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CPA Newsletter #42, Feb 1992

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


February 1992

Number 42

Jewelry History Endangered by Acidic Paper

A new study of access to and preservation of research library materials used by jewelry historians confirms the need for proactive measures to ensure the survival of their contents. Christine De Bow Klein, who conducted the study during an internship at the Commission, investigated a core bibliography of 284 books compiled from listings supplied by nine jewelry professionals and scholars as well as 11 bibliographies from heavily cited authors. The intent of the project was to formulate a preservation strategy for the field of jewelry history and to encourage the interest of jewelry historians, appraisers, professionals, collectors, and connoisseurs in the preservation of materials that support scholarly jewelry research.

Much of the project’s methodology is applicable to other disciplines wishing to conduct similar preservation and access inquiries. The study begins to identify a core of material that is compiled and cited and should be targeted for preservation. Despite the poor condition of many of the books, including newer titles published on acidic paper, searches of the OCLC database indicated that only 28 of the cited books have been microfilmed to preserve their contents .

Klein, who recently completed her masters degree at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Catholic University of America, found seven libraries holding a substantial number of the items in the bibliography: The Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institution Libraries, The U.S. Geological Library, the Richard A. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and the Winterthur Library.

A final paper, Jewelry History: Strategies for Preservation and a Core Bibliography, describes the study methodology and results, making a case for preservation of jewelry history materials. The report may be ordered from the Commission for $12.00, with prepayment by check required. Make check payable to “The Commission on Preservation and Access”–U.S. funds only, and send orders to the attention of Trish Cece, Communications Assistant.

MLA Program Spotlights Preservation Strategies

Nearly half of the 78 section heads of the Modern Language Association (MLA) attended a breakfast program hosted by Executive Director Phyllis Franklin during the 107th annual convention of the Modern Language Association, December 1991, in San Francisco. The language scholars discussed responsibilities for preservation with speakers J. Hillis Miller, Department of English ; Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine, and George Farr, Director of the Division of Preservation and Access, National Endowment for the Humanities.

At a Commission exhibit, staff from the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, and the Research Libraries Group, Inc., handed out over 300 copies of Miller’s report, Preserving the Literary Heritage. A fact sheet on what scholars can do to promote preservation, developed and distributed at the conference by the Stanford libraries, is available at no cost from the Commission, as an example for adaptation and use by other universities.

Final Appropriations for NEH Preservation Programs

The Interior Appropriations bill for FY1992 (HR 2686) received final congressional approval and was signed into law (PL 102-154) on November 13. Preservation programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) were cut by $2.5 million, for a total of $22.4 million. The $2.5 million cut came from the National Heritage Preservation Program (museum artifact conservation). [Excerpt from the American Library Association ALA Washington Newsletter, November 26, 1991]

SLOW FIRES Circles the Globe

As a part of the Commission’s International Project, the film/video Slow Fires has been used in the following situations:

  • Zentralbibliothek Zurich: For a possible showing on Swiss television.
  • German Library Institute, Berlin: The institute has acquired a copy of the video for its own use and as example of a similar documentary for Germany.
  • International Edition, Reader’s Digest: Robert Wernick, writer, used the documentary in preparation for an article on deteriorating library collections that has been published in more than a dozen of the Digests International editions.
  • Association pour Sauver les Documents dans les Bibliotheques Francaises, Paris: The association is considering providing a French narration or creating a similar film/video for France.
  • European Foundation for Library Cooperation: Hermann Liebaers, President, arranged for the film to be shown on Belgium national television.
  • Deutsche Bücherei, Leipzig: The former East German National Library arranged for several showings of the video to library staff.
  • National Library of Portugal: The video will be shown to several groups in the national library and the Portuguese Library Association.
  • Commission of the European Community (CEC): Jon Bader, consultant to the CEC, used the video in preparation of his feasibility study for a European Register of Microform Masters. Copies were made available to Directorate General XIII (Telecommunications, Information industries and innovation) and Directorate General X (Information, communication, and culture). The CEC (Directorate General X) is planning a campaign to raise public awareness concerning acidic and permanent paper.
  • China: During a recent trip, several lectures on international preservation issues included a showing of Slow Fires, with a member of the Library Resources Panel of the Committee on Scholarly Communication of the People’s Republic of China providing the Chinese narration. At Wuhan University, the Dean of the School of Library and Information Science exchanged a copy of the video for a preservation documentary created there.
Hans Rütimann Consultant. International Project

Note: One-hour and one-half hour versions of Slow Fires are available for loan from the Commission and for sale from the American Film Foundation, Santa Monica, CA, (213) 459-2116.

Preservation Management Seminar Scheduled for 1993

The College Libraries Committee, in cooperation with SOLINET, Inc., is planning to offer a second Preservation Management Seminar in 1993. The first seminar, developed jointly by the Commission and SOLINET Preservation Service, was held July 20-27,1991 at Washington & Lee University. At that event, 16 college library staff members were trained in implementing effective strategies for preserving their general collections.

In advance of the 1993 seminar, committee members will be contacting directors of the participating libraries to conduct a formal evaluation of the 1991 seminar. Further information can be obtained from SOLINET, phone 800-999-8558.

NHA, ARL & ALA Hold Capitol Hill Briefing on Preservation

The National Humanities Alliance, Association of Research Libraries, and American Library Association sponsored a briefing session for the House Appropriations Committee members and their staff on January 31 on Capitol Hill. The purpose of the briefing was to increase the visibility of and support for the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) preservation program prior to the FY93 hearings and budget discussions. Five individuals made brief presentations: Patricia Battin on the value of the NEH program, M. Stuart Lynn (a member of the Technology Assessment Advisory Committee) on the application of digital technologies for preservation, Robert Oakley (author of Copyright and Preservation: A Serious Issue in Need of a Thoughtful Solution) on copyright issues, Kathleen Moretto Spencer (chair of the College Libraries Committee) on the experiences of small colleges, and William Studer on university participation. Sidney Verba (Commission Board member) moderated the panel.

Science Panel Comments on Fumigants, Photocopying, Paper Aging

A panel of librarians archivists and conservators has completed comments on a second set of reports as part of a broad-based science research initiative of the Commission. Two reports on fumigants describe research into methods for eradicating pests without causing harm to humans; more research is planned. The research on copying of unstable archive records provides guidelines that can be incorporated into preservation photocopying programs at many institutions. Finally, a literature review summarizes key research on the complex behavior of paper that forms the cornerstone of current preservation activities.


“Sulfuryl Fluoride (Vikane): A Review of its Use as a Fumigant.” Submitted for review by the Conservation Analytical Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution. Published in Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, V.29. No.l (Spring 1990). pp.77-90.
The researchers report that in recent field studies and structural fumigations, little or no damage to the fumigated materials has been observed.” The intent of the current research, of which this report is only the first, is to study in-depth ‘what unobservable effects, if any, Vikane may have on materials commonly found in museums.” This is precisely the kind of information preservation officers, library and archive administrators and conservators need in order to make informed treatment decisions for infested collections or buildings. They must be able to evaluate the alternatives and weigh the risks.Particularly informative for field practitioners is the tabular presentation (Table 1), “Some Fumigants Used in Museums and their Reactivity with Various Materials.” Of the seven noted, they report that four are no longer used in the U.S. for library or museum fumigation.

James Wellvang, Head Preservation Dept., University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, AMIGOS Preservation Service

Of interest to librarians and archivists is the fact that Vikane has not been thoroughly tested for its effect on microorganisms (fungi, bacteria, etc.). Preliminary studies show that it does not kill spores in the same concentrations used to kill insects. Therefore, Vikane is less effective against molds than ethylene oxide. It should be noted that ethylene oxide is considered carcinogenic and is no longer marketed as a museum fumigant.C Ward
Status Report: Feasibility of Using Modified Atmospheres to Control Insect Pests in Museums. Submitted for review by the Getty Conservation Institute, 1990. Research conducted by the Department of Entomology, University of California, Riverside. This work encourages researchers that nitrogen atmospheres can be used as an effective alternative to toxic fumigation for museum and archive pest control.
A means of killing insects in library collections which is safe to humans, non-reactive to the materials infested, and easily and inexpensively applied is a wonderful sounding product. This research does not promise such a product, but as a preservation administrator, I cannot help but believe that this research (as well as other non-toxic approaches) is moving us in that direction….Keepers of libraries and archives will undoubtedly be interested in the next reported stage of this research: can the exposure time (especially for the all-too-common cigarette beetle) be reduced by altering temperature or relative humidity? And of course, they are also interested in seeing the development of a readily obtainable device for administering this sort of “kill” in the field, should the results continue to the positive.

J. Wellvang, AMIGOS Preservation Service

Clearly, the extent to which this research might be incorporated into the policies and procedures for pest control management at NARA will depend on the availability of safe, effective, and affordable commercial services for the method described in the status report.K. Garlick
With so many libraries frightened away from fumigation by its toxicity, it is good to see that work is being done on alternative methods. While many libraries and archives choose to bypass fumigation because doing without is a lesser evil than the toxicity risks, some would prefer to be treating selected materials if a safer way could be identified. At Northwestern, this is particularly true for Africana materials.R. Frieder


Archival Copies of Thermofax, Verifax and Other Unstable Records, with appendix. Submitted by National Archives and Records Administration. 1990. One of a series of Technical Information Papers (#5). NARA provided the complete GPO Final Report, “Archival Xerographic Copying, Special Development Study for the National Archives and Record Administration” (1987), along with a summary of conclusions from the report and a description of Peel Test procedures for electrostatic copy quality.
This document is invaluable for any librarian or archivist (in fact, anyone who creates records, particularly any of long-term value) who engages in copying materials using an electrostatic copy machine. The GPO tested fourteen copy machines and found only one that met all established standards for archival copying. Although these results are not conclusive, it can be inferred that some machines may not be suitable for archival copying.In order to determine whether any machine is producing an archivally acceptable copy, the author offers procedures for a test that can easily be carried out by anyone. Most machines can be adjusted to obtain the appropriate copy.

C. Ward

I have not come across another document that explains the photocopying process and analyzes its archival assets and liabilities as clearly and briefly as does this publication. It will help me address issues of archival permanence and longevity with our preservation photocopying vendors.R. Frieder
The appended text of the GPO study offers useful information on xerographic processes and the characteristics of toners and carriers. Assurance is given that toners containing carbon black are quite stable. It is interesting to note that since toners are fused to paper by heat or light, accelerated aging only serves to set the image more firmly and cannot be used to determine the permanence of photocopies. Predictions of longevity must therefore be based on the stability of the paper and toner and tests of the strength of the adhesion of toner to paper when the photocopy is first produced.M. Byrnes
The summary of conclusions … provides practical advice for specifying and scheduling copy machine maintenance and service and for determining that any machine is “producing archivally acceptable copy” by using the peel test. The report also recommends procedures in areas often left unmentioned … marking photocopies, identifying replacement copies and storing or discarding original unstable documents.Sharlane Grant, Head Preservation Department, Arizona State University Libraries, AMIGOS Preservation Service

Paper–Review of Research

Ageing/Degradation of Paper, A Literature Survey, by Christer Fellers, Tommy Iversen, Tom Lindstrom, Thomas Nilsson, and Mikael Rigdahl. FoU-projektet for papperskonservering, Report No. 1 E, Stockholm, September 1989. ISSN 0284-5636. Prepared by the Swedish Pulp and Paper Research Institute and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Many preservation professionals are not as familiar with paper chemistry as they would like to be. [The report] covers a lot of ground in varying degrees of detail but provides a useful technical overview of the causes of paper deterioration. While much of it consists of explanations of chemical reactions–and may be tough sledding for those without backgrounds in chemistry or paper science–the report is a valuable reference source and should be added to the collections of all preservation programs and library schools.During the past several years I have been sitting in on meetings of the NISO committee responsible for revising ANSI Z39.48, the U.S. standard for permanent paper. Had I read the Fellers report before attending those meetings, it would have been much easier to follow some of the committee’s technical discussions and to assess the research reports that the committee used in its work. I have to say, however, that the report would have been much enhanced by the addition of a glossary.

M. Byrne

This literary survey is an excellent reference tool for preservation officers, conservators, and librarians interested in understanding the chemical and mechanical processes of paper aging and degradation and the technical processes of testing for deterioration…. Although currency related to ongoing research and development is a problem, the information reported is very useful and in itself provides an important historical context

.Randall R. Butler: Ph.D., Coordinator Special Collections and Archives, Cline Library Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AMIGOS Preservation Service

Further information is available from the panel members: Margaret Byrnes. Head, Preservation Section, National Library of Medicine; Tom Clareson, Preservation Service Manager, AMIGOS Bibliographic Council; Richard Frieder, Preservation Officer, Northwestern University Library; Karen Garlick. Senior Conservator. National Archives and Records Administration; Kenneth Harris, Director for Preservation, Library of Congress; Howard P. Lowell, State Archivist and Records Administrator, Delaware State Archives; Jan Merrill-Oldham, Head, Preservation Department, University of Connecticut Library; and Christine W. Ward, Chief. Bureau of Archival Services, New York State Archives.

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


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