip­ti­on of the con­tents of the box men­ti­ons that the list was actual­ly pre­pared by Horst Krü­ger. Such see­mingly minu­te and banal issues often beco­me com­plex topics for archi­vists more gene­ral­ly when orga­ni­zing “the place” of hol­dings in lar­ger archives.

A handwritten list from the Joachim and Petra Heidrich papers at the archive of the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
Figu­re 4a: Page 1of 10, “List for Micro­fi­li­ming”, 1.03.1975, list of archi­val ent­ries made by Horst Krü­ger, place/date mentioned–“New Delhi on 01.03.1975”. All con­tents of the Box (2.5) are ent­ries on this list. Howe­ver, not all ent­ries to be found on the list are to be found in the box. Source: Joa­chim Heid­rich Nach­lass, Box 2.5, Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent Archi­ve, Berlin.
A handwritten list signed by Horst Krüger from the Joachim and Petra Heidrich papers at the archive of the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
Figu­re 4b: Page 10 of 10, “List for Micro­fi­li­ming”, 1.03.1975, signed by Horst Krü­ger, Source: Joa­chim Heid­rich Nach­lass, Box 2.5, Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent Archi­ve, Berlin.

One of the objec­ti­ves of the MIDA Archi­val Gui­de is to reflect on how the turn towards ent­an­gled trans­na­tio­nal and glo­bal his­to­ries not only rai­ses new theo­re­ti­cal ques­ti­ons but also con­fronts us with metho­do­lo­gi­cal issues on the rela­ti­onship bet­ween ent­an­gled his­to­ries and archi­ves.[1] Dis­cus­sions on archi­ves and their intert­wi­ned archi­tec­tures need to be incor­po­ra­ted in our enga­ge­ments with ent­an­gled his­to­ries. The Heid­rich coll­ec­tions housed by the ZMO archi­ve are an illus­trious exam­p­le of how ent­an­gled archi­ves reflect, and often are a trace of, pas­ts, which are more inter­wo­ven than ter­ri­to­ri­al­ly, con­tai­ning sta­te archi­ves would lead us to belie­ve. They beco­me a win­dow not only to the aca­de­mic visi­ons of the two scho­lars but also show the lega­cy of India-rela­ted rese­arch inte­rests in archi­ves which are not colo­ni­al, and belong to a new insti­tu­tio­nal struc­tu­re sin­ce the reuni­fi­ca­ti­on of the two Ger­ma­nys. The coll­ec­tions also point to the importance of smal­ler archi­ves, which can enable scho­lars to shift their focus away from the ter­ri­to­ri­a­li­zing logics of lar­ger sta­te archi­ves. Thus, we see that the Heid­rich coll­ec­tions give us an idea of the topics that inte­res­ted the two scho­lars, espe­ci­al­ly within the over­ar­ching con­text of social sci­en­ces in socia­list GDR. The coll­ec­tions can be high­ly bene­fi­ci­al for scho­lars inte­res­ted in the histo­ry of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of India, peasant move­ments and trade unio­nism. In more ways than one they are an archi­ve within an archi­ve given that the sources were copied from Indi­an archi­ves, are often to also be found in colo­ni­al archi­ves and are housed in a Ger­man archive.

Unli­ke the hol­dings of most Ger­man archi­ves, which chro­nic­le the histo­ry of Indo-Ger­man ent­an­gle­ments more direct­ly by mir­ro­ring sources that enable wri­ting bila­te­ral his­to­ries, the­se coll­ec­tions can tell volu­mes about ent­an­gled life tra­jec­to­ries of GDR scho­lars who were inte­res­ted in stu­dy­ing colo­ni­al and post­co­lo­ni­al India. This can be a fruitful area of rese­arch in its own right that has hither­to been rela­tively unex­plo­red, espe­ci­al­ly in the midst of the poli­tics post 1989 and the making of ‘natio­nal’ meta-nar­ra­ti­ves. The tran­si­ti­ons of 1989 pro­vo­ked dra­stic shifts in the orga­ni­sa­ti­on of the GDR’s uni­ver­si­ties and often resul­ted in sud­den halts in the care­ers of num­e­rous aca­de­mics.[2]
This lar­ger trans­for­ma­ti­on also impac­ted the aca­de­mic care­ers of seve­ral scho­lars of South Asia in the GDR. Alt­hough Petra Heid­rich could con­ti­nue with her rese­arch at the ZMO after the tran­si­ti­ons faced by theGDR’s Aca­de­my of Social Sci­en­ces, it was the rejec­tion of her last fun­ding appli­ca­ti­on in 2000 that brought her offi­ci­al aca­de­mic care­er to an unex­pec­ted stop.[3] Though the­coll­ec­tions do not offer any ego docu­ments, they may be cru­cial for any scho­lars tra­cin­g­such bio­gra­phies in under­stan­ding the aca­de­mic endea­vours of the collectors.

Sustaining Inner Architectures, Articulating new Structures

One of the main aims of the MIDA pro­ject is to deve­lop an online open-access data­ba­se that
sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly cata­lo­gues, inde­xes and descri­bes tho­se files and hol­dings in key Ger­man
archi­ves which rela­te to Indi­an histo­ry or the histo­ry of India-Ger­ma­ny ent­an­gle­ments.
Within the con­text of the ZMO archi­ve, the Heid­rich coll­ec­tions are orde­red accor­ding to the
prin­ci­ple of pro­ven­an­ce within the archi­tec­tu­re of the archi­ve. The MIDA data­ba­se trans­forms this cate­go­riza­ti­on accor­ding to the prin­ci­ple of per­ti­nence by extra­c­ting such sources and orde­ring them the­ma­ti­cal­ly, with India as the focus.[4]

One of the objec­ti­ves of the pro­cess of pro­du­cing the data­ba­se, has been to simul­ta­neous­ly mir­ror the archi­tec­tu­re of the archi­ve con­cer­ned and none­thel­ess show­ca­se the India-spe­ci­fic sources. How can this be done effec­tively so that the data­ba­se allows users to view the sources as they exist in the con­text in which they are embedded in the archi­val struc­tu­re while simul­ta­neous­ly inser­ting them in a new sys­te­ma­tic? This requi­res pro­bing into the struc­tu­re of the data­ba­se and how the coll­ec­tions are effec­tively lis­ted in it.

The data­ba­se, who­se struc­tu­re beca­me the gui­ding tool-kit for the stu­dents of the semi­nar while sys­te­ma­tiz­ing infor­ma­ti­on from the Heid­richs’ coll­ec­tions, com­pri­ses three dif­fe­rent levels of descrip­ti­on– The ‘Archi­ve’ field (Archiv), the ‘Hol­dings’ field (Archiv Bestand) and the ‘Files’ field (Archi­va­li­en). In the case of the Heid­rich coll­ec­tions, the­re are two hol­dings descri­bed under the ‘Hol­dings’ field i.e. Nach­lass Joa­chim Heid­rich and Nach­lass Petra Heid­rich. The ‘Files’ field lists each indi­vi­du­al file. The title of the file cor­re­sponds to the main title as lis­ted on the first sheet of each group of pages that were careful­ly pin­ned tog­e­ther by the coll­ec­tors. It is here that one often encoun­ters pho­to­co­pies of seve­ral docu­ments (num­e­rous files from Indi­an archi­ves) which were pla­ced tog­e­ther as one file by the coll­ec­tors. Thus, alt­hough an indi­vi­du­al file may in rea­li­ty cor­re­spond to seve­ral pho­to­co­pied files, the­se are none­thel­ess trea­ted as a sin­gu­lar enti­ty (Ein­heit) in order to sus­tain the orde­ring logic of the coll­ec­tors. For exam­p­le, Box 1.3 con­sists of a file (see figu­re 3), which is in fact a coll­ec­tion of vary­ing docu­ments that have been clip­ped tog­e­ther as a sin­gu­lar enti­ty. The file has sim­ply been titled as “Tele­gram (title ille­gi­ble)” in the MIDA data­ba­se ent­ry. In the column titled ‘Descrip­ti­on of Con­tents’ (Inhalts­be­schrei­bung [En]), howe­ver, one can see that the file con­sists of five dif­fe­rent sources viz.

  1. A Tele­gram com­men­ting on ano­ther docu­ment (not enti­re­ly legi­ble or comprehensible)
  2. A let­ter of M.N. Roy
  3. A news­pa­per artic­le titled: “Com­mu­nist Par­ty in India – New Pro­gram­me out­lined – M.N.Roy urges cap­tu­ring of the worker’s party.”
  4. A tele­gram from Shim­la by the India News Agen­cy on MN Roy’s speech
  5. A secret weekly report of the Direc­tor Intel­li­gence Bureau of the Home Depart­ment ana­ly­sing dif­fe­rent anti-Bri­tish move­ments in India and India-rela­ted for­eign move­ments of the same natu­re. The dif­fe­rent docu­ments seem to have been coll­ec­ted from dif­fe­rent sources all more or less rela­ted to com­mu­nism in India in gene­ral or M.N.Roy specifically.

Hence, in order to keep the orga­ni­zing order undis­tur­bed, the other­wi­se five dif­fe­rent sources have been trea­ted as a sin­gu­lar file in the data­ba­se but they are also lis­ted indi­vi­du­al­ly in the descrip­ti­on field to give the user a most detail­ed view into the con­tents. At the same time, the exact source of the file is also incor­po­ra­ted in the descrip­ti­on. The per­son making the ent­ry men­ti­ons that the file was copied by Joa­chim Heid­rich from the Home Depart­ment of the Natio­nal Archi­ves of India (NAI) bes­i­de the exact file num­ber as it appears in NAI’s cata­lo­gue. In this way, the ori­gi­nal source is also indi­ca­ted to a user while re-pla­cing the source in the new sys­te­ma­tic of the data­ba­se. In some cases, whe­re visi­ble in the form of offi­ci­al stamps of the archi­ves (Natio­nal Archi­ves of India or NMML), the date when the file was copied by the coll­ec­tors is also mentioned.

Figu­re 5: Snapshot of seven colum­ns from the Files Field (Archi­va­li­en) as seen in the FUD­da­ta­ba­se XL list. Source: Joa­chim Heid­rich Nach­lass, Box 1.3, Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner­Ori­ent Archi­ve, Berlin.

This post has attempt­ed to enga­ge users with the pro­cess of tra­cing, enlis­ting and index­ing sources rela­ted to India from a pri­va­te coll­ec­tion housed in the archi­ve of the Leib­niz­Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent, Ber­lin. In doing so it has poin­ted to some of the metho­do­lo­gi­cal con­side­ra­ti­ons invol­ved when such sources, belon­ging to a given archi­val archi­tec­tu­re, are extra­c­ted for being re-con­fi­gu­red on a digi­tal plat­form which has its own over­ar­ching struc­tu­re and orga­ni­sa­tio­nal logic. At the same time, it has shown how ent­an­gled archi­ves (bet­ween the GDR and India in this case) intert­wi­ne with, and also reflect, the ent­an­gled life tra­jec­to­ries of the coll­ec­ting his­to­ri­ans. The main objec­ti­ve of the post has thus been to trans­par­ent­ly share the ‘how’ of digi­tal cata­lo­guing as a pro­cess and the ques­ti­ons that ari­se when data is de– and re–configured in the midst of trans­forming orde­ring systematics.


[1] As an attempt to initia­te cri­ti­cal dis­cus­sions on this, a first step taken by the pro­ject is to orga­ni­ze a work­shop espe­ci­al­ly dedi­ca­ted to dis­cus­sing the rela­ti­onship bet­ween ent­an­gled his­to­ries and ent­an­gled archi­ves. See: the announce­ment of the project’s inter­na­tio­nal work­shop in Sep­tem­ber 2018 (Link to be added here).

[2] See for exam­p­le, Hecht, A. (ed.), “Ent­täusch­te Hoff­nun­gen: Auto­bio­gra­phi­sche Berich­te abge­wi­ckel­ter Wis­sen­schaft­ler aus dem Osten Deutsch­lands”, s.l.: Ver­lag am Park, 2008 and Idem, Die Wis­sen­schafts­eli­te Ost­deutsch­lands. Feind­li­che Über­nah­me oder Inte­gra­ti­on?, Leip­zig: Faber und Faber, 2002.

[3] Haf­ner, A., “Petra Heidrich’s rese­arch work in the con­text of the deve­lo­p­ment of South Asi­an Stu­dies at the ZMO (1992–2000)”, in: ZMO Working Papers, 1, 2010, pp. 1–7.

[4] For more reflec­tions on the Per­ti­nence and Pro­ven­an­ce prin­ci­ples see the Intro­duc­tion to the MIDA Archi­val Gui­de (See the Intro­duc­tion to the Online Archi­val Gui­de) and on the pro­cess of re-struc­tu­ring through data­ba­ses, also see, Baj­pai, A., Heymann, J. and Suski, T., “Tra­cing India in Ger­man Archi­ves: Ent­an­gled Pas­ts in the age of Digi­tal Huma­ni­ties”, in: South Asia Chro­nic­le, 6, pp. 289–314.


Baj­pai, A., Heymann, J. and Suski, T., “Tra­cing India in Ger­man Archi­ves: Ent­an­gled Pas­ts in the age of Digi­tal Huma­ni­ties”, in: South Asia Chro­nic­le, 6, pp. 289–314.

Haf­ner, A., „Petra Heidrich’s rese­arch work in the con­text of the deve­lo­p­ment of South Asi­an Stu­dies at the ZMO (1992–2000)”, in: ZMO Working Papers, 1, 2010, pp. 1–7.

Hecht, A., Die Wis­sen­schafts­eli­te Ost­deutsch­lands. Feind­li­che Über­nah­me oder
Inte­gra­ti­on?, Leip­zig: Faber und Faber, 2002.

Hecht, A. (ed.), „Ent­täusch­te Hoff­nun­gen: Auto­bio­gra­phi­sche Berich­te abge­wi­ckel­ter Wis­sen­schaft­ler aus dem Osten Deutsch­lands“, s.l.: Ver­lag am Park, 2008.

Anan­di­ta Baj­pai, IAAW, Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin, Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner Orient

MIDA Archi­val Refle­xi­con

Edi­tors: Anan­di­ta Baj­pai, Hei­ke Liebau
Lay­out: Mon­ja Hof­mann, Nico Putz
Host: ZMO, Kirch­weg 33, 14129 Ber­lin
Cont­act: archival.reflexicon [at]

ISSN 2628–5029