Since its foundation in 1927, the Esperanto Museum at the Austrian National Library has been holding an extensive library and archives, which were given the name Department of Planned Languages in 1990. Located in the Palais Mollard (see image above) it is home to the world’s largest specialist library for interlinguistics, documenting around 500 planned languages – apart from Esperanto, these also include Volapük, Ido, Interlingua and many others.
Subdivided by document type, the library holds about 40,000 flyers, 35,000 printed volumes, 25,000 newspaper articles, 22,000 photographs, 10,000 handwritten texts and manuscripts, 3,700 diverse journals, 3,500 museum artefacts, 1,500 posters and 1,200 sound recordings.
In 2006 the Department of Planned Languages began to scan its holdings, to date more than 20,000 items, amongst others approximately:
– 9,300 photographs
– 3,300 picture postcards
– 3,150 museum artefacts
– 1,400 posters
– 1,000 volumes of 150 diverse periodicals
– 200 sound recordings
Except for the sound recordings, all of these items are available via Trovanto, which is the catalogue of the Department of Planned Languages and the Esperanto Museum.
On the website of the Austrian National Library it is not only possible to view the (digital) holdings, but via ANNO (AustriaN Newspapers Online), the virtual reading room for periodicals of the Austrian National Library, it is even possible to systematically search the full texts of the digitized journals and yearbooks.
On the ANNO website you can enter a keyword in the field “text”, select the title of the periodical and specify the search according to the language (amongst 21 languages also Esperanto), the place and year of publication. For example, when you search the name “René de Saussure” and select the language “Esperanto”, you get a list with 176 hits. Hence, in 176 issue numbers the name “René de Saussure” appears at least one time.
When you click on one of the hits a new window is opened, where red frames indicate on which pages the name is noted. When you click on one of the pages, you can read the text, and see immediately, where and how often the name and respectively the keyword appear.
ANNO is a very useful finding aid, because it enables systematic and quick retrieval of diverse topics in the periodicals. The most recommendable keywords are names of people, countries or cities, but of course, you can enter every keyword and topic you are interested in.
Periodicals are important sources, which comprehensively document transnational and regional histories, policies and cultures. Their digitization and online publication offer several advantages:
1. The periodicals are faster and more easily accessible for many people at the same time.
2. They are accessible 24/7 from every internet access all over the world.
3. After the digitization the original documents remain in the climatized and secure storage area, which they only leave on rare occasions, for example when the Austrian National Library lends them for an exhibition.
4. Optical character recognition (OCR) makes the content of the documents accessible and offers new retrieval strategies.
Until now the Department of Planned Languages and Esperanto Museum have selected approximately 150 diverse periodicals from the period 1881 until 1949, which had already been scanned in the Digital Library Division of the Austrian National Library. In the future this project will continue so that the number of digitally accessible documents – books, periodicals, photographs, picture postcards, museum artefacts, posters, newspaper articles, audio recordings and archival documents – will constantly increase.
Bernhard Tuider is a librarian in the Department of Planned Languages and Esperanto Museum at the Austrian National Library and a lecturer at Leopold-Franzens University, Innsbruck, Austria.