Exhibition Workshop: Found! Letters! with Deborah Jaffé

Wednesday 26th April 2023


This event is organised as part of the Holocaust Letters exhibition events series.

When Deborah Jaffé was clearing her parents’ flat she found a pile of damp and mouldy letters and papers. The 200 letters were written in German by her father in Berlin and dated between 1937-39. Many were carbon copies of letters he had typed on the typewriter he had given her. There were replies too, as well as telegrams, birth certificates, a passport, school reports, job references, train tickets and numerous application forms for emigration.   Despite her almost non-existent German, she realised they were important and a young man’s attempts to get out. This has now gone from being a pile of 200 letters to an archive with its own biography.

In this workshop Deborah will discuss the practicalities of conserving and archiving found letters and papers. She will look at how the material is handled including: conservation, scanning, translation, storage, cataloguing, dealing with the content, the intended readership, communication, typewriters and carbon copies, handwriting, and discoveries made. Ephemera like train tickets, as well as envelopes, letter headings, telegrams and details in photographs are all relevant to the narrative in letters, especially within the context of the political climate.

Using addresses on the letters and envelopes, it has been possible to map the places where the family had lived around Germany. Deborah will describe how this enabled her to make installations using material in the archive that related to people, in places where they had been born, lived, and worked. Using this archive and the resources of numerous organizations’, Deborah has been able to discover more about those she knew and the fates of other family members she had not been told about. This is very different to the story she had been told about the getting out.

Book here (Tickets available from Wednesday 1st March 2023)