Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut
Preussischer Kulturbesitz

Historical photo of textile machine

Dr. Gregor Wolff

Dr. Gregor Wolff

Ethnology and Amerindian Studies


+ 49 30 266 45 3100


+ 49 30 266 35 1550



1. Research Interests

  • Ethnohistory, ethnology, the economic and social history of the Andean region, the history of science, the Papers & Manuscripts collection of the Ibero-American Institute


2. Current Projects

A German Geographer in Chile. Formal and Scientific Indexing of Hans Steffen’s Papers (1865-1936)

Within the project’s framework, the posthumous papers of the German geographer Hans Steffen (1865-1936) will be formally and scientifically indexed. Steffen is first and foremost known for his research on West Patagonia in Chile. As scientific expert of the Chilean Boundary Commission he contributed, on behalf of the government, towards settling the dispute about the course of the boundary between Chile and Argentina by undertaking expeditions to the unexplored river basins of the West Patagonian cordillera (1893-1899). His findings influenced the verdict of the English arbitration tribunal on November 20th, 1902. Besides his expeditions, Steffen worked from 1889 to 1913 as teacher for geography and history at the Instituto Pedagógico in Santiago de Chile, which then was part of the University of Chile. Hans Steffen’s papers include numerous important documents on geographical and geological questions regarding the border region between Chile and Argentina, but also material about the ethnology of that region and the history of science. Steffen’s contribution to the institutionalization of geography in Chile as well as his role within the academic exchange between Germany and Chile are of great significance for national and international investigators.Duration: 2013-2018

Visual memory of Latin America. Indexing and Digitization of the Glass Plate Collection of the Ibero-American Institute

The glass plate collection of the Ibero-American Institute contains a portfolio of photographic documents of different types and origins from the period between about 1870 and 1940. It consists of over 9,300 images, including about 6,200 glass-negative-plates, 2,100 glass-sildes (some colored) and 1,000 large-format sheet film negatives. The collection includes images of expeditions and research topics of some of the most important German-speaking scientists in American Anthropology and Archaeology (Walter Lehmann, Teobert Maler Eduard Seler, Max Uhle), Ethnology (Paul Ehrenreich, William Kissenberth, Robert Lehmann-Nitsche) and Geography (Hans Steffen ) as well as images of regional and propagandistic depiction of Brazil (Guilherme Gaelzer-Neto). By indexing, cataloging and digitizing the glass plate collection of the IAI, the unique, partly unpublished photographic images concerning archaeological, ethnographic and regional issues of Latin America will be provided for the first time for the national and international scientific community.Duration: 2013-2018

Base Project “Mobile Objects” within DFG funded Cluster of Excellence “Image Knowlede Gestaltung. An Interdisciplinary Laboratory”. Section: “Digital Object Mobility. Recent Technologies and Transatlantic Exchange of Knowledge”

The section “Digital object mobility. Recent technologies and transatlantic exchange of knowledge” is coordinated by IAI and is a part of the base project „Mobile Objects“ within Image Knowlede Gestaltung. An Interdisciplinary Laboratory (2012-2017, Cluster of Excellence at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG / https://www.interdisciplinary-laboratory.hu-berlin.de/de/Mobile-Objekte) and investigates the effects of the digital shift on object practices, on the status of objects and the role of the „object manager” within institutional structures, as well as on the trans-institutional movements of objects. The circulation of objects between Germany and Latin America forms a particular emphasis within the section. On the basis of concrete case studies, we seek to analyze how spaces and formats of international cooperation are impacted by the digital shift. The project is hence embedded in the IAI’s research theme "Knowledge Production and Cultural Transfers: Latin America in Trans-regional Contexts". Photos and postcards of the Mapuche from the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century are the initial point to investigate questions surrounding object management, circulation, reception and research practices as well as translation and transformation.Duration: 2015-2017

Photographic Expeditions of Teobert Maler in Mexico during the 19th Century

Teobert Maler (1842-1917) is considered to be one of the most important research photographers of the 19th Century. No other person has ever discovered and documented as many unknown Maya ruins as he has. Even today, his photographs are an important witness for studies on the architecture and inscriptions of the Maya civilization. It was a number of decades later before many of the ruins that he had photographed, described and sketched were visited by researchers again. Frequently it was then discovered that the building had been damaged even more or had completely collapsed. For this reason, Maler's photos and sketches are also an extremely important and unique source of material for modern archeology. This explains the lasting scientific interest in their existence.The IAI possesses some 2,700 photographs, 7 manuscripts, 15 notebooks, 145 sketches or plans, about 230 pages of correspondence and 370 pages of loose sheets of notes. At the moment, there are a number of research projects being undertaken that build on the estate. However, this can only be partially included due to the fact that formal cataloguing and digitalization is still missing.The formal cataloguing, digitalization of the Maler pieces and their availability in the Digital Collections of the IAI will create excellent conditions for future research projects.Duration: 2017-07-01 – 2019-06-30


3. Publications

Monographs and Editions

  • Ed. Explorers and Entrepreneurs behind the Camera. Theo stories behind the pictures and the photographs from the Image Archive of the Ibero-American Institute

    Berlin: Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, 2015

  • Forscher und Unternehmer mit Kamera. Geschichten von Bildern und Fotografien aus der Fotothek des Ibero-Amerikanischen Instituts

    Berlin: Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut 2014

  • Max Uhle (1856-1944): evaluaciones de sus investigaciones y obras

    Lima: Fondo Editorial de la Pontifica Universidad Católica del Perú, 2010 (co-authored with Peter Kaulicke, Manuela Fischer, Peter Masson)

  • Die Berliner und Brandenburger Lateinamerikaforschung in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Personen und Institutionen (editor).

    Forschungsverbund Lateinamerika Berlin-Brandenburg, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Berlin, 2001.

  • Nachlässe in einer wissenschaftlichen Spezialbibliothek: Zur Nachlaßsammlung des Ibero-Amerikanischen Instituts (IAI) Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

    Hausarbeit zur Prüfung für den höheren Bibliotheksdienst, Fachhochschule Köln, Fachbereich Bibliotheks- und Informationswesen, Köln 1998.(Term paper for the examination for senior-level library service, University of Applied Sciences Cologne, 1998.)

  • Baumwolle: Eine Illusion von Fortschritt? Phasen der Einführung eines exportorientierten Baumwollanbaus in Piura, soziale und wirtschaftliche Folgen für die Region (1885-1930).

    Berlin: Wissenschaft & Technik Verlag, 1996.

  • Ein Zoologe und Botaniker scheitert an den Menschen: Johann Jakob von Tschudis Reiseberichte über Peru.

    Abhandlungen der Völkerkundlichen Arbeitsgemeinschaft, vol. 72. Nortorf, 1993.

Articles and contributions in books

  • Jean Laurent – Photographer to her Majesty the Queen (“Fotógrafo de S.M. la Reina“)

    In: Wolff, Gregor (Ed.): Explorers and Entrepreneurs behind the Camera. The stories behind the pictures and the photographs from the Image Archive of the Ibero-American Institute. Berlin: Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, 2015, S. 8-15

  • Adventurer with bike and camera: Sumner W. Matteson (1867-1920)

    In: Wolff, Gregor (Ed.): Explorers and Entrepreneurs behind the Camera. The stories behind the pictures and the photographs from the Image Archive of the Ibero-American Institute. Berlin: Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, 2015, S. 136-145. (co-authored with Anja Müller and Gudrun Schumacher)

  • "Das akustische Gedächtnis Lateinamerikas. Die Phonothek des Ibero-Amerikanischen Instituts und die Sammlung Egon Ludwig"

    In: Forum Musikbibliothek: Beiträge und Informationen aus der musikalischen Praxis. Berlin: Ortus Musikverlag, 1.2014 (35. Jahrg.): 17-22.

  • "Ethnologie Argentiniens und internationale Wissenszirkulation. Nachlass von Robert Lehmann-Nitsche, 1872-1938." (co-authored with Katrin Hoffmann)

    Jahrbuch der Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Vol. XLV/2007, Berlin 2008: 311-322.

  • "Legados y colecciones especiales del Instituto Ibero-Americano de Berlín."

    Anuario Americanista Europeo (Paris) 2 (2004): 199-221.

  • "Der Nachlass von Roberto Arlt im Ibero-Amerikanischen Institut" (co-authored with Friedhelm Schmidt-Welle).

    Hispanorama 103 (2004): 118-120.

  • "Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut."

    In Kulturschätze – verlagert und vermißt. Eine Bestandsaufnahme der Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz 60 Jahre nach Kriegsende, edited byKlaus Dieter Lehmann and Günther Schauerte, 84-85. Berlin: SPK, 2004 (Russ. Ausg. u. d. T.: Ibero-Amerikanskij Institut).

  • "Der späte Ruhm einer literarischen Ikone" (co-authored with Friedhelm Schmidt-Welle).

    Wirtschaft und Wissenschaft, 11. Jahrg. H. 3 (2003): 14-15. Essen.

  • "Der Nachlass Max Uhle im Ibero-Amerikanischen Institut Berlin."

    In Peru zur Jahrtausendwende: Kultur, Bildung, Sprache, Musik und Kirche; Beiträge eines Kolloquiums anlässlich des 100. Geburtstags von Maria Reiche vom 14.-15. Mai 2003 in DresdenBorn, edited by Joachim, 215-225. TU - Dresden.

  • "Der Nachlass August Weberbauer im Ibero-Amerikanischen Institut."

    Jahrbuch der Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, vol. XXXVII/2001, Berlin 2002: 339-343.

  • "Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut: DFG ermöglicht den Ankauf eines wertvollen Nachlasses."

    Bibliotheksdienst, 35 (2001), 1: 84-85.

  • "Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut - Nachlass August Weberbauer Erworben."

    ZfBB, 48 (2001), 2: 162.

  • El legado de Roberto Arlt en el Instituto Ibero-Americano."

    In: Anuario Americanista Europeo 4-5 (2006/07): 361-371. (With Friedhelm Schmidt-Welle)


4. Curriculum Vitae

Since 04/ 2014

Associated Member of the Cluster of Excellence "Image Knowledge Gestaltung. An Interdisciplinary Laboratory", Humboldt Universität Berlin, funded by the DFG


Director of the Department Special Collections at the Ibero-American Institute (Art Prints and Illustrations Collection, Audio Library , Collection from Corporate Bodies, Film Colecction, Image Archive, Map Collection, Newspaper Clippings Collection , Papers and Manuskripts, Poster Collection), specialist for Amerindian studies, country specialist for Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador (senior library officer)

1997 - 1999

Training program for senior-level service at research libraries.


Received Ph.D. in Amerindian studies from the Latin American Institute of the Free University of Berlin

1993 - 1995

Collaborated on the Proyecto-Franco-Aleman (CNRS/DFG): Contribución a la elaboración de una historia regional del extremo norte del Peru (Contribution to elaborate a regional history of the extreme north of Peru)

1990 - 1993

Tutor for Amerindian studies at the Latin American Institute FU Berlin


Studied anthropology, ethnology and modern history the Free University of Berlin.

2017 || Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut Preussischer Kulturbesitz