The Current Situation of the Herzogin Anna Amalia Library
It was apparently a defective electrical cord that caused the outbreak
of the ravaging fire at the Herzogin Anna Amalia Library. The corroded
clamps connecting aluminium and copper wires had been smouldering for
a long time, before the fire alarms went off. It wasnt until February
2005 that the Bundeskriminalamt (German FBI) presented the results of
its investigations in an expertise.
The current balance of damages is as follows:
The 37 burned oil paintings, mostly ducal portraits from the 16th to the
18th century, are irreplaceable. Solely the ceiling painting by Johann
Heinrich Meyer Genius of Fame after Annibale Carracci will
be replaced by a copy. Other art works in the rococo hall suffered damage
by water from fire hoses and rescue measures, which can be repaired. The
first object to be restored for display during the Weimar Schiller exhibition
was the poets death mask. The art works will be covered by insurance.
Of the 50,000 burned volumes, about three quarters are estimated to be
replaceable on the long term. The acquisition process will take several
decades and is dependent upon the financial means available. Circa 22,000
works of the historical book collection have been re-acquired so far,
whether by specific purchases of second-hand books (circa 12,000 titles),
or by gifts from private persons or institutions (circa 10,000 titles).
5,300 titles are bibliographically identical with those lost. Of many classical
editions, ranging from the Historia naturalis of Plinius the
elder (published in 1525 in Venice by Sessa and Serena), to funeral sermons
such as that held for Jacob Heinrich Born (published in 1775 in Leipzig
by Breitkopf), as well as many texts written by members of the Fruchtbringende
Gesellschaft (The Fruitful Society) such as the rare Frauenzimmer
Gesprechspielen by Georg Philipp Harsdörffer, named the
player (in eight volumes, published from 1644 until 1649 by Wolfgang
Endter in Nürnberg) replacements could be purchased at second-hand
bookshops and at auctions. The data bank of losses, accessible by internet,
which shows anyone who is interested which book titles were lost, has
been a great help. This data bank is also being compared with the central
listing of second-hand books (Zentralverzeichnis antiquarischer Bücher,
ZVAB), in order more easily locate titles available on the market, and
to order them if possible. Altogether the library collection contains
900,000 volumes at present.
62,000 volumes were successfully rescued during the night of the fire
and the days that followed. In the meantime, 75% of these books have returned
from being freeze-dried at the Centre for Book Maintenance in Leipzig:
dry, but otherwise in the same condition in which they were when they
were rescued. They are being stored in a separate depot where they are
being individually carefully examined. The damages will be documented
according to diverse categories of the OPAC, so that we will be able to
advertise for individual groups for the restoration of material, technical
and condition aspects. Parallel to this, our own workshop is preparing
sample restorations. In regard to restoration methods, there is research
and development yet to be done, because there are no standardised procedures
for serious fire damages. Communication with other specialists, e.g. at
the restoration convention in June 2005 in Leipzig, is an important field
of development. A research project at the Fachhochschule (College) in
Cologne is investigating which substances contained in the fire-fighting
chemicals and in the smoke could have penetrated the paper and could possibly
cause further reactions. Another project is investigating the condition
of the paper after having been soaked and freeze-dried. These basic questions
must be answered before restoration can begin, or else we might be faced
with a new disaster in a few years time. About 10,000 volumes could
be sorted back into the library collection, because they had suffered
nothing but water damages.
A turn for the better is in sight for the library building: On the 24th
of October 2005, the completion of the roof construction (Richtfest) was
celebrated. One of the most beautiful library halls in Germany will be
able to be reconstructed by 2007. The second gallery of the rococo hall
and the roof above it no longer exist, but the building itself, declared
part of the UNESCO World Heritage, will be able to be stabilized and restored.
The first complicated task was the dehydration of the building, which
was soaked with a quantity of water twice the amount of one years
precipitation. Reconstruction began in August 2005. In the meantime, the
roof has been finished and the restoration of the woodwork in the interior
is progressing well.
The restoration of the building is financially secured by the German
national and Thuringian state governments and the Allianz Kulturstiftung
Book Restoration and Replacement
To date, about 35 million € have been received from public funds
and private donors for the replenishment of the book collection (book
restoration and replacement), which represents one fourth of the amount
necessary, 67 million €. The largest gift by a single donor was five
million € given by the Vodafone Foundation of Germany. Altogether
almost 20,000 individuals and institutions have donated money or books.
Temporary staff supports me in communicating with donors and in acquiring
With the ceremonial opening of the new study centre on February 4th 2005,
the Herzogin Anna Amalia Library celebrated its reopening as a research
library. Since the fire, the building had been completely closed to users
for five months. After a good three-year-long construction period, the
new library quarters with its view to the historical original building
and underground connecting wing could be opened on schedule in
spite of the tragic fire. About 800,000 books were moved during the period
of the fire between August and November 2004 from diverse external depots
into the new central storage facility underneath the Democracy Square.
An additional 100,000 volumes, sorted by category, are accessible to readers
in the reading areas. Altogether, on a total floor space of 6300 square
metres (over 18,000 square feet), the study centre offers all functions
of a modern research library: to enable the discovery and utilisation
of source material by offering the appropriate facilities for their use.
Researchers who visit the library for a period of study, being dependent
upon the historical collection in originals, are the most important target
group, around which all services, the supplementary modern book collection
and media are primarily oriented.
While according to the agreement of the closely cooperating group
of German research libraries Wolfenbüttel is responsible for
the collection of literature from the early modern period and the Deutsche
Literaturarchiv (German Literature Archive) Marbach is responsible for
German literature of the late 19th century until the present, the Herzogin
Anna Amalia Library has positioned itself between the two, being a research
library for literature and cultural history with an emphasis on German
literature from the enlightenment until the late romantic period.
The enlargement of the building now offers the chance to organise the
restoration of what was lost, and to continuously further develop the
concept of a research library that has been followed for many years.
Visitors and users alike have very warmly adopted the building. The number
of newly registered, active users has almost doubled. Altogether, the
Herzogin Anna Amalia Library had 60,000 visitors during the year 2005.