Moving from where, exactly?

The Department's location according to Google

Just where was the English Department before moving to the Jacob-Grimm-Haus? Google it, and you will find (among many not-all-that-relevant hits) two entries that look interesting: an entry in Arcinsys, the Archival Information System of Lower Saxony and Bremen, which notes that the English Department was in the "Winfridenhaus (Verbindungshaus) in Göttingen, Nikolausberger Weg 17", and a link to an ebook by Alfred Oberdiek: Göttinger Universitätsbauten: Die Baugeschichte der Georg-August-Universität (Göttingen 1989/2002). Oberdiek puts a little flesh on the bare bones of the Arcinsys entry by adding a photo (no. 150, p. 119). Today, Nikolausberger Weg 17 houses a division of the Law Faculty, the interdisciplinary Institut für Allgemeine Staatslehre und Politische Wissenschaften. The University Archive also owns a photo of the house, apparently taken from the back and dated 1938, but it looks rather different from today. Somehow the building appears rather small to have housed the English Department – at least when comparing it with its current size and location. So was that the Department's location in 1984?

Finding locations in 1984

Google makes it easy to retrieve information if it is available online. In 1984, ARPANET had just begun experimenting with TCP/IP, eventually paving the way for a widespread use of the internet - so how would students have found their professors' offices in 1984?

Today's UniVZ was yesterday's printed Vorlesungsverzeichnis, containing a list of the University's Faculties, their Institutes, members of staff, and of course the courses themselves. In the section "Mitteilungen für Studierende" of the Vorlesungsverzeichnis for the summer semester of 1984, chapter 4 details "Institute, Seminare, Medizin, Zentren, Betriebseinheiten", and here we find more information on the Department's location in 1984:


So the Department was in two houses at the same time – very strange, especially because the houses do not seem to have been located very close to one another, going by the numbers. The same Vorlesungsverzeichnis also contains a list of classrooms and their locations, together with the abbreviations used in the course listings.


Judging from this, the English Department was not located in two houses, but three ... and it gets even more confusing if the detailed streetplan contained in the Vorlesungsverzeichnis is consulted. The English Department has the number 62, shown on the corner of Nikolausberger Weg and Wilhelm-Weber-Straße - virtually a part of the University's Botanical Gardens. The house next door is number 18, then as now home to the Institute of Experimental Phycology.

MOVE_Plan 1984_klein

This is very clearly wrong. The correspondence address of the English Department was Nikolasuberger Weg 15 / 7b, but some of the classrooms were also in the neighbouring Nikolausberger Weg 7a. Going down the Nikolausberger Weg today, you pass no. 17, then no. 15 - where today's Department of Art History and the Arts Collection are located - , and the next building you see is the glass front of the University Library. It seems strange today, but Nikolausberger Weg was not further up the road, towards Nikolausberg proper, but where today's University Library is. In fact, the building was located behind and to the west of Nikolausberger Weg 15. The red square shows the English Department's buildings complex; number 29 indicates the Dean's Office of the Faculty of Agronomics, located in Nikolausberger Weg 7a:

MOVE_Lageplan Haus 1984

The whys and the wherefores

The reason for all this confusion partly lies in the University's growth in the 1950s to 1980s, and partly in the carelessness of the Vorlesungsverzeichnis's proofreader. At some point, although we have no proof when this happened, staff of the English Department moved one house down, from Nikolausberger Weg 17 to Nikolausberger Weg 15, and shared the building with the German Department, the Department of Ancient History and the Department of Medieval and Modern History. In around 1970, the number of staff members grew virtually exponentially: the Linguistics and American Studies divisions were established, bringing an influx of professors and assistants. Number 15 did not have enough office space, so another building was converted into office use: Nikolausberger Weg 7b. In the plan above, this is roughly right of number 29. In earlier days, Nikolausberger Weg 7b had housed stables for the animals of the Institute of Animal Physiology, and former students remember that there was a stablish smell pervading the building. After the English Department had vacated Nikolausberger Weg 7b, the building was pulled down to make way for the new University Library building opened in 1993. No traces remain, and no photos seem to exist. The misleading streetplan entry seems to be based on a mistake on the printer's, or perhaps the proofreader's part. Comparing the streetplan entries between 1977 and 1984, it quickly becomes apparent that the 62 denoting the English Department moved across the street:
1974 MOVE_Plan 1974 1977 MOVE_Plan 1977
1982 MOVE_Plan 1982 1984 MOVE_Plan 1984
Between 1982 and 1983, then, someone seems to have believed that the Department number 62 was very clearly not located in the middle of the Nikolausberger Weg, but that the number must refer to a house inside the Botanical Gardens – no matter whether this made sense (or tallied with the address entry) at all.

And so ...?

MOVE_Move Niko-KHW

The address snippet above seems to imply that there was a clear-cut distribution of divisions, their members of staff and areas of research into the two houses: number 7b contained the Medieval Studies and Linguistics division whereas number 15 had room for everyone else - the literature divisions, the lectors and the library. No list of rooms and their inhabitants has survived, but the Department's former librarian Herr Herrgen remembers that it was not as neat as all that: Lectors had offices in both houses, and the library also was divided into diffferent rooms, with a courtyard in-between. The move to Käte-Hamburger-Weg 3 was a chance of drawing all of them together to shape the divisions and 'houses' into one whole Department.