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CPA Newsletter #23, May 1990

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


May 1990

Number 90

Scholars Discuss Preservation Issues in Medieval Studies

On March 25 and 26 the Commission cosponsored a colloquium at the University of Notre Dame on preservation issues in medieval studies. The colloquium brought together some 15 scholars who specialize in studies of the Middle Ages for two days of intensive discussion of this many-faceted field. Medievalists from Canada as well as the United States attended, and observers from the Commission, The Research Libraries Group and the National Endowment for the Humanities also were present.

Although the primary materials of medieval studies are often on linen, parchment or similar durable materials, the vast body of medieval studies scholarship flowered in the 19th century. virtually coinciding with the era of acid paper. Accordingly, not only are great works of interpretive scholarship at risk of embrittlement, but so too are essential research tools such as indices, monumenta, manuscript catalogues and series of special editions. Much of the scholarly work produced in Europe during the last half of the 19th century was printed on highly acid paper.

Furthermore, Medieval Studies is an interdisciplinary (or multi-disciplinary) field in the sense that the primary works were produced before contemporary disciplinary boundaries had been developed. Medieval Studies, as a field, encompasses history, literature, philosophy, theology, art, medicine. science, linguistics and economics, among other disciplines. Both the primary materials and the secondary work can be classified in any one of several modern disciplinary categories and hence the materials of interest to medieval scholars can be spread widely over almost the entire library. There are also interdisciplinary publication patterns, with the result that only parts of long serial runs may be of interest to medievalists, and journal titles as such are not good indicators of scholarly relevance. This dispersion of materials across a very wide spectrum of classifications in most libraries presents certain special problems of bibliographic control as well as strategic issues in the logistics of preservation.

On the other hand, there are not very many large collections of medieval materials and the colloquium participants readily agreed that a good start on the preservation problem might be made by filming large parts of certain outstanding collections. This approach only underscores the importance of bibliographic control of the preserved materials for the purposes of subsequently filling gaps in the initial pass through the stacks.

The Medieval Institute and the College of Arts and Letters of the University of Notre Dame and The Medieval Academy of America were cosponsors of the colloquium. Dr. Mark Jordan of The Medieval Institute served as its chair.

February 28 – March 1 , 1991 , Date for Environmental Conditions Course

The Association of Physical Plant Administrators of Universities and Colleges (APPA) has announced the exact date of February 28-March 1, 1991, for the upcoming course on environmental conditions for libraries and archives. The 1 1/2-day event, being developed in cooperation with the Commission, will be held at the Holiday Inn, Capital Hill, in Washington, DC. Participation is limited to 150, with the course designed for teams of librarians/archivists and plant managers from an institution, as well as individuals. A major goal is to foster more productive working relationships between librarians/archivists and plant administrators, so as to improve environmental conditions of library and archival materials.

In addition to working sessions on such topics as standards implementation and maintenance issues, APPA expects to arrange tours to sites of preservation work, such as the Smithsonian Institution. For further information on course content and registration, contact Kathy Smith, Director of Educational Programs, APPA, 1446 Duke Street, Alexandria. VA 22314-3492.

Planning Task Force members from the Commission are: Patti McClung, Research Libraries Group; Joel Clemmer, Macalester College: and Don Kelsey, University of Minnesota. Assisting from APPA are Michael League (Director, Office of Plant Service), William W. Moss (Director of Archives), Richard L. Siegle (Director of Facilities), and Nancy Gwinn (Assistant Director, Collections Management)–all of the Smithsonian Institution.

Focus on Archives

The archival community now faces unprecedented and overwhelming challenges in their efforts to develop affordable strategies to preserve the articulate audible voice of the Past.” Although there are many similarities in preservation policies and practices for library and archival collections, the enormity of the impact of acid paper on our literary, historical, and governmental archives far exceeds the dimensions of the brittle books challenge and will require unprecedented cooperation and coordination among traditionally autonomous organizations and agencies. This special section highlights some of the current efforts to integrate archives into the nationally coordinated preservation agenda–a major initiative for the Commission during 1990-1991.

Preservation Planning Underway by Society of American Archivists

A one-day meeting of the Society of American Archivists’ (SM) Task Force on Preservation was hosted by the Commission on March 28. After reviewing the planning document, “Preserving History’s Future” (published in the January 7990 SAA Newsletter), the task force turned its attention to examining specific initiatives and identifying projects for immediate action from each of the seven objective areas: ( I ) Increase public commitment to preserve and use the historical record; (2) Support comprehensive education and training programs; (3) Support the development of comprehensive preservation management programs and activities; (4) Identify and promote the use of systematic selection procedures for appropriate preservation strategies; (5) Encourage the development and dissemination of technical standards for preservation processes; (6) Facilitate access to preserved collections: and (7) Support research and dissemination of research findings on archival preservation and related topics.

The task force expects to draft a three-year plan by the SM annual meeting in August. The task force consists of seven members: Christine Ward, New York State Archives and Records Administration, co-chair; Howard Lowell. Delaware State Archives, co-chair; Margaret Child. consultant; Anne R. Kenney, Cornell University Library; Paul McCarthy, University of Alaska, Fairbanks Libraries; Lisa Fox, Southeast Library Network (SOLINET); Paul Conway, National Archives and Records Administration; and Karen Garlick, Chair, SM Preservation Section (ex-officio).

A full report of this initial meeting of the Task Force will appear in the July issue of the SAA Newsletter. Comments or questions about SM’s preservation planning initiatives can be addressed to any of the above.

Archivists, State Library Agencies to Receive Newsletter

In response to a request from The Council of State Governments, the members of the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) and the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) are being added to this newsletter’s mailing list. According to the Council office, NAGARA and COSLA members are “deeply involved on a daily basis with preservation issues at the state level.”

Special Issue of AMERICAN ARCHIVIST Address Preservation Issues

The summer 1990 issue of American Archivist will be a special one devoted entirely to the subject of preservation in an archival setting. Articles will examine such issues as the national preservation context. international initiatives, research and development. planning, preservation of non-textual records, and lessons from library preservation programs. Contributors include archivists, librarians, conservators, and representatives from organizations devoted to the preservation of research materials. Anne R. Kenney, Cornell University, will serve as the guest editor of this issue.

RLG to Film 25 Archival Collections Under New NEH Grant

Twenty-five endangered archival collections important to research in American history will be filmed and made widely available by The Research Libraries Group (RLG) under a $724.814 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. According to RLG, the three-year Archives Preservation Microfilming Project is the first of its kind. Thirteen RLG members in nine states will preserve brittle or badly deteriorated materials from collections that are significant both regionally and nationally. Participants are committed to making the resulting two million frames of microfilm available through duplication or interlibrary loan. Records for the filmed materials will be entered into RLIN, allowing researchers expanded access to them.

Project participants are: Brigham Young University; Brown University: Cornell University: Emory University; Stanford University-Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace: The New York Historical Society; The New York Public Library; New York University; the University of Florida; the University of Michigan (Bentley Historical Library); the University of Minnesota; and Yale University.

NAGARA 1990 Work Plan Includes Preservation of State Archival Holdings

A nine-point 1990 work plan of the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) published in the Winter 1990 issue of the NAGARA Clearinghouse includes a provision for promoting the improved preservation of state archival holdings. As part of the plan, all states will receive a self-study manual that provides a framework for assessing archival preservation needs and developing plans to meet those needs. The self-study also is expected to be partially applicable to non-government archival settings. The manual has been developed at the Georgia Department of Archives and History. NAGARA also will be cooperating with other archives organizations on preservation issues, including encouraging the use of non-acid paper for government records.

Federal Republic of Germany Holds Permanent Paper Symposium

The symposium received a large amount of press coverage by newspapers throughout the country.

International Project Program Officer Hans Rütimann recently was invited to attend a symposium on permanent paper held by the Deutsche Bibliothek and its “Gesellschaft für das Buch” (Association for the Book). The February 14 symposium included more than 40 participants–librarians, archivists, publishers, paper manufacturers, booksellers, printers and government officials. All were there to discuss strategies for the improvement of paper in the Federal Republic of Germany. The following excerpts from Rütimann’s report to the Commission seem of particular interest to this newsletter’s readership.

The purpose of the symposium was stated as follows:

Recently, awareness of the threat of deterioration of acid containing publications and thus the necessity to find solutions to this problem has increased worldwide. In the libraries of the Federal Republic of Germany alone, approximately 26% of the book collections. i.e., 40 million volumes. must immediately undergo treatment for preservation. The Deutsche Bibliothek commissioned the Battelle Institute to conduct a survey of existing mass deacidification procedures, the results of which are now [Ed. Note: See the Commission on Preservation and Access publication: Mass Deacidification Procedures for Libraries and Archives: State of Development and Perspectives for Implementation in the Federal Republic of Germany, by Peter Schwerdt, September 1989.]

In view of the extremely high costs for mass preservation, this can. however, not remain the long-term procedure for safeguarding the cultural heritage. It is now urgently necessary to think about future use of acid-free, age-resistant paper and to support initiatives in that direction. Thus, it ought to be determined whether and under what conditions German publishers, writers, and organizations can follow the example of publishers and writers in the United States and commit themselves to print in the future at least part of the publications on acid-free, age-resistant paper and to mark it accordingly….

… [T]he cost of treatment per book is expected to be DM 10-15 and therefore some DM 100 million will have to be allocated over the next 20 years. There will be no shortage of books to be treated: Even though the Deutsche Bibliothek, founded in the late 40s, estimates that only about 3% of its books need treatment, most other West German libraries report a figure closer to 30%….

Among the recommendations formulated by the participants and presented in a public setting following the symposium:

  • Books are carriers of the cultural heritage and therefore, of the utmost importance. For this reason, the symposium participants strongly support the long-term safeguarding of the printed word.
  • The participants believe that age-resistant books can be produced by means of modern technology–but only if a book is considered the sum of its parts, from the manufacture of paper to the printing process to storage.

    We owe it to ourselves to produce better paper. not only for the good of our culture but also to honor our craft.

    a self identified “paper man” and conference participant
  • Since the acidic manufacture of paper and the use of wood pulp considerably hasten the paper’s deterioration, the conference participants requested a marking system for paper used in book printing. The mark would identify for printers, publishers, and book buyers the paper’s qualities–e.g., whether or not it contained wood pulp. It was suggested that following the American example, the mathematical symbol of infinity could be used, if there were no legal restrictions.
  • The participants agreed that in view of the endangered age resistance of paper, quality specifications are necessary for book printing. According to current knowledge, the following should be required: –100% bleached cellulose without pulp fibers; –a pH-value of 7.5 to 9 (7 being the neutral condition); –a calcium carbonate buffer of at least 3% as an additional protection against damaging environmental influences.
  • When a book fulfills the above requirements, and the marking system is used, the Deutsche Bibliothek will so state in its bibliographic records, thereby giving book dealers, libraries, and book buyers a clear indication of quality. The participants agreed that future European Community regulations should reflect this policy.
  • The participants agreed that further research is necessary concerning the age resistance of papers and their specifications. They urged responsible governmental agencies to initiate and support appropriate research.

Commission on Preservation and Access
1400 16th Street, NW, Suite 740
Washington, DC 20036-2217
(202) 939-3400 Fax: (202) 939-3407

The Commission on Preservation and Access was established in 1986 to foster and support collaboration among libraries and allied organizations in order to ensure the preservation of the published and documentary record in all formats and to provide enhanced access to scholarly information.

The Newsletter reports on cooperative national and international preservation activities and is written primarily for university administrators and faculty, library and archives administrators, preservation specialists and administrators, and representatives of consortia, governmental bodies, and other groups sharing in the Commission’s goals. The Newsletter is not copyrighted; its duplication and distribution are encouraged.

Patricia Battin–President
Maxine K. Sitts–Program Officer, Editor
Pamela D. Block–Administrative Assistant
Patricia Cece, Communications Assistant


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