Looking back at the fourth alumni meeting of the Duke Ernst Fellowship Program 2019

The world as a guest in Gotha:

From June 13 to 15, 2019, the 4th alumni meeting of the Herzog-Ernst-Scholarship-Program (HES) took place at the Gotha Research Centre of the University of Erfurt. All scholarship holders who have worked on the Gotha holdings since the programme began 15 years ago were invited.

The alumni themselves illustrated the international and diverse character of the ever-growing Gotha Research Campus: they had come from Egypt, Ethiopia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

Flyer for the alumni meeting
Program flyer of the conference

Science, ...

The meeting was framed by an international conference on "Ulrich Jasper Seetzen's Journey to the Near East. New Approaches to Travel Research". The conference was organized by Dr. Natalia Bachour, Prof. Dr. Iris Schröder and PD Dr. Julia Schmidt-Funke.

On June 13, 1802, the naturalist and Orient traveler Seetzen set out on a voyage of discovery to the Orient with the goal of crossing North Africa from east to west. Duke Ernst II of Gotha commissioned Seetzen to purchase manuscripts and other objects for the Gotha collection during his journey. The conference opened up new perspectives on Seetzen's travels, shed light on various aspects of the material he left behind, and launched new approaches to his research.

Picture of the lecture hall
The Seetzen Conference. Photo: Gotha Research Centre

... Ceremony ...

On Friday afternoon, the 15th anniversary of the Herzog Ernst Scholarship Programme was celebrated with a ceremony. After the welcome by Prof. Dr. Martin Mulsow (Director of the Research Centre) and Prof. Dr. Iris Schröder (Vice Director), the representatives of the institutions involved in the fellowship program as well as personalities from politics, culture and science associated with Gotha as a research location held welcoming speeches: Prof. Dr. Walter Bauer-Wabnegg (President of the University of Erfurt), Knut Kreuch (Mayor of the City of Gotha), Dr. Kathrin Paasch (Director of the Gotha Research Library) and Dr. Tobias Pfeifer-Helke (Director of the Friedenstein Castle Gotha Foundation). Afterwards, Dr. Miriam Rieger, Chairwoman of the Friends of the Gotha Research Library e. V. and a Herzog-Ernst scholarship holder from the very beginning, gave an interesting review of the past 15 years in which the programme has flourished. Since then, a total of around 300 scholars have been able to conduct research on the Gotha holdings with scholarships.

f. l. t. r. Miriam Rieger, Walter Bauer-Wabnegg, Julia Schmidt-Funke. Photo: Lutz Ebhardt
f. l. t. r. Miriam Rieger, Walter Bauer-Wabnegg, Julia Schmidt-Funke. Photo: Lutz Ebhardt

... and the conclusion of a successful meeting

In his public evening lecture "Comparatively on the Road. Reiseberichte als globalgeschichtliche Quellen" (Travelogues as Global Historical Sources), Prof. Dr. Michael Harbsmeier (Copenhagen) once again drew a bow to travel research in a global context, the scientific topic of the alumni meeting. Friday ended in a convivial atmosphere with the Research Centre's summer party, with Music and drinks on the grill, before the third day of the conference on Saturday concluded the lively alumni meeting in the heart of Gotha. The Research Center says thank you for a productive conference and a successful meeting!

Prof. Dr. Michael Harbsmeier. Photo: Lutz Ebhardt
Prof. Dr. Michael Harbsmeier. Photo: Lutz Ebhardt

Photos: Lutz Ebhardt

A look into the future

The Ernst Abbe Foundation Jena will support the Gotha research facilities of the University of Erfurt with 100,000 euros annually over the next five years. University President Prof. Dr. Walter Bauer-Wabnegg and Rolf Ferdinand Schmalbrock, managing director of the foundation, have signed a cooperation agreement to this effect. The focus is on continuing and expanding the Herzog Ernst Scholarship Program, but the strategic partnership aims for more.

"Our joint approach is to develop Gotha into an effective meeting place with international appeal and broad social acceptance," Schmalbrock explained at the signing ceremony. "The Ernst Abbe Foundation wants to help shape this process in terms of both content and organization. For this reason, we will not only provide financial support to the Gotha institutions of the University of Erfurt from 2020 onwards, but also advise them on the development of promising models that will secure the funding of their goals in the long term." The Research Centre is looking forward to working with the Ernst Abbe Foundation - and to welcoming many more Herzog Ernst scholarship holders to the Gotha Research Campus in the years to come!

Feedback on the alumni meeting

Dr. Wolbert G. C. Smidt (Mekelle/Gotha):

The Seetzen meeting was one of the most intellectually and also factually-empirically productive alumni meetings I have ever experienced: The diversity of perspectives brought together in the context of one theme allowed precisely for the strong fertilization of new debates and the promotion of new ideas that we have been discussing at the Research Center for some time. These include a new perspective on the different approaches to research in the early 19th century, the dense new field research methods of the time, and the theme of knowledge and collaboration between African research partners, local dignitaries and traditional scholars, so important for our international partnership between Ethiopia and Gotha, for the knowledge about Africa brought to Europe by European researchers.