Drawing of a young woman leafing through a diary. She is sitting inside in front of a window

Anna meets Leonie

An Art Project As Part of Anna Justicz’s Year of Voluntary Service in Culture (FSJ Kultur)

“Volunteers can do a project of their own as part of their voluntary service. To that end, they need an idea of what they’d like to do.”

That is written in very general terms among the guidelines of the Voluntary Service Year program, known by its German abbreviation FSJ.

Not only did Anna Justicz, who completed her FSJ in Culture at the Archive of the Jewish Museum Berlin in 2019–20, have a brilliant idea – but she carried out her project very creatively and independently. Inspired by entries in the diaries of Leonie Oliven née Meyer, she created an impressive series of drawings and collages:

The Historical Source Material

The current project by our eighteen-year-old volunteer is inspired by the life story of Leonie Oliven, née Meyer (1889–1948). Anna was very intensively occupied with the seven diaries that Leonie kept for nearly three decades of her life. The first entry was written in 1901, when Leonie received her first (surviving) diary as a gift for her fourteenth birthday in Hanover. The last entry is dated 1928. During the intervening years, Leonie had many life experiences – including getting married, moving to Berlin, and becoming a mother of three.

The locks on the diaries are impossible to overlook. They clearly mark the privacy desired by the author. The text enables extraordinary and at times very intimate glimpses of Leonie’s life, thoughts, and emotional world, describing her friendships, her experience of falling in love, and her plans for the future. This very personal perspective gave Anna access to Leonie’s lived experience and sparked her enthusiasm. However, her artistic exploration of Leonie’s biography strives for a responsible treatment of Leonie’s privacy. The historical sources serve as her point of departure, but she interprets them freely.

Leonie’s diaries are among numerous documents and photographs that were donated to the museum as a gift of the Oliven family. If you're intrigued to learn more about Leonie and her diaries, we recommend taking a look at our online feature: “No, I Want Dr. O.” Leonie Meyer’s Diaries from the Years before her Marriage (1910–12).

There are no surviving diaries from Leonie’s later life, but we do have many other documents and photographs that allow us to reconstruct it.

Worn, leather-bound booklet. Diagonally across the cover is the golden lettering “Diary”, on the right side is a lock

One of the diaries of Leonie Oliven née Meyer bearing a very conspicuous lock. The first entry is from 7 July 1910 and the last one is from 11 January 1912; Jewish Museum Berlin; accession 2016/145/636, gift of the Oliven Family

Citation recommendation:

Jörg Waßmer (2021), Anna meets Leonie. An Art Project As Part of Anna Justicz’s Year of Voluntary Service in Culture (FSJ Kultur).
URL: www.jmberlin.de/en/node/7783

Behind the Scenes: Anecdotes and Exciting Finds while Working with our Collections (21)

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