Nicholson Baker is giving up his side gig as an archivist. Duke University and Baker have officially announced that the author’s American Newspaper Repository (ANR) will become part of the Duke University Libraries. In an April speech at the meeting and dinner of the Friends of the Duke University Libraries, Baker, author of the controversial, award-winning Double Fold: Libraries And The Assault On Paper, told his audience that going to Duke was “the best possible thing that could happen to a singular collection.” Baker said the ANR received a grant from the Knight Foundation to help pay for the move, but that he was not paid for the archive.
The news offers a happy ending to Baker’s quest to save the rare newspaper collection. The author acquired the bulk of the ANR collection, nearly 5000 volumes, while researching Double Fold, after learning that the British Library was planning to auction off its collection of old American newspapers in favor of black and white microfilm. He formed the ANR, operating out of an old New Hampshire mill, where he cared for the collection, opening it to scholars and researchers by appointment. For the past five years Baker has run the archive using his own and others’ volunteer labor and by soliciting private donations to help offset the $26,000 annual rent. The archive contains long runs of several late 19th and 20th century newspapers, many of which are no longer in existence.