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Posts Tagged ‘Gestalt psychology’

contributed by Emily Gainer and Anthony Greenaway.

The Wertheimer Family Papers are now open to researchers! The papers, consisting of 141 boxes, document the life and work of Max Wertheimer and his son, Michael.  The papers include correspondence, research files, academic files, written works, family materials, and photographs.

Max Wertheimer (1880-1943) first studied psychology at the Friedrich-Wilhelm University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wurzburg in 1904. Max began his career as a faculty member at the University of Frankfurt. He was a lecturer at the Psychological Institute at the University of Berlin from 1916 to 1929, before returning to Frankfurt as a full professor until 1933. Along with Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt Koffka, Wertheimer established Gestalt psychology, challenging common analytic approaches to the study of experience. Fleeing Germany shortly before the Nazis came to power, Max and his family immigrated to the United States in 1933. He taught at the New School for Social Research in New York from 1933 until his death in 1943.

Max Wertheimer, undated. (Box M6695, Folder 16)

Max Wertheimer with cat, 1934-1935. (Box M6695, Folder 1)

Michael Wertheimer (1927- ) received a B.A. in psychology from Swarthmore College in 1947, a M.A. in psychology from The Johns Hopkins University in 1949, and a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard University in 1952. Michael has held the position of Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado since 1993, where he first became a professor in 1961. His work centered on the areas of cognition, perception, psycholinguistics, and the history of psychology.

Michael Wertheimer, 1976. (Box M6781, Folder 11)

Michael Wertheimer, 1977. (Box M6781, Folder 11)

The papers are organized into two series: Max Wertheimer papers and Michael Wertheimer papers. They are further organized into subseries within. The papers not only document the professional work of Max and Michael, they also provide information about the personal and family lives of the Wertheimers. Researchers can find information about their experience fleeing Germany and immigrating to the United States.

Materials from other family members are also included in the collection, including Max’s parents, brother, and children. Of special note are the boxes of Anni (Wertheimer) Hornbostel’s correspondence, dating from the 1920s through the 1980s.

Anni Wertheimer Hornbostel playing the violin, 1924. (Box M6695, Folder 6)

Of special interest is Max’s correspondence, which is arranged alphabetically by last name. Correspondents include Albert Einstein, Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Kohler, and Kurt Lewin. Researchers should note that a majority of Max’s material is written in German. A small portion of materials in Michael’s materials are in German. Correspondence to Anni is mainly in German.

Max Wertheimer lecturing in Frankfurt, 1929-1930. (Box M6695, Folder 10)

The collection was donated to the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology by Michael Wertheimer. During processing, materials were identified as originating with Max or Michael; however there may be overlap between the two.

Researchers can view the Wertheimer Family papers finding aid for the full collection description.  Hundreds of photographs and three scrapbooks from the papers have been digitized and are available online.  Contact the CCHP reference archivist for access to the papers.

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-contributed by Emily Gainer & Nicole Merzweiler.

During the past 11 months, we’ve started a large but important undertaking.  I am processing the Wertheimer Family papers!  The papers are a treasure trove of documents, photographs, scrapbooks, diaries, and correspondence from one of the giants in the history of psychology.  When complete, the papers will include the Max Wertheimer papers and the Michael Wertheimer papers. Max Wertheimer (1880-1943), an Austro-Hungarian psychologist, was one of the founders and leaders of the school of Gestalt psychology. His son, Michael, is a psychologist and historian of psychology at the University of Colorado.

Today, we want to announce the digitization and preservation of three scrapbooks from the Wertheimer Family papers. For this project, I had invaluable assistance from Nicole Merzweiler, a student in the Library and Information Science program at Kent State University.

The first, and smallest, scrapbook includes photographs of Wilhelm and Rosa Wertheimer (Max’s parents) as well as Max as a young man. The date range for photographs in this scrapbook is 1891-1929.

The second scrapbook includes photographs of Max Wertheimer, Anni Wertheimer, and their children, dating between 1915-1930.

The third scrapbook includes Max Wertheimer’s family photographs as well as some colleagues and friends.  The only dates included in the scrapbook are 1932 and 1933, though the range seems to be greater.

Smallest and earliest scrapbook from the Wertheimer Family papers.

Largest and latest scrapbook from the Wertheimer Family papers.

The scrapbooks each contained loose photographs, which were also digitized. These photographs were housed in acid-free folders and stored with the scrapbook in archival boxes.

Preserving and making these scrapbooks available online was a lengthy process.  It began with identifying the contents of each scrapbook and rehousing them in appropriately sized archival boxes.  Then, each scrapbook was added to the finding aid.  Next, each page of each scrapbook was carefully digitized in accordance with archival standards.  Then the digital files were prepared for uploading to the CONTENTdm, the Cummings Center’s online database.  Nicole created metadata for each scrapbook, including names, dates, and locations identified in each book.

Nicole scans the earliest scrapbook.

Finally, each page in each scrapbook is encapsulated using archival Mylar plastic.  For a full explanation of encapsulation, see Encapsulation Capers (written by a CCHP intern).  Nicole followed these same procedures to preserve and protect the scrapbooks.

Nicole encapsulated each page of the Wertheimer scrapbook.

Encapsulating the scrapbook pages maintains the historical context while also preserving the photographs.

You can view a digital copy of the three scrapbooks through the CCHP Still Images database.  The Wertheimer Family papers included additional photographs, which are also being digitized and added to the database.  Processing the Wertheimer Family papers continues and is scheduled for completion by June 1.  Watch for an announcement with more details when it is available to researchers!

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contributed by Nicole Merzweiler.

The start of summer has filled me with a mix of excitement for the break, and dread of my senior year, which begins in the fall. I was comforted though, when I found these two books, and I was reminded that even famous psychologists had to begin at “the bottom” as a student. I found my choices while I was finishing up on the digitization of the Professor Robert H. Wozniak Collection of Books on the History of Psychology. After the recent CCHP Board of Directors meeting, Professor Wozniak suggested that I add some of the interesting signatures and bookplates in the collection. During this process, I came across a bookplate that caught my eye from Kurt Koffka.

Bookplate

The bookplate was inside two unpublished carbon copy notes on lectures given by Carl Stumpf at the University of Berlin; the first Psychologie Winter Semester 1906/1907 and the second Logik & Erkenntnis Sommer Semester 1907.

Title page 1

Title page 2

The notes belonged to Kurt Koffka and were taken from a class in psychology and the second in logic and epistemology. Both sets of bound notes include not only his bookplate, but hand corrections made by Koffka. Among other things, he added page numbers to the table of contents.

Table of contents

Koffka went on to become one of the cofounders of Gestalt psychology along with Wolfgang Köhler and Max Wertheimer, who all studied at the University of Berlin. Koffka finished his PhD in 1909, completing his thesis under Stumpf’s guidance. Gestalt psychology,a school of thought focused on perception, emphasizes the idea that people see the whole of something independently of its individual parts. These ideas have changed the way perception is viewed, and it is very exciting to get to see the beginning of that through Koffka’s class notes.

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