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Reading Sütterlin made easy

The transcription workshop teaches interested people how to read old German typefaces. Adepts can support the scientific work at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.

Two parallel lines connected by a diagonal line with hooks. At first glance, the "e" written in Sütterlin can hardly be distinguished from the "n". On closer inspection, however, it is noticeable that the three lines of the "e" appear more compressed and that a hook is placed at the top instead of at the bottom. The project manager Sandra Miehlbradt points out this subtlety to the participants of the transcription workshop.

"Writing the letters makes reading easier," says the archivist. Miehlbradt teaches ten people how to write the letters, whether master students, collection staff or postcard dealers. In the weekly transcription workshop, participants learn to write and read the Old German scripts of Sütterlin and Kurrent. The next step is to transfer entire documents into modern writing.

The participants in the workshop first work with ministerial correspondence written in calligraphy. This makes it easier to get started. Each document must be transcribed by three people in order to avoid translation errors. Work is done with a laptop and cloud - so that students can continue practicing outside the course.

An estimated 40,000 files from the 19th and 20th centuries, which are kept in the Historical Division, are written in Old German handwritings. "In the future, we want to integrate in-house historical research into the transcription workshop even more," says Miehlbradt. By cooperating with projects in the selection of documents, the participants are integrated into the scientific work and contribute to it themselves.

The transcription workshop takes place on Wednesdays in the experimental field.