Friday, September 11, 2009

Cologne to build new city archives

Half a year after the dramatic collapse of its city archive building, Cologne's documents are to be given a new home.

Cologne's embattled council announced Thursday that the city archives are to be re-housed at last. The council is planning to spend over 97 million euros on a new, purpose-built building which will also provide space for a variety of other cultural institutions.

The announcement comes six months after the original building suddenly collapsed, burying the archives. Two people were killed in the accident and the damage to Cologne's rich collection of historical treasures was devastating.

"We'll experience the effects of the collapse for decades to come," Fritz Schramma, Cologne's mayor, said Thursday.

Cologne's council has come under heavy criticism not only for its handling of the disaster, but also for other building projects in the city.

Plans to expand the Cologne City Museum were abandoned when key donors pulled out. And a widely followed plan to construct a Jewish museum in the city was shelved, also due to lack of funds on the part of the private foundation behind it. Some feel that Cologne should have made this project its priority instead.

Until its collapse on March 3, 2009, Cologne's city archive building was home to one of the largest communal history collections in Europe. Amongst the treasures buried in the rubble were papers left by the composer Jacques Offenbach and the writer Heinrich Boell.

The collection also boasted over 1,800 medieval documents, including a handwritten manuscript penned by Albertus Magnus, the greatest German philosopher and scholar of the Middle Ages.

Much of Cologne's collection has been salvaged from the rubble, but restoration work is expected to continue for decades. No one knows the exact cost of the restoration project, but estimates put it at around 350 million euros.

See also these earlier articles:

Manuscript of Albertus Magnus found in Cologne Archive ruins

Only 30 percent of collapsed Cologne Archives to be saved: Czech expert