Volunteer Improves Access to German-Language Materials
For the past year, Lore A. Senseney has been volunteering at the DRT Library with Assistant Director Martha Utterback and Archivist Caitlin Donnelly, working to translate German-language materials held in the library’s archival collections into English. Thus far, Ms. Senseney has translated almost 200 documents, primarily letters, in the Beckmann family papers and the general correspondence series of the Conrad A. Goeth papers. The translations are being filed with the original document so they will be accessible to researchers. Lore will next be translating documents in the Frances Drennon Shaughnessy family papers.
Translating the documents requires a special and rather unique skill: the ability to read the old Sütterlin German script that is no longer used. Today, Germans cannot read this script. However, Ms. Senseney, a native of Germany, learned it during her first two years of school, as Sütterlin was commonly taught in German schools during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Lore’s journey to San Antonio was an interesting one. She started learning English in 1945 when school resumed following the end of World War II. Three years later, she escaped from East Germany with her mother and joined her father in Frankfurt, West Germany. There, Lore continued her English studies as an apprentice; a student at a school of business for industrial merchants and banking; and a student in the last class of industrial interpreters at the Berlitz school. Ms. Senseney arrived in the United States on August 5, 1959, landing in New York on the USS Buttner with her husband – a career non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the U.S. Army who had been stationed in West Germany and was newly stationed at Fort Sam Houston – and their two-year-old daughter. Lore and her husband later had two more children and at various times lived in San Antonio and Germany.
Ms. Senseney has been a member of the San Antonio Needlework Guild (SANG) and the Embroiderers’ Guild of America (EGA) since 1976. She has been particularly interested in whitework embroidery, a technique in which the stitching is the same color as the foundation fabric, traditionally white linen. Lore researched this type of embroidery during trips to Germany and began teaching about the technique in San Antonio. Since 1982, Lore has been volunteering at the Witte Museum, using her expertise to help in the conservation of its textile collection.
Throughout her time at the Witte, Ms. Senseney has periodically been asked to translate German texts. Her skills have been increasingly utilized since 2006, when she began undergoing treatments for breast cancer that left her hands numb, making it difficult to hold a needle and continue her textile conservation work at the Witte. However, Lore has found the work of translating historic documents to be equally rewarding, stating “I love it. It is something I can do that I enjoy and is as much fun as restoring an old textile, so it can live another 100 years.”
Of the letters she has worked with from the DRT Library’s collections, Lore writes that they have had “the most diverse content and challenging handwriting styles.” In the course of the project, she has also “researched and learned about the Germans who arrived in Texas in the 1840s and founded a lot of the businesses in San Antonio.”
Thank you, Lore, for all of your hard work!