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 Tuesday, February 26, 2008 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


CU researcher assists in library fire recovery effort
By Melanie O. Massengale

"Everything for a purpose." This motto of the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft (the Fruit-Bearing Society), a 17th century German scholarly group, has special meaning to CU librarian and Assistant Professor of history Thea Lindquist. Through her scholarly work and personal dedication Lindquist has fostered a project with the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany dedicated to recovering the works of the Fruit-Bearing Society.

"When I had first seen Anna Amalia during a German library association tour in 2003, I was very impressed with its collections," Lindquist said. "The director told me at that time that he had begun raising funds for an extensive renovation of the building." Ironically, a spark from a faulty electrical cord used in the renovation effort set the library ablaze.

On Sept. 2, 2004, fire devastated the library's historic building, a former ducal residence that includes the Rococo Hall and its collections. The library, now a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, is renowned for its 18th and 19th century European literary collection, including works by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. At the height of the fire, Weimar citizens created a human chain to rescue priceless works, including a two-volume 1543 Martin Luther Bible. The fire destroyed 50,000 volumes and manuscripts and damaged another 62,000.

Lindquist, who specializes in German history, saw the desolation firsthand while visiting a second time in 2006 and offered to help. "It was an emotional experience to see the extent of the damage to Anna Amalia," she said. Lindquist and library director Michael Knoche agreed she could best assist in the recovery effort by identifying lost, damaged and surviving works of the Fruit-Bearing Society.

According to Lindquist, the society, which was established in Weimar in 1617, was Germany's first and largest lettered academy. The group promoted German as a scholarly language and was unique for its time in admitting non-elites to its membership. Among its other treasures, the Anna Amalia Library contained numerous rare books associated with the Fruit-Bearing Society, many gifted by the authors themselves.

Lindquist's own scholarly background makes her an ideal candidate for this ongoing project. Her historical studies focus on 17th century Germany, the period in which the Fruit-Bearing Society flourished. She is well acquainted with the language, grammar and typography of early modern German publications. "Despite their importance, these publications were never formally unified as a collection," she said. "My research will give a first time overview of the library's holdings of Society publications and enable the library to rebuild the collection in a targeted manner responsive to institutional goals and researcher interests."

Although the Rococo Hall was restored in 2007, help is still needed to rebuild and repair the collections of books and artwork. To learn more about the project, visit the Anna Amalia Library site.

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