The Max Frisch Archive is an independent research institution belonging to the Max Frisch Foundation and based at the ETH-Bibliothek in Zurich. At ETH Zurich, where the world-famous writer graduated in Architecture in 1940, his literary legacy has been looked after, supplemented and worked on for almost thirty years. Its many resources are available free of charge for research, literary and publicity work.
The website provides support for researchers into the life and works of Max Frisch, and information about current services and events. The content is regularly added to and updated.
Writers' legacies also have their stories: the years of squabbling over access to Robert Walser's literary legacy have not yet been forgotten, while we are still amazed at the veil of discretion which descended over the literary legacy of Ingeborg Bachmann after her death. These two examples are not chosen at random, for they were at least part of the reason why, at the end of the 1970s, Max Frisch began thinking about his own literary legacy. This was more than ten years before a Swiss Literary Archive was created, thanks to a donation from Friedrich Dürrenmatt.
In April 1979, the plan that Frisch had now come up with was discussed in detail for the first time, with just a few people: a foundation would be set up, the duties of which would include the following: "to create a Max Frisch Archive, to be located in Switzerland, as a place of research" and "to administer his literary legacy, with all the rights and responsibilities associated with its dissemination and utilisation".
The small group of people had been deliberately chosen so that they already complied with Article 4 of the future Statutes, which defined that the sole governing body of the foundation should be a Board of Trustees, consisting of at least five members; they must include at least one writer and one literary researcher, as well as the publisher of Max Frisch's works and a representative of the family. The people in that small group were in fact to become members of the first Board of Trustees, when it was officially registered on 30 October 1979: Max Frisch / Siegfried Unseld, Suhrkamp Verlag / Peter Bichsel, writer / Adolf Muschg, writer and, until 1999, Associate Professor for German Language and Literature at ETH Zurich / Peter von Matt, Professor for Modern German Literature at the University of Zurich.
Following the death of Max Frisch on 4 April 1991, new members joined the Board: Peter Frisch, son of the founder, and Roland Ris, Professor for German Language and Literature at ETH Zurich, who served on this committee until 2006. In 2006, David Gugerli, Professor for the History of Technology at ETH Zurich, was voted on to the Board.
After demission of Peter Bichsel and Adolf Muschg, members of the foundation board, Lukas Bärfuss, author, and Thomas Strässle, associate professor for Neuere deutsche und vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft of the University of Zurich, belong to the foundation board since May 2010.
In September 2013, Peter von Matt resigned as President of the Max Frisch Foundation, whose chair he held for almost 35 years. Thomas Strässle has been elected as successor. Markus Notter, former council of Zurich's local government, was elected as a new member to the Foundation board.
It was also ETH Zurich which, in the spring of 1980, expressed interest in setting up a Max Frisch Archive on its premises and offered the Board of Trustees assistance in doing so. In August of that year, the first material provided by Max Frisch arrived, packed in twelve crates, at the premises of the Department of German Language and Literature at ETH Zurich. At the beginning of February 1981, the Germanist Walter Obschlager, who had now been elected by the Board to become the archivist, began his work in a part-time (50%) job: setting up and maintaining the Max Frisch Archive.
The archive has been open to the public since April 1983. That same year, three important publications appeared which were the first to be based on documents in the archive.
In April 2004, the archive moved into premises belonging to the ETH-Bibliothek. An agreement reached with ETH Zurich at the beginning of 2007 ensures that, administratively, the archive will always be part of the ETH-Bibliothek, without losing its status as an independent research facility. When Walter Obschlager retired in July 2008, Dr. Margit Unser took over the running of the archive. As of 1 September 2016, Germanist Tobias Amslinger is the new head of the archive.