Rescue from the Fate of the Throwaway: The Institute for Newspaper Research
“Today, the latest news; tomorrow, throwaway paper; in twenty years, cultural history.” This is how the journalist Paul Fechter once described the newspaper. Since 1926 the Institute for Newspaper Research (Institut für Zeitungsforschung / IfZ) in Dortmund has made it its business to archive this cultural heritage and secure it for posterity – as a special library for media, a newspaper archive and a press documentation centre.
Products of trivial everyday communication?
In 1907 the then Director of the Dortmund City Library, Erich Schulz, already began compiling a collection of newspapers. He was one of the first to recognise the information value of newspapers beyond their date of publication; in the early twentieth century, they were generally thought to be products of trivial everyday communication without scholarly value. Newspaper research was still in its infancy.
Schulz’s idea caught on: in 1926 the North Rhine-Westphalian Institute for Newspaper Research was founded. The Second World War destroyed 60 per cent of its holdings. The huge gaps could be filled only with great difficulty. The Institute researched the locations of issues of the most important newspaper, gathered them together in Dortmund and saved them on microfilm. The restoration of the old holdings lasted into the 1970s.
110, 000 microfilms
After 1945 the IfZ not only strove to fill the gaps in its holdings, but also began to compile important newspapers and magazines from the entire Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Today the Institute, which is located across from Dortmund’s main train station, subscribes to more than 70 daily newspapers and more than 200 specialist and popular magazines from the German-speaking countries. Its archive holds 33,000 bound volumes of historical newspapers, and 110,000 microfilms preserve complete editions of newspapers.
The collection includes a special media library with 37,000 bound volumes of newspapers and 60,000 books on the subjects of mass communication and journalism. “We save in a data bank articles on media in the broadest sense as bibliographical references”, explains IfZ Director Gabriele Toepser-Ziegert. “In this way we keep an eye not only on all articles that have been written about film, radio, television and print media, but also about, for instance, Wikileaks.” Those who wish to know what the print media have written about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can find it at Institute for Newspaper Research – across a whole range of publications.
Reaching back to the seventeenth century
This range is complemented by a collection of placards and caricatures from the March Revolution of 1848. A collection of political posters from1870 to the state elections of 2010 in North Rhine-Westphalia comprises more than 4,700 items and is saved on microfiche. There are also the literary estates of journalists, a collection of emigrant magazines from 1933 to 1945, and early examples of the printed press such as the first daily newspaper Relatio, which appeared in 1609.
In the meantime, the IfZ has also published 64 volumes of the series “Dortmund Contributions to Newspaper Research” (Dortmunder Beiträge zur Zeitungsforschung). The subjects range from train station bookshops and press journalism in Korea to newsroom management in the United States. The weekly newspaper Zeitungszeugen stirred up discussion, a legal conflict and a storm in the media with a reprint of periodicals from the Nazi era, for which the Institute provided scholarly advice.
Tax officers research adjusted historical cost
Ten thousand people come every year to the Institute for Newspaper Research and take advantage of its offerings. Visitors include scholars studying print media and its historical development or using newspapers as historical sources. To examine the famous Berliner Illustrierte in the original, scholars come from as far as the United States.
Students visit the Institute to research their papers and theses. School children browse through newspapers searching for information for a presentation on the moon landing or a local political issue. Other visitors are looking for very specific things. Even tax officers use the Institute’s holdings to research classified ads and the cost of a certain model of car four or five years ago. Very popular are birthday and anniversary copies of newspapers, which the Institute produces on request.
Comprehensive range of service
The holdings of the IfZ are accessible on an alphabetic catalogue, and the special collections are documented in special catalogues. Books that are not more than 100 years old can be borrowed for four weeks, microfilms for six. Copies can be made from most books and small-format magazines.
If someone in Munich wants to look at the Bild-newspaper from 1960, he can do so through inter-library loan. For exhibitions or the production of setting copies, bound volumes of newspapers and magazines, slides, posters and pamphlets are available on loan. All services are subject to a charge. Uniqueness has its price.
has a degree in journalism and is a freelance writer for several publications, including West German Broadcasting in Cologne.
Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
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