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CPA Newsletter #41, Jan 1992

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


January 1992

Number 41

Hewlett Foundation Continues Support of Cooperative Programs

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has announced the award of a $450,000 grant to the Commission to support national and international preservation and access programs. The three-year grant provides a continuation of funding from the Hewlett Foundation, which is one of the charter supporters of the Commission. The grant will contribute to a broad range of preservation programs and projects.

Board Approves Technology Contracts

At its September 1991 meeting, the Commission Board approved the following contracts to carry forward explorations of the interinstitutional use of digital technologies to preserve and enhance access to deteriorating library and archival materials.

A contract with Yale University covers the first phase of a study to scan 10,000 volumes from preservation microfilm into digital image format. During this new phase, Yale will identify the hardware and software for the project, establish partnership relationships with vendors, and develop a staffing plan and budget.

A contract with Cornell University enables the University Library and Information Technologies to carry forward their collaborative project to optically scan 1,000 brittle books and provide scholar access to the digitized texts at individual workstations. The November-December 1991 issue of the newsletter included an interim report on the project’s progress to date. In the next phase of the project, Cornell will test the feasibility of producing preservation microfilm directly from scanned digital images as well as providing national access over the Internet to the digitized information.

A contract with MAPS, The MicrogrAphic Preservation Service, recommended by the Joint Task Force on Text and Image, will test the viability of color microfilm for brittle books and journals containing a mixture of text, black-and-white illustrations, color plates, fold-out maps, and so forth. The project will explore the acceptability of color microfilm as an archival preservation medium, as well as an alternative means for bundling a variety of image formats and text.

Appraisal Task Force to Address Repository Guidelines

A new task force considering the application of appraisal guidelines to possible strategies for determining priorities for the preservation of non-print collections held its first meeting at Commission headquarters last month. The session succeeded in formulating a potentially useful outline for the development of guidelines to help repositories determine and then address the varying preservation needs of their collections. A series of drafts of the proposed guidelines will be circulated among the members until their next meeting, scheduled for February 21, 1992.

Task Force members are: Robert Sink, New York Public Library Archives (chair); Frank Boles, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University; Paul Conway, Archival Research and Evaluation Staff, National Archives; Edie Hedlin, a consultant affiliated with the Winthrop Group; and Christine Ward, Bureau of Archival Services, New York State Archives. See page 1 of the November-December 1991 Newsletter for more information on this task force and the new documentation strategy task force, both staffed by Margaret Child.

Preservation Exhibit Premiers at MLA Conference

Members of the Modern Language Association were the first to see the Commission’s new modular brittle book display during MLA’s Annual Convention in San Francisco last month. In partnership with the Research Libraries Group, Inc., the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University, the Commission distributed complimentary materials, including J. Hillis Miller’s Preserving the Literary Heritage. In addition, preservation and access was the theme of a breakfast hosted by MLA’s executive director, Phyllis Franklin, and attended by representatives of division committees and discussion groups.

Commission Moves to New Headquarters

As of December 20, 1991, the Commission has a new address and phone number:

The Commission on Preservation and Access
1400 16th Street, NW, Suite 740
Washington, D.C. 20036-2217
(202) 939-3400
(202) 939-3407 FAX

Foundation Support Boosts Preservation Programs in NYS

A grant of $200,000 from the Goldsmith-Perry Philanthropies, Inc., under the leadership of author Barbara Goldsmith, is being used by New York University’s Bobst Library to support its preservation program and establish a permanent preservation endowment. “At NYU, we estimate that 40% of our holdings are in need of preservation treatments,” said NYU Dean of Libraries Carlton C. Rochell. “These funds will make a real and demonstrable difference as we work against the clock to rescue our most fragile materials.”

Goldsmith, a prominent author and social historian, is a long-time champion of book preservation and of the use of acid-free paper. She was elected to the Commission’s Board last year. In honor of the contribution, the library has named its in-house facility the Goldsmith-Perry Conservation Laboratory.


Meanwhile, a grant of $10,000 from the New York State Newspapers Foundation will enable the New York State Newspaper Project to microfilm one-fifth of the historic newspapers of the Capital District region. The money will be matched with an additional $10,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The combined funds will be used to preserve over 100,000 pages of newsprint on microfilm. The New York Newspapers Foundation was established in 1977 by the New York Newspaper Publishers Association to encourage the advancement of freedom of speech and of the press and to promote education, study and scientific research in all related fields.

A Book is the only place where you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it , or explore an explosive idea without fear that is will go off in your face.

Edward P. Morgan

Technology Demonstrations, Assessment of Commission Topics Of NACP Annual Meeting

Representatives from 22 library, academic, governmental and scholarly organizations comprising the National Advisory Council on Preservation (NACP) met in mid-November at Commission headquarters to hear presentations on collaborative digital imagery demonstration projects underway at Cornell and Yale Universities. Anne Kenney, Assistant Director, Department of Preservation and Conservation, reported on Cornell University’s collaborative project with The Xerox Corporation and the Commission, to test a prototype system for recording deteriorating books as digital images and producing, on demand, high quality and archivally sound paper facsimiles.

Millicent Abell, University Librarian; Donald Waters, Head, Library Systems Office; and Michael Keller, Associate University Librarian for Collection Development, described Yale’s Digital Preservation Project, which seeks to create a 10,000-volume digital image library using preservation microfilm as its source and to provide broad access to the digitized material.

Both Yale and Cornell see their projects as part of a cooperative effort to engage in systematic testing of variations of preservation technology. Findings will be shared between the two projects, as well as with other institutions that are expected to participate in the future.

Abell, a Commission Board member, requested the group’s reactions and comments on the recommendations of the Review and Assessment Committee, which recently examined the first five years of work of the Commission. [See Review and Assessment Committee Report, September 1991, available from the Commission at no charge.] Abell will present the substance and findings of the discussion, which centered on the scope and priorities of the Commission, the concept of a national preservation strategy, and the role and constituency of the NACP, to the Board at its January 1992 meeting.

New Guide for Libraries Enhances Access to Preserved Materials

A recently-published manual, The OCLC Guide to Preservation Data, seeks to streamline the library community’s task of preserving millions of original items that risk deterioration. The new publication from OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc., describes how libraries can use OCLC’s central registry to record and provide access to important preservation information. The procedures enable libraries to record their intent to preserve materials, which assists cooperative efforts and helps avoid duplicative activities.

The new guidelines are expected to result in faster and more consistent recording of information about preserved materials, which in turn will enhance scholars’ and library users’ access to those resources.

More information is available from Kate Nevins, OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc., 6565 Frantz Road, Dublin, Ohio 43017-3395.


A Research Review

The Characterization of Microenvironments and the Degradation of Archival Records: A Research Program

This research review was prepared at the Commission’s request by Gary Frost of BookLab, as part of the Commission’s scientific research initiative.

The Characterization of Microenvironments and the Degradation of Archival Records: A Research Program, by Elio Passaglia, National Bureau of Standards, Institute for Materials Science and Engineering, October 1987, NBSIR87-3635. A Report Prepared for the National Archives and Records Administration. [Note: Since this report was issued, the National Bureau of Standards has changed its name to the National Institute of Standards and Technology]

This report is interdisciplinary, even before considering its reference to problems of preservation administration. The chemistry of pollutant/paper reaction, the physics of gaseous diffusion and dynamics of energy exchange are all reviewed in reference to the model of the style F manuscript box as a storage microenvironment. Further, the report provides an opportunity for a shared scientific research agenda between scientific investigators and those who must decide what actions will best extend the service life of collections.

The report is divided into three sections all concerning preservation implications of the microclimate produced by boxed storage. There are sections on “Models and Microenvironments,” on “Degradation and its Prediction: Data Availability,” and a section presenting “A Research Program,” developed from implications of the preceding material.

The study begins with calculation of diffusion rates of a pollutant gas through the component walls and gaps and proceeds to calculations to monitor changes in concentration of a pollutant gas with changes in surrounding pressure and temperature. Breathing modes equalize inside/outside concentrations. The formulae indicate that the F style box with gaps and seams will not impede diffusion and can only control interior concentration if the walls are reactive with the intruding pollutant.

Two interesting additional models, the bound book and impermeable film encapsulation, are also examined to define their mechanisms of pollutant gas diffusion. Both also indicate the importance of intimate surface contact as a factor in of gas phase reaction. Though these models were disassociated from the central investigation, they do suggest variables in modeling the microclimate of the F style box. New technologies in automated production of custom fitting enclosures, film sealing of irregular box contents and foldering options would bring relevance to both the book and encapsulation model in consideration of gas diffusion into boxed contents.

The second section on accelerated aging and predictability of storage life is presented to further validate the proposed research project to follow. A useful summary of pollutant gas reactions and paper aging techniques is provided. Though the first section concerned rather ageless chemistry and physics, this section reviews work which is in rapid transition. Recent further work includes investigation of pollutant catalyzed aging of paper including application of artificial, as opposed to accelerated, aging testing.

The final section proposes a research program to study any protective interaction of containers with pollutant gases. The proposed research would also focus on identification of the degradation products of the gas phase reactions to better establish the protective role and requirements of a buffered container.

A subsequent report; NISTIR 4456, “Studies on the Degradation Products of Paper with and without Pollutants in a Closed Environment, I. Preliminary Results,” E.J. Parks, C.M. Guttman, K.L. Jewett and F.E. Brinckman, May 1990, was produced in partial response to the proposed research program. This study examined degradation products produced in newsprint and rag papers in gas phase reactions with and without the addition of a pollutant gas. In this report “six organic acids were tentatively identified as degradation products which are mobile and which may be transferred from one paper to another by surface or gas diffusion.”

NISTIR 4456 is of interest to the preservation librarian for its method of interpretation of the effects of detrimental aging in terms of the specifically identified decomposition products. The concentrated pollutant gas (2500 ppm SO2) was not implicated in the extensive degradation of the test papers, however, the degradation products identified can also diffuse or migrate through paper and could themselves constitute a damaging pollutant. In the micro and macro environment of stored book and document collections such internally generated pollutants could catalyze more damage than pollutant invaders from outside.

So NISTIR 4456 points to the final investigation recommended by the Passaglia work. This proposed study would examine the role of reactive container walls as a barrier to pollutant gas damage. Following that study preservation librarians may ask further questions, but by then the interaction of manager and scientist will itself be well catalyzed.

The inevitable presence of pollutant gases in urban settings and storage areas, their reactivity with newsprint and lignin, and the probability of archive acidification unchecked by direct treatment, all indicate a need for a strategic countermeasure. If the exposure of acidic collections to pollutant gases can be controlled by sacrificial and protective reactions of their enclosing containers and contacting folders such a countermeasure is identified. In light of these National Archives based reports preservation administrators can accept this working concept as a component in the provision of non-damaging storage environment.

Interim Reports on Color Microfilm Research

Two contractors conducting Commission-sponsored research on color microfilm under a grant from the Getty Grant Program have provided progress reports on their activities. The Image Permanence Institute (IPI), Rochester, New York, has been investigating the dark stability of color microfilm products. In the second year of the project, IPI has more data, but because of the nature of problems being addressed (physical behavior as well as dye stability), it will be at least another year before full results will be available.

As of October 1991, the results continue to verify the trends evident in the first report (see March 1991 newsletter). According to IPI Director James M. Reilly, “The dye stability in the dark of the Cibachrome films is outstanding. We are not sure it will be possible to predict the time at room temperature and 50% relative humidity for even a 10% loss of dye, because too little change is occurring at higher temperatures to allow for a prediction. The dark stability of the chromogenic films, as expected, is considerably less.”

The IPI report notes that the physical test results with Cibachrome show that the tensile properties of the polyester base have degraded faster at high temperature than has been seen in previous studies with black and white silver microfilm on polyester base. However, researchers do not yet know whether this means that Cibachrome base is less stable at room temperature than that of other films. “…even if this were so, the useful life of the product will still likely be several hundred years at room temperature, and in our opinion it is an excellent preservation medium for color imagery,” Reilly noted.

A progress report from MAPs, The MicrogrAphic Preservation Service, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on a Color Microfilming-Continuous Tone Processing contract focuses on results regarding color microfilming. MAPS has opted not to do its own color microfilm processing and to use Micro Color International for that function, because of its experience and existence of required specialized processing equipment. Basic testing of a Herrmann & Kraemer color camera system and Cibachrome film has been completed, and research is underway on a problem related to the duplication of 35mm reels of color film. Currently, it is thought that the duplication problem, created because the silver content is bleached away in processing the originally exposed Cibachrome film, will either force the acceptance of sprocketed film, or require three separate filmings to produce the required archive master, print master, and service copy. In its test filming to date, MAPS has opted for the three-filming scenario, which required a significant increase in camera time.

Free Preservation Video Available from UMI

Caring for Your Microform Collection: The Next Step in Preservation, a 13-minute video on proper storage and handling techniques of microform collections, is available free from University Microforms International. Temperature and humidity control, preservation microfilm/fiche cleaning and inspection are among the topics discussed. The VHS-format video complements another video distributed by UMI, Providing a Future for the Past. To order, call 1-800-521-0600, ext. 3801 or 1-800-343-5299, ext. 3801 from Canada.


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