1. What is the oldest object in the DLA’s holdings?
The German Literature Archive’s collection remit technically only begins with the Enlightenment of the 18th century. However, the oldest document comes from Martin Luther. It is a letter he wrote to Count Albrecht von Mansfeld on the 9th of September 1529. It came to Marbach in 1968 as part of a valuable autograph collection.
2. What are the criteria for deciding whether an estate is to be included in the DLA?
When it comes to authors who have already achieved prominence during their lifetime, the decision is easy. For example, hardly anyone would question the idea that the papers of Hans Magnus Enzensberger, to name one of the DLA’s most recent acquisitions, belong in a public archive. The decision is more difficult when it comes to authors whose work is controversial or not particularly well known: The holdings to be acquired should be expected to hold long-term significance to the literary and scientific public. We can only speculate about which books will be read in 20 or even 100 years, but there are clues that help make the decision-making process objective, for example the originality of linguistic expression and themes, their significance in the literary world, their reception at home and abroad, the quality of the publishers and publication media. In addition, the DLA always endeavors to add to and complete the existing collections.
3. Are there institutions that compete with the DLA over acquisitions?
We live in a country that always works best when it sees federalism as a strength. There are a lot of other institutions which also acquire estates from authors, scholars and publishing archives. Noteworthy are especially the large state and university libraries, as well as the archive of the Academy of Arts in Berlin. Particularly prominent authors are also collected abroad.
Wherever possible, the DLA tries to avoid competitive situations and instead to encourage cooperation between institutions. This is something that can be arranged much more efficiently in the digital age.
4. The magazine capacities of the DLA are limited, but its holdings are expanding - is the growth of a literature archive inevitable?
Not inevitable, but literature archives dealing in particular with contemporary literature will necessarily expand their holdings continuously. In contrast with other archives that have more or less closed collections, the DLA is entrusted with the recent and contemporary history of literature and ideas.
Holdings that date from the period after 1945 are often very extensive and boast a unique density of material, which is in contrast to bequests of 18th- and 19th-century to the exile archives of the 20th century.
The acquisition of the Suhrkamp and Insel archives in 2009 alone increased the DLA's manuscript holdings by about a third. In the 21st century, the DLA will continue to exercise its collection mandate, meaning it will expand further and need to plan appropriate magazine areas and storage capacities.
5. The digital world has long since arrived in archives - how does a literature archive deal with this?
Digital archives are not limited to a few scanned manuscripts. The digital world of an archive ranges from digitally created texts, images and audio tracks, hard disks from estates and emails, to net literature and blogs, to digitisation programmes in libraries and archives. The DLA engages with the questions and methods presented by the digital humanities while emphasising the uniqueness of the materiality of both paper media and digital transmission, and similarly supporting digital and physical accessibility for international research within the framework of applicable legal regulations. Under the title "Global Archives", the DLA has developed cooperative projects in Israel and Brazil that use digital processes to ensure that the links of archive materials to their local environment are preserved while simultaneously allowing international usability.
6. What role do the donors and patrons have in the DLA?
In times of tight public budgets, institutions such as the German Literature Archive Marbach need financial support from private sponsors more than ever before. For big conservation, restoration and renovation projects, new acquisitions of pre-estates and estates or of single autographs, the support of private donors is vital. For twenty years now the DLA has been in the fortunate position of being able to rely on loyal and generous support from the Friends of the DLA, as well as on the contributions of other private donors.
7. In a spectacular action with the Bodleian Library/Oxford, the DLA acquired Franz Kafka's letters to his sister Ottla in 2011 - are such acts of cooperation the viable models for the future?
Such cooperations are a promising direction for the future. In fact they have been common practice for a long time among the large art museums: a museum that can no longer afford, say, a Titian on its own can nevertheless achieve this in conjunction with one or two other galleries. In future, a similar approach will also be adopted in the area of great literary manuscripts and archives. The acquisition and responsibility will be shared - and the shared presence of the originals will be compensated for by the exchange of scans.