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EMA – Virtual Erich Mendelsohn Archive

The EMA – Virtual Erich Mendelsohn Archive aims to examine, assess, and digitize the correspondence between the architect Erich Mendelsohn (1887–1953) and his wife Louise (1894–1980). While the letters of Erich Mendelsohn are preserved at the Kunstbibliothek (some 1410 original documents in all), the letters of Louise Mendelsohn are held at the Getty Research Institute (GRI) in Los Angeles, (1328 documents in all).

In cooperation with the GRI, all documents are being scanned in high resolution and digitally archived. The next step is an online collaboration, whereby transcripts of the original text are compiled, with formal editing of misspellings and errors. Comments and annotations strengthen the scholarly analysis of the texts. Digital reproductions of the original documents are published online, along with their transcripts, and an index of keywords is being compiled.

Erich Mendelsohn was a crucial figure in modern architecture in the first half of the 20th century. His famous Einstein Tower in Potsdam (1923), his buildings for branches of the Schocken department store in Stuttgart and Chemnitz (1926–1930), and his Columbushaus in Berlin all rank as seminal structures in the history of 20th-century architecture. The dramatic course his life took following his emigration in 1933 is a particularly remarkable example of the phenomenon of forced cultural transfer that coincided with the expulsion of large swathes of the cultural elite from Germany during the Third Reich.

The unique value of the collected correspondence to anyone interested in modern architecture and cultural history lies in the prolonged continuity of the exchange through two world wars and across more than four decades. The topics of the letters range from descriptions of everyday life and personal moods to discussions on architectural theory and thoughts on music and events in contemporary history. The documents capture and bring to life the twists of fate experienced by people and the art of an entire epoch.


Database: ema.smb.museum
Partners: The Getty Research Institute (GRI), Los Angeles
Scholarly team: Dr. Andreas Bienert, Generaldirektion, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; Elke Blauert, research associate, Kunstbibliothek; Prof. Dr. habil. Regina Stephan, Mainz University of Applied Sciences; Wim de Wit, GRI
Funded by: Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation
Duration: 2012 to 2014