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In 2010, it was possible to save for posterity the handwritten manuscript of the so-called „Zauberbuch” (Book of Spells) from the Goethe-House „Faust” Collection in Frankfurt, written in 1535 in Wittenberg.
© Freies Deutsches Hochstift/
Frankfurter Goethe-Museum

Written traditions are the memory of advanced civilisations. This sensitive treasure, however, is under threat.

Based on an initiative put forward by the former Minister of State for Culture, Bernd Neumann, and financed by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien, BKM) as well as the Cultural Foundations of the Federal States (Kulturstiftung der Länder, KSL), we took up our work in August 2011. We, the Coordination Office for the Preservation of the Written Cultural Heritage (Koordinierungsstelle für die Erhaltung des schriftlichen Kulturguts, KEK) were established under the auspices of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, SPK) and situated at the Berlin State Library (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, SBB) and we are working towards one elementary goal: The permanent preservation of the national heritage in the form of written traditions. Because: In order to safeguard our future, we have to preserve the past.

The major catastrophes of recent years – the fire at the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar in 2004 and the collapse of the Historical Archive of the city of Cologne in 2009 – have made the public only too painfully aware of the vulnerability of our written cultural heritage. Largely unnoticed, on the other hand, irreplaceable originals and key works are being lost everyday to the national memory as a result of „creeping catastrophes”: paper degradation and ink corrosion or mould caused by inappropriate storage are unseen enemies, with which restorers, archivists and librarians have to struggle. Most of all, however – and not only in smaller institutions, there is often a lack of knowledge and funds to save and permanently preserve irreplaceable collections.

Our mission is the confronting of this massive threat to our national memory from both acute and creeping catastrophes.