Universität Bonn

Institute for Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology

Atlas of German Folklore

ADV - Atlas der Deutschen Volkskunde (Atlas of German Folklore)

Accessing the Archive

A regular and timely handling of requests concerning the Atlas of German Folklore is currently only possible to a very limited extent due to the current staffing structure at the Department of Cultural Analysis and Cultural Anthropology.

For research requests please contact Victoria Huszka (see right hand side).

Research can only be conducted if the presence of a department staff member can be ensured and there has been prior agreement has been made with the staff at the following e-mail address: BibKA@uni-bonn.de.


Avatar Huszka

Dr. Victoria Huszka

Raum 3.001 / III. OG

Am Hofgarten 22

53113 Bonn

The Atlas of German Folklore („Atlas der Deutschen Volkskunde“; referred to as „ADV“ in the following) is the biggest humanities long-term-project that the German Research Association funded in the 20th century. The respective persons responsible for the project and their coworkers documented statements about „folk culture“ between 1928 and 1984 with a total of eight questionnaries, evaluated them and made their geographic distributions visible through cartography. The aim of this folk studies project lay in defining cultural spaces („Kulturräume“) and their boders. In the interwar period, this project extended throughout the German empire in its borders from 1920, including Austria and the german-speaking territories of what was then Czechoslovakia („sudeten germans“ territories).

Towards the end of the 19th century, linguistic projects using cartography for studying the spread of dialects emerged in Western Europe, attempting to define a static link between „peoples“ („Volk“), space and language. Subsequently the demand for a „great German folklore“ (Peßler 1931:3) was voiced and, starting from the impulses of dialect studies and the theory of cultural currents („Kulturströmungen“), the Bonn School for Cultural Spaces Research was founded. Proceeding this, the interdisciplinary Institute of historic geography of the Rhineland was founded at the University of Bonn. 

Strongly influenced by these developments and based on planned research projects of the Verband deutscher Vereine für Volkskunde (Federation of German Associ-ations for Folklore), the Notgemeinschaft established the central office of the ADV as a „large-scale, spatially oriented data collection of [German] folk culture“ (Wiegelmann & Cotter 1968: 189) in the Berlin Palace in 1928. In addition, 35 regional offices were created in the survey regions, from where the questionnaires of the first five surveys were sent to a total of 20,000 school locations between 1929 and 1935. The aforementioned questionnaires consist of 243 sets of questions with numerous sub-questions. The staff of the central office, with the support of the guarantors in the school locations, collected data on social life and everyday life, rural work, customs and traditions, festivals and rituals, food and religious beliefs, among other things. The originals of the answers were sent to Berlin, the carbon copies to the respective regional offices. Here, the dispatch of the questionnaires and the sending in of the reply cards was administered in a decentralized manner, and contact was maintained with guarantors.

Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Abteilung Empirischie Kulturwissenschaft und Kulturanthropologie

ADV 3.jpg
© Abteilung Empirische Kulturwissenschaft und Kulturanthropologie

From the 1930s onward, the evaluation of the answers was carried out by creating cartographic maps, and between 1937 and 1939, the first results were published. The step from a national to a nationalistic scientific current does not seem very far under the following circumstances: After the Gleichschaltung (enforced conformity) between 1933 and 1934 by the Nazi dictatorship – to be read off from certain question complexes – the project was taken over by the SS-Ahnenerbe (Department of Ancestral Heritage of the so-called Protection Squadron) in 1938.

Due to the developments of the Second World War, the Central Office was moved to Frankfurt am Main in 1939. After the war, starting in 1954, the DFG encouraged its reestablishment under the direction of Matthias Zender at the University of Bonn, as a result of which the entire archive mate-rial (including more than four million reply cards) was moved from Frankfurt to Bonn. Between 1965 and 1970, Zender had three more questionnaires ‚zur bäuerlichen Arbeitswelt um 1900‘ (on peasant life around 1900) sent out and analyzed. He himself published the results of these questionnaires, including the respective maps, as well as new series with examinations on the surveys of the interwar period. In 1984, the DFG stopped funding the ADV project, explaining that part of the collected data material remained unprocessed. Certainly, however, the tabooing of the subject „area“ within the „reformation of Volkskunde into a discipline of modern contemporary culture, accompanied by ideology-critical disputes“ (Schmoll 2009: 235) also played a role.

The history of the ADV is closely linked to the biography of Zender, who later became the director of the Volkskundliche Seminar (Department of Folklore; now Department of Cultural Analysis and Cultural Anthropology) at the University of Bonn. Even today, the ADV's central archive is located on the premises of the department.

  • Response cards from the main survey from 1929 to 1935 (approx. 4 million index cards)
  • Additional submissions to the main survey
  • Map material (annotated and uncommented)
  • Answers from the supplementary survey on "Rural life around 1900" from 1965 to 1970
  • Blank questionnaires with explanation sheets
  • Documents of the later director and former employee Prof Dr Matthias Zender in the rooms, including additional material
  • Documents relating to staff members and guarantors (not accessible)
  • The estate of Matthias Zender is located separately in the archive of the University of Bonn (enquiries to: archiv@uni-bonn.de)

Aubin, Hermann; Theodor Frings and Josef Müller (1926): Kulturströmungen und Kulturprovinzen in den Rheinlanden, Bonn: Röhrscheid.

Döring, Alois (o.J.): „Matthias Zender“, in: Internetportal Rheinische Geschichte, retrieved from: https://www.rheinische-geschichte.lvr.de/Persoenlichkeiten/matthias-zender/DE-2086/lido/57c827be1ab6f5.77104033, retrieved on 08/04/2022.

Groschwitz, Helmut (2014): „Rewriting Atlas der deutschen Volkskunde postcolonial“, in: Hoffmann, Beatrix and Steffen Mayer (eds.): Objekt, Bild und Performance. Repräsentationen ethnographischen Wissens (Berliner Blätter 67), Berlin: Panama-Verlag, pp. 29-40.

Mattheier, Klaus J. (1986): „Dialectologie und Kulturraumforschung. Bemerkungen zu den kultur-räumlichen Traditionen moderner Dialektsoziologie“, in: Brekle, Herbert and Utz Maas (eds.): Sprachwissenschaft und Volkskunde, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, pp. 103-107.

Peßler, Wilhelm (1931): Deutsche Volkstumsgeographie, Braunschweig, Berlin, Hamburg: G. Westermann.

Schmoll, Friedemann (2009): Die Vermessung der Kultur. Der Atlas der Volkskunde und die Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft 1928-1980 (Studien zur Geschichte der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft 5). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

Wiegelmann, Günter and Joan L. Cotter (1986): „The Atlas der deutschen Volkskunde and the Geographical Research Method“, in: Journal of the Folklore Institute 5/2-3, pp. 187-197.

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