Editor’s Note: The Museum welcomed its inaugural Prins Fellow, Dr. Tim Corbett, at the start of January. The Museum is able to offer this fellowship opportunity to emigrating scholars, artists, museum professionals, and researchers through a grant from The Vivian G. Prins Foundation. The grant is in honor of Bronia Brandman, a survivor of Auschwitz and one of the Museum’s earliest and most steadfast volunteers. We asked Dr. Corbett a few questions about his work and his interests.
MJH: Congratulations on being the Museum’s inaugural Prins Fellow! Do you have a particular topic you will be researching this year?
Dr. Corbett: Thank you! It’s good to be here, and to be back in New York. My primary aim this year is to complete my book on the history of Vienna’s Jewish cemeteries (an ambitious project spanning from the Middle Ages into the 21st century), which I hope will be published at the latest in spring 2019. Other than that, I am always working on side-projects relating to my postdoctoral research project “Once the Only True Austrians”. To date this has included topics such as Jewish Austrian veterans’ organizations and their relationships with the Austrofascist movement; interwar literature by Jewish Austrians and their construction of an Austrian cultural identity; and memoirs of Jewish Austrians in exile and how they remembered Austria after the Holocaust.
MJH: Your background includes extensive research on Jewish cemeteries in Vienna. How did this become a focus for you?
Dr. Corbett: I have a fascination with cityscapes and urban fabric: culture and memory made tangible in streets, buildings, parks, etc. And I have always loved Vienna; it’s my adoptive home. Vienna’s cityscape is an intricate matrix of histories relating both to blossoming culture and violent destruction, deeply tied into the history of Jews in the city. When it came to specializing on one particular ‘site’ in my Ph.D., the city’s Jewish cemeteries presented themselves as some of the most discrete yet complex sites of culture and memory – and for the most part, their tens of thousands of beautiful old tombstones have not yet been studied!
MJH: In addition to working on your first book as an author, you have also translated a published book and worked as a translator for several publications. Which language(s) do you translate?
Dr. Corbett: I translate almost exclusively from German to English (very occasionally vice versa), and actually for the greatest part only in my fields: Austria, Jewish history, Holocaust studies, and related fields. As such, my translation and editorial work is closely related to my own research and in fact many of the authors I work with are colleagues and peers in my area of research. Of course, I’ve also done a lot of translation in my research, including of arcane and complicated Hebrew grave inscriptions (a unique language in its own right!).
MJH: Are there any events at the Museum or in NYC in general that you’re excited about attending?
Dr. Corbett: I have worked as a translator on a few exhibitions in Austria, including on the new permanent exhibition of the Simon Wiesenthal Museum. But this is the first time I have actually worked on-site as part of a museum institution, so that is very exciting. I very much look forward to getting involved in the programs surrounding exhibitions, particularly as it is an important commemorative year for my field: 100 years since the end of World War I, the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, and the foundation of the First Austrian Republic, and 80 years since the ‘Anschluss’ of Austria and the November Pogrom which followed. I hope there will be space to address that in the public programs at the Museum over the coming year.
Scroll through the slideshow below to see some of Dr. Corbett’s photos of his research and his favorite spots in Vienna.