We are the DDB: Institute for Saxon History and Folklore in Dresden

The Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde (ISGV) was founded in 1997 by a resolution of the Sächsischen Landtags (Saxon State Parliament). As a research institute representing the disciplines of folklore/cultural anthropology and regional history, it has the task of exploring Saxon history in its historical spaces as well as from a cultural-scientific perspective, the everyday living environments, also in the relationship between regional confinement and cultural exchange, in each case up to the present day, and to advance the development and documentation of the relevant sources.

Außenansicht auf das Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde in Dresden, Bildnachweis: Michael Schmidt / Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde
External view of the Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde in Dresden, photo credit: Michael Schmidt / Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde

By means of the classical forms of mediation publications, conferences, and lectures, but also with digital offers such as the Sächsische Biografie (Saxon biography), the Lebensgeschichtliches Archiv für Sachsen (Life History Archive for Saxony), the Digitales Bildarchiv (Digital Image Archive) or the Historisches Ortsverzeichnis (Historical Place Register), the Institute provides material and results of its activities for use. These offers are aimed at both specialist scientists and interested laymen. 

The Freistaat Sachsen (Free State of Saxony) can look back on a long history of ethnological and cultural anthropological research institutions, in whose tradition the ISGV stands. These predecessor institutions result in a large inventory of estatesimage sources as well as work and research documents relevant to scientific history, the development and digitization of which ISGV has been intensifying its efforts to make available as a scientific infrastructure for a long time.

Postkarte mit der Abbildung einer tätowierten Frau, der Künstlerin Artoria Gibbons, um 1920, Bildnachweis: Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde, Bildarchiv, BSNR 139282
Postcard with the image of a tattooed woman, the artist Artoria Gibbons, around 1920, photo credit: Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde, Image Archive, BSNR 139282

This material, which is important for the scientific-cultural heritage as well as the scientific history of folklore, includes the survey of the so-called Volkskundliche Landesaufnahme des Gaues Sachsenfolklore (survey of the Gaues Saxony) from the mid-1930s. Surveys are among the standard methods of folklore/cultural anthropology. The development of the subject since the end of the 19th century is closely linked to the development of this empirical instrument: so-called guarantors (such as teachers and pastors) provided science with information about the everyday and living worlds of the general population.

One of the largest surveys between 1929 and 1935 was the „Atlas der deutschen Volkskunde“ (“Atlas of German Folklore”). Thousands of individual questions about the folk cultural tradition were sent to about 20,000 guarantors. A similar action was carried out between 1934 and 1937 by the Landesstelle für Volksforschung und Volkstumspflege des Gaues Sachsen (State Office for Folk Research and Folk Studies of the Gaues Saxony) in the National Socialist Teachers' Association: die Volkskundliche Landesaufnahme (the Folklore Survey). Through a network of about 2,500 volunteers – especially teachers – everyday cultural phenomena such as customs in the life and annual cycle were recorded in hundreds of places. The results are either listed in bullet points or integrated into narrative texts. The aim of the company was to collect and document cultural data as well as – in the contemporary style of Nazi ideology – to raise awareness of regional identity, belonging and “tradition” – beyond all modernization tendencies. Teachers should also use the material in their school work.

Cover of the summary of Christmas customs in the district of Glauchau (ISGV, Volkskundliche Landesaufnahme) (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The ISGV keeps the handwritten and machine-written surveys. The inventory (more than 25,000 pages) is organized by circles and records local customs, e.g. at birth and deathin the spring and at Christmas. The documents are completed by maps and about 80 brochures, which summarize the surveys according to circles. The stock is proven and developed in the Portal Kalliope (Kalliope portal).

The material is of high scientific-historical relevance and offers the opportunity to make ideologically motivated assumptions transparent as well as to analyze the mechanisms of the NS-„Volkstumsideologie“ (Nazi“popular ideology”) and its transfer into social discourses.

The detailed reply letters form a meaningful basis for numerous everyday cultural questions. In addition, ahistorical processes can be traced in the sense of the concept of Invented Traditions: NS influences are evaluated as tradition-rich tradition. The orientation to the survey methods of the "Atlas" suggests that surveys have also been carried out elsewhere, for which the IGSV documents provide a basis for comparison. 

Due to its comparability to modern forms of scientific work, the material provides a variety of points of reference, such as concepts of citizen science, and is particularly instructive for the negotiation processes and mediation functions of teachers as cultural brokers between "science" and "people".

The project was financed with funds from the programme Neustart Kultur (New Start Culture) of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM).

Karteikästen im Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde, Bildnachweis: Michael Schmidt / Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde
Index boxes at the Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde, photo credit: Michael Schmidt / Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde

The Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde  has also curated two virtual exhibitions on the topics of faith | collecting small devotional images in the estate of Adolf Spamers and knowledge | creating 25 years of scientific work at the Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde.

You can find the holdings of the National Socialist Teachers' Association's regional folklore photographs here

All objects of the Institute of Saxon History and Folklore