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Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut
Preussischer Kulturbesitz

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

Duration15.01.2013 - 31.12.2013
CoordinationDr. Gregor Wolff


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1. Co-applicant


2. Project Group


IAI staff

  • Stefan Schmidt   
  • Gudrun Schumacher   


3. Short description

Point of departure


The Ibero-American Institute possesses the posthumous papers of the German geographer Hans Steffen (1865-1936). 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 ininclude 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. There are currently already various research projects working with Steffen’s papers. However up to now they can use them only partially, because their formal indexing is still outstanding.


The objective of the project is to provide scholars access to the mostly unpublished documents of Hans Steffen unavailable anywhere else through the formal indexing and scholarly editing of his papers and the digitalization of the collection of images and photographs. All of the materials are to be viewed, classified and cataloged for this purpose on basis of the Cataloging Rules for Indexing Personal Papers, Manuscripts and Autographs (RNA, Regeln zur Erschliessung von Nachlässen und Autographen) and transferred to a repository for optimum conservation. The indexed data and digitalized content will be made available online during the course of the project. Upon completion of the project, the information will also be published on the Europeana portal, the Portal for Libraries, Archives and Museums (BAM, Portal für Bibliotheken, Archive und Museen) and other portals.

Task Schedule

The project has a time frame of twelve months to formally index Hans Steffen’s papers. Indexing is to be carried by organizing selections of work according to theme or chronology. Manuscripts and journals are to be indexed separately. The historical writings and image materials are to be digitalized in a parallel step. The results of the indexing are to be presented in an exhibit and in publications.

Expected Results

This is the first time that Hans Steffen’s important papers are to be indexed for scholarly research. This will make the information and contents of the papers available to national and international scholars and searchable via a number of different portals. The most important sections of these papers and manuscripts will be available online in digital form.


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