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CPA Newsletter #31, Feb 1991

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


February 1991

Number 31

Preservation Review and Assessment Underway

An assessment and review committee drawn from the Commission’s primary higher education constituencies met January 23 at Syracuse University’s Greenberg House, Washington, DC, to begin a three- to six-month analysis of the Commission’s past, present, and possible future mission. The committee, functioning as consultants to the board, has been charged with the following:

  • Assess the progress in preservation in the nation over the past five years;
  • Assess the continuing need for preservation activities–identify the major issues for the future: Which are most tractable? Which are most essential?
  • Within this context, review and assess the role of the Commission with particular attention to identifying those areas of preservation in which the Commission can be most effective in promoting the interests of the national library and archival community.
  • Recommend directions for future Commission activities.

The committee includes David H. Stam, University Librarian, Syracuse University (chair); William D. Schaefer, former executive director of the Modern Language Association and executive vice chancellor at the University of California, Los Angeles; Yvonne Wulff, Assistant Director for Collection Management, University of Michigan Libraries; and Arthur Norberg, Director, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. Stam has invited newsletter readers who may wish to provide comments for this review to contact him at his office (Syracuse University Library, 222 Waverly Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13244).

“Our Printed Past in Peril,” an article calling for action to save books made from acid-based paper, appears in the November 1990 issue of the British edition of Readers Digest, which boasts over six million readers. Other versions of the article, by Robert Wernick, have been published in French and German editions of the magazine.

Inter-Library Image Distribution Demonstrates Possibilities for Deteriorating Scholarly Materials

The Commission has provided partial support for a demonstration of image processing and distribution between the Library of Congress and the Avery Art and Architectural Library, scheduled at press time for January 23, 1991. The Commission’s support stems from an interest in the application of such technology for the archival storage and distribution of deteriorating scholarly materials containing both text and image (see the article in this issue on the Joint Task Force on Text and Image).

The transfer was scheduled to include both compressed and noncompressed images and the display of the same image on original 35mm slide, analog video disc storage, 24-bit screen and printer, 8-bit screen and printer, 4-bit screen, and HDTV screen, for comparison and assessment of the quality and fidelity associated with each medium. The transfer and display of the same image in different formats provided an opportunity for comparison and assessment of the quality and fidelity associated with each medium. Issues of cost comparability and product availability were to be discussed in a workshop following the demonstration. More information on the technology is available from Paul V. Christianson, Associate Director, Center for Telecommunications Research, Columbia University, 1220 Seeley W. Mudd Bldg., New York, NY 10027.

Group Discusses Collaboration in Use of Digital Technologies

Thirteen representatives responsible for library and computing activities at six universities met as a discussion group in New York City December 12, 1990, at the invitation of the Commission. Representatives from Cornell, Harvard, Pennsylvania State, Princeton, Tennessee, and Yale explored the implications of interinstitutional collaboration and the need for common protocols in the application of digital technologies for preservation.

Joint Task Force Studying Image Requirements, Technology

At the first meeting of the Joint Task Force on Text and Image (see the August 1990 Newsletter), the President of the Commission described the mission of the Task Force and gave its charge. She pointed out that the Task Force is composed of librarians, scholars, curators and practitioners whose professional concerns involve the use of images with accompanying text for scholarly research. This occupational and disciplinary heterogeneity is deliberate. It is designed to uncover the various perspectives that these several viewpoints bring to the tasks of preserving and making widely accessible drawings, maps, photographs, prints, and other illustrations that have been made and are stored on relentlessly disintegrating acidic paper. In the course of exploring diversity, the Task Force may well discover commonalities in needs, strategies and methods, as well as resources, across these many fields.

The mission of the Task Force is to develop a comprehensive, internationally coordinated plan to insure the preservation of scholarly materials containing text and images important to the continuing vitality of research in the relevant disciplines. Specifically, the ask Force is charged to:

  • develop and establish a network of communication channels among all groups of scholars and others who are dependent upon text-cum-image publications for research and the advancement of knowledge.
  • distinguish among the varying needs of the relevant disciplines and articulate commonalities and differences.
  • develop a set of basic premises, a list of priorities, and a series of overall strategies for a long-range preservation effort.
  • develop strategies to disaggregate and set priorities for the various preservation activities, hence enabling us to:
    • take immediate action on those areas that are amenable to currently available treatments.
    • conduct longer-term analysis of less tractable problems.
  • develop a research agenda, in priority order, for pilot studies, demonstration projects, and specific applications of new technologies.

In the course of its deliberations at the first meeting, the Joint Task Force noted that their charge required them to understand differences and similarities among disciplines with regard to such issues as the use of image in relationship to text, the requirements for color, for resolution in black-and white reproductions, and other features having to do with the quality of the preserved image. Some idea of the range of image types (e.g., drawings, halftones, color illustrations, woodcuts, etc.) involved is necessary and it would be desirable to know about placement in the book (same or adjacent page, appendix, fold-out, etc.) Further, the Task Force remarked that it would be useful to know what the distribution of image types and placements was for orienting their work toward the most common and frequent situations.

The Task Force also concluded they needed to know more about available technologies for preservation and the interrelationships among them, particularly with regard to cost, longevity, ease of use, convertibility of format, and similar questions. There was also a suggestion that still other disciplines, especially systematic/taxonomic sciences and cartography, should be included in the scope of preservation interest. Finally, the Task Force concluded that it should begin to work at once on a classification of requirements for image preservation.

Henry W. Riecken. Senior Program Advisor

Ed. Note: At press time, the Joint Task Force was meeting a second time at Wye Center, MD, for presentations and discussions concerning image requirements in specific fields and developments in image technology with implications for preservation. The work of the Task Force is funded by the Getty Grant Program.

A Research Review
Exposure of Deacidified Paper to Sulfur Dioxide and Nitrogen Dioxide

This research review was prepared at the Commission’s request by Peter G. Sparks as one follow-up to the Directory of Information Sources on Scientific Research, March 1990.

“Exposure of Deacidified Paper to Sulfur Dioxide and Nitrogen Dioxide,” by Edwin L. Williams and Daniel Grosjean; The Getty Conservation Institute Newsletter, page 6, Spring 1990.
This paper will be good reading for library preservation officers and preservation scientists who have a technical interest in understanding how the alkaline reserve in deacidified paper can protect the paper from the absorption of airborne pollutants Sulfur Dioxide (S02) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO?).

Whether it becomes acidic from the process by which it is made or from the absorption of atmospheric pollutants, paper is degraded by the acid hydrolysis of cellulose. The focus of this initial investigation is the chemical interaction of the alkaline reserve in aqueous and non-aqueous, Wei T’o deacidified papers with low levels of S02 and N02. The unusual aspect of this work is that the two types of paper studied were exposed to concentrations of S02 and N02 found in ambient air, which are usually from 5 to 50 parts per billion (ppb). Previous studies of S02 interaction with deacidified paper were carried out at concentrations 20 to 2,000 times higher than those used in this study. As the authors point out, that approach can lead to complications, because SO at higher concentrations can form sulfuric acid aerosol in the air and the observed damage to the paper could be due to the sulfuric acid rather than the S02. The authors also point out that this study is the first to look at the exposure of paper to N02.

Considerable discussion of experimental methods and results gives the reader a clear idea of how the study was carried out and the nature of the data collected. A number of interesting observations are reported, of which four are given below.

  1. Both S0. and N0- were continuously absorbed by the deacidified and untreated paper throughout the entire 13-to-29 week exposure period. and both gases were removed at the same rate whether alone or as a mixture.
  2. The deacidified papers had a much higher capacity for the uptake of S02 than for the uptake of N02.
  3. Chemical analysis of the exposed papers showed that a sulfate was the only sulfur-containing reaction product detected on exposure to S02 gas and S02 + N02 gas mixtures. This result appears to be independent of paper type and whether the paper was deacidified or not.
  4. Observed sulfate and nitrite concentrations were higher in deacidified papers than in untreated papers.

Future experimental work is suggested by the authors with an eye to developing a fast screening method to examine the effectiveness of various methods of deacidification and to then select several processes for detailed studies.

A few comments are worth making at this point in the study on what can be gleaned from initial results. The following represent some jointly held views developed after my discussions with Dr. James Druzik of the GCI Scientific program:

First, the study may give some solid evidence that the alkaline reserve compound offers real protection to the cellulose from gaseous pollutants. This follows from observation #4 that the concentrations of products formed from the reaction of the reserve compound and the pollutant gases (reported as sulfates, nitrates and nitrites) are generally higher in the deacidified paper than in the untreated paper control. In your bookstacks, this means that when the pollutant gases move between the pages of a deacidified book only a small amount of these materials will be left to do potential damage to the paper.

Secondly, and as important, this study points out the need to consider the effect of nitrogen dioxide exposure on paper. The concentration of sulfur dioxide in the air is being lowered in many parts of the world due to clean air programs. This could leave other pollutant gases such as nitrogen dioxide, which are harder to control, as the principal pollution source for airborne acidity in non-alkaline paper. Moreover, as Dr. Druzik has pointed out, the impact of this scenario on HVAC systems is important because the oxides of nitrogen are far more difficult to chemically filter out than sulfur dioxide.

It is recommended that a copy of the complete report be ordered from Dr. Druzik at the GCI Scientific Program, Getty Conservation Institute, 4503 Glencoe Avenue, Marina del Rey, CA 90292-6537; (213) 822-2299.

Paper Progress in Germany

The following letter (translated by Hans Rütimann) regarding the use of permanent paper in Germany is signed by two principals of one of Germany’s large paper manufacturing concerns.

Re: Symposium on permanent paper

Dear Mr. Rütimann,

You may remember that during the symposium on permanent paper on 14 February 1990, I announced that the PWA Grafische Papiere is planning to convert to alkaline paper production by Fall of 1990.

This has happened–since 1 October 1990, all coated and uncoated paper manufactured by PWA GP conforms to the “Frankfurt Requirements:”

  • Only bleached cellulose without wood pulp fibers is used.
  • the pH-value is 7.5 – 9.0.
  • Calcium carbonate is used as buffer.

We believe that these steps will make a contribution in the spirit of the “Frankfurt Requirements.”

Sincerely yours,

PWA Grafische Papiere GmbH
Dept. of Technical Services signed: Reinwart and Schmin

Ed. Note: For a report on the Frankfurt symposium on permanent paper, see the May 1990 Newsletter.

Reports of Interest

The Politics and Management of Preservation Planning, by Karl G. Schmude, University Librarian of the Dixson Library at the University of New England in Australia, offers several solutions to commonly expressed preservation/access concerns: obstacles in planning, including the extent to which libraries have promoted the use and accessibility of their collections but have neglected the issue of future availability; high costs of preservation programs: and difficulties in cooperation among libraries.

Presented during the 55th IFLA Council and General Conference in Paris, August 19-26, 1989, and published in the August 1990 issue of the IFLA Journal (volume 16. no. 3. pp. 332 335).

“The ongoing computer revolution makes the task of saving Government records for historical purposes more complex.” Thus begins a 30-page report submitted by the Committee on Government Operations to Congress on November 6, 1990–Taking a Byte Out of History: The Archival Preservation of Federal Computer Records (House Report 101-978). Based on a study made by the Committee’s Government Information, Justice and Agriculture Subcommittee, the report estimates that “75 percent of all Federal transactions will be handled electronically in the year 2000.” The findings of the study and suggested recommendations will be of interest to the broader preservation and access community. The report also discusses: Federal Government Use of Computer Technology, Software and Hardware Dependence, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Preservation Strategy, and Related Records Management Problems.

Free copy of House Report 101-978, from: House Document Room, HOB Annex 2. Room B18. 2nd and D Streets. SW. Washington. DC. 20515 (include a self-adhesive. self addressed label)

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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