Project & Scope
100.000 volumes, including 1.800 manuscripts as well as 750 incunabula: this considerable stock has grown over the centuries, so that Melk Abbey’s library now constitutes a cultural asset which is not only one of the main attractions for visitors from all over the world, but also part of UNESCO’s world heritage, which entails a great responsibility. The time has now come to start comprehensive restoration work in order to preserve the outstanding interior decoration and the precious books.
Heritage = Engagement
The restoration of Melk Abbey library is scheduled to begin in 2022 and last 11 years. So as to fulfill the important obligation of preserving this important cultural asset, all forces need to be pooled.
The overall concept was agreed upon by all involved parties beforehand, the Federal Monuments Office has issued its definitive decision for the start of the restoration work. Permit drawings and execution plans have been fine-tuned and finalized, the estimated total restoration cost amounts to twelve million Euro.
Abbot Georg Wilfinger OSB is very grateful that a board of trustees was created to provide advice and support for this comprehensive restoration project. Lower Austria’s governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner has agreed to become its chairwoman. As members of the board, representatives of the abbey, the province of Lower Austria, the state of Austria, the supporters’ association, and other partners such as the town of Melk, will discuss and decide about the respective restoration phases and their funding.
For the library team, the next years will be challenging, because their daily work should continue as normally as possible. Yet they also feel the pleasant anticipation that a project which has been planned and prepared for so long can finally start and improve conditions for the necessary maintenance of the books and the library on a long-term basis.
To conceive this large-scale project in its entirety, wood, metal, stone, walls/ceilings including paintings, microorganisms, climate, humidity/salts, and archeology were analyzed and pilot samples were carried out. A room book keeps a record of all structural measures, divided into room shell, utilities management and furnishings. The book provides information about the inventory, the condition, and the suggested or implemented measures, serving as documentation and later as basis for a maintenance concept.
In the “New Manuscript Chamber” a thermal component activation (TCA) system was installed, the efficiency of which has already been proven by ongoing structural-physical measurements. The next steps are the room shell restoration, a new floor construction, the implementation of air conditioning and fire protection systems, as well as a mobile shelving system.
Most investments concern the existing room shell and the interiors: floors, walls, ceilings, windows, doors, as well as furnishings made of wood and metal, architectural surfaces, and certainly the books are being repaired, restored, and amended. Other important issues are fire safety, evacuation concepts, and air conditioning.
Outdoors the projects include: restoration of the façades in the library wing; inspection and repair of its roof; new floor construction for the balcony connecting the Marble Hall and the library; new roofing for the abbey church, since its repair is long overdue.
Under the direction of an expert paper conservator about 10.000 books are screened and cleaned, damages, if any, are assessed. The paper quality and bindings are examined and inspected, and the books are checked for vermin infestation. The library team believes that the majority of the books are in good condition, the other books – at a rough estimate less than a third of the stock – are affected to a variable extent.
Complementary measures for the protection and preservation of cultural property are planned. The restoration of doors and windows, UV protection glass, and an accurate temperature control will all contribute to an improvement of the rooms’ climate. To protect the books against fire, a new extinguishing system will be incorporated which can detect fire early and drown it in a water mist. The rest of the technical equipment will be modernized – for instance, an update of the existing circulation system is planned.
The total cost of this important restoration project, which is scheduled to run until 2032, is estimated at 12 million Euros.
- Restoration of the windows in the library
- Construction of a room shell for the New Manuscript Chamber
- Cleaning of the books and assessment of damages
- Preparatory work for the new fire extinguishing system
- Restoration of the louver windows in the Marble Hall and the library
- Restoration of the inner windows in the “Juvenat” wing
- Restoration of the façade exterior on the Northern Bastion
The cost of the works in the restoration phase for 2022 is estimated at € 500.000,--