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2 January 2007

Alma Mater on the River Neckar

New issue of the "Heidelberg Alumni International Revue" — Retrospect on the jubilee celebrations with former students of the University of Heidelberg

The 10th anniversary of the "Heidelberg Alumni International" (HAI) organisation was celebrated in July 2006 with a summer jubilee get-together that no one who attended it is likely to forget in a hurry. Many former students of Heidelberg University arrived for the celebrations from no fewer than 43 different countries. The programme was rich and varied and the organisers at the Heidelberg end had their work cut out to get it ready in time. In retrospect the verdict is unanimous: the jubilee week at the alma mater on the Neckar river was a big success.

The new issue of the "Heidelberg International Alumni Revue" also reports that the meeting generated "impulses for new projects". Chief among them were the ongoing preparations for the establishment of "Heidelberg Alumni Luxembourg" (HALU). Silke Rodenberg, head of the HAI, was able to confirm that the "fruitful cooperation between the University of Heidelberg and its alumni from Luxembourg" had been placed on an appropriate footing. The establishment itself took place in November at a ceremony attended not only by representatives of the German embassy, but also by the Syrian author and Heidelberg alumnus Rafik Schami and Luxembourg's economics minister François Biltgen, who emphasised the importance of international networks.

At the summer meeting the desire for a French alumni club was also voiced. As a large number of supporters for this venture have already been identified, plans were mooted for the establishment of such a club in autumn 2007.

The University itself is also constantly faced by new developments, one of them being the challenges posed to libraries by the advent of the internet. Dr. Veit Probst, director of Heidelberg's University Library, regards his institution as a "hybrid library", referring to the balance that needs to be struck between online offerings and the traditional book medium. Alongside some 20,000 online journals and 1,130 databases, the library still contains about 3.5 million books. But digitisation definitely has its advantages. As pointed out by Dr. Armin Schlechter, head of the University Library's manuscript department, it not only facilitates research but also stands for progress in the accessibility of old manuscripts on the net. In future this new ease of access may make it unnecessary for scholars from elsewhere to come and inspect the manuscripts at first hand.

Library director Probst can also imagine that a virtual reunification of the two separated parts of the Bibliotheca Palatina may be a viable proposition. This invaluable collection of books and manuscripts was spirited away to Rome in the course of the Thirty Years' War and it was only in the 19th century that part of it was restored to Heidelberg. Probst considers a digital reunification a far more likely prospect than the complete return of the collection.

© Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung

[See Heidelberg Alumni International Revue No. 17, Winter, Heidelberg, 2006/07]

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

Irene Thewalt
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

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