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Hilfe für Anna Amalia
The Fire
After the Fire

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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 wasn’t 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:

Art Works
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 poet’s 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.

The Building
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 year’s 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 (Cultural Foundation).

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 further donations.

Study Centre
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.