Archives Spotlight: The Ida Seele Archive (Dillingen/Donau, Germany)

‘Froebelian Work Schools’ circa 1930. (Wikimedia: Manfi.B. CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Ida Seele Archive in Dillingen an der Donau in southern Germany was founded in 1993 and has been developed ever since as an incomparable archive of Froebelian education. A private, volunteer-run archive, it was founded and compiled by a coalition of individuals and organizations representing many facets of social, educational and care work with children. One major contributor to the archive project is Archive Director Manfred Berger, who has authored many biographical articles about women in the history of the Kindergarten as well as a recent book-length history of the Kindergarten (Geschichte des Kindergartens: Von den ersten vorschulischen Einrichtungen des 18. Jahrhunderts bis zur Kindertagesstätte im 21. Jahrhundert, published by Brandes & Apfel in 2016).

As a private institution, the archive is able to open to researchers only on a very limited basis, but those who are lucky enough to visit it will find a wide range of materials related to the history of early childhood education and care, children’s and youth literature, pedagogy, sociology, women’s movements, and Jewish welfare organizations. It includes dossiers about more than 1000 women and 67 men in the German Kindergarten movement. In addition, the archive includes specialist texts, university theses and dissertations, brochures, essays, scripts, specialist journals, correspondence, diaries, and historical books as primary sources. The archive’s photographic collection includes approximately 5000 images.

The archive is named for Ida Seele-Vogeler (1825-1901), or, as she was known in her lifetime, ‘Froebel’s Ida’. As Berger’s biography of her describes, Seele happened to come across a newspaper article in which Froebel called for young German women to be trained as Kindergartners, and decided soon after (and against her parents’ will) to go to Keilhau, where she began her training under Froebel in the spring of 1843. Upon the completion of her training, Froebel appointed her head of his first (Bad) Blankenburg Kindergarten. She later joined and/or founded a number of other Kindergartens and training institutions in southern Germany, all in an effort to propagate Froebel’s teachings.

To learn more about the Ida Seele Archive and to look at more sample images from and of its collections, see its Wikipedia entry.