Oryo's Corner

The Western-Eastern Couch

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Eulology for an archive
Yesterday, the municipal archive of Cologne collapsed. And I'm even more crushed by the news now than last evening, because it really had time to sink in. The municipal archive of Cologne was the biggest municipal archive north of the Alps. It contained 65.000 medieval diploms, starting with the year 922. Part of its collection were the archive of the university of Cologne and the archive of hanseatic contor in Antwerpes (and therefore also the older one in Bruges). Since I discovered during my researches how much new insights the original sources for hanseatic history still have to offer, I'm immensely saddened by this loss, because it means that the old editions for hanseatic history from the late 19th and early 20th century will be the only base of research for this matter and for the next generation of historians. The fact that I missed out on seeing one document that I still hoped to see is only a small factor face to the larger consequences for hanseatic history.  

ETA: Maybe, I should add to not sound too callous, that, luckily, the people working in the building escaped safely, and that I hope that it's possible to find the missing persons from the neighbour buildings. Saving people has priority over anything else.


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That's horrible. Are all of the documents lost now? No chance of recovering any?

I know accidents happen, but I would have thought they'd be extra-careful of a repository like that. Reinforce the building, or something.

Because the entire area of the city is in danger of collapsing or breaking in the ground, it seems that they have to pump beton in the hole really fast, and I don't know how much of the documents can be saved before they do that.

I saw the stories about this, a great loss.

Oh my gods, that sucks. I hope they find any missing people safe as well. :(

OMG this is so tragic :(

This is terrible!
I was reading the news and it mentioned (I'm here in the western parts of the US, so I'm sure it's already long past) that they'd poured concrete into the hole. I hope they found the missing people and that they were all right, and also that that some of these documents were recovered before the concrete went in. (Do they know what caused this? Was it work on a subway or something?) I work at a genealogical company and I understand what you mean when you mentioned the inherent and irreplaceable value pf original content. Hopefully at least they had some sort of electronic scans on file?

Thank you for the reply. Regarding the cause, it was not the subway project directly, but earth shifting in the newly constructed tunnel. limecat_lotn has also given another explanaition in his reply below, which also seems fitting, because there were already cracks in the building.

Regarding electronic scans, I'm doubtful, because this would be an expansive enterprise, and most archives don't have the resources.

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A similary thing happened a few years before in the Ruhrgebiet, a coal mine area, where an entire street with smaller houses broke in a former and now empty mine, and I think this was caused by water. In Cologne, it seems that it was not the tunneling project itself, i. e. the construction work, but a problem of pressure and earth shifting from underneath the building in the tunnel, which left the building basically without any fondation. Or it was a mixture of both, earth shifting and salt decay, because the archive building was already showing some cracks in the walls, but they were not considered as a serious problem or a real danger.

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Sorry for taking over your blog, I kind off on a fanwank on these topics ..

No problem. It's interesting for me as well. I didn't know about the construction problems in Germany.

I hope that the planer of new buildings here are generally aware of that problem, because I can see the salt decay very easily happening in Leipzig. The soil here is very humid, because in pre-modern time, the area was very swampy.

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