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Heiko Muehr: “Mapping German Americans and Their Communities"

  • Thursday, June 20, 2024
  • 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
  • Zoom

Sponsored in partnership with California, Chicago, New York, Philip Lee Phillips, Rocky Mountain, and Texas Map Societies.

Location: Zoom

Time:  7:00 pm ET/6:00 pm CT/5:00 pm MT/4:00 pm PT

Title: Mapping German Americans and Their Communities: Heinz Kloss and His 1974 Ethnographic Atlas

Speaker:  Heiko Mühr, Map Metadata & Curatorial Specialist, Earth Sciences & Map Library, University of California Berkeley

Summary: Heinz Kloss’s Atlas of 19th and Early 20th Century German-American Settlements, published in Marburg, Germany, in a bilingual German-English edition, is an impressive achievement of data visualization. The massive atlas contains 108 leaves of plates, chiefly folded maps, and presents statistical information compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, various church bodies, and German American social organizations.

Kloss analyzed the distributions of key groups within the conservative church Germans and liberal club Germans’ milieus and thus documented the diversity of the German diaspora in the United States with thematic maps. This generated some interest among geographers; Karl Raitz, in “Ethnic Maps of North America” (1978), viewed the atlas “as a research tool for the study of linguistic assimilation.”

However, the atlas also reflects the author’s intellectual roots in the problematic Volksgeschichte tradition, which produced a social history that privileged ethnocentric historical narratives. Archival research at the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg in 2022 showed that many of these maps were originally produced in the late 1930s and early 1940s when Kloss served as head of two research institutes, the Arbeitsstelle für Volksforschung and the Publikationsstelle Hamburg-Stuttgart. Both were administratively subordinated to Nazi state institutions.

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