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CPA Newsletter #62, Nov-Dec 1993

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


November-December 1993

Number 62

Search for President Underway
Battin Announces Retirement

The Commission Board is actively seeking a new President upon the retirement of Patricia Battin, who has announced that she will leave that post on June 30, 1994. Board Chair Billy E. Frye has appointed a committee that is searching for a leader “who can move forward with a full and active national and global agenda addressing the preservation of and access to scholarly resources.” According to a recent announcement from Frye, Board fully endorses current programs and will continue during the transition period.

The Board is requesting nominations for the position, and a description is available from search committee members: Millicent D. Abell, University Librarian, Yale University, Box 1603A Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520; Sidney Verba, Director, Harvard University Library, Wadsworth House, 1341 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138; Deanna Marcum, Director of Public Service & Collections Management I, Library of Congress, LM-642, Washington, DC 20540.

Macmillan, Paramount Join Commission Sponsors

The Macmillan Foundation and Paramount Publishers recently added their support to the Commission by becoming sponsors for the next three years. Current sponsors now total 66, with this latest addition representative of the commitment of the publishing industry to the preservation of and access to the human record. Sponsors receive expedited mailings of publications, newsletters, and other information, as well as complimentary use of the Commission’s exhibits.

New Mellon Grant to Support International Program

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has approved an $800,000 grant to the Commission for the operation of the International Program over the next three years. The appropriation will enable the Commission to maintain a strong, flexible capability for responding to preservation initiatives in Eastern and Western Europe, Latin America and other parts of the globe.

The International Program was developed in 1989 with an initial Mellon grant. Its major objectives are to encourage and strengthen active preservation programs and to help develop new programs in countries with minimal or no preservation activities. In its work, the International Program encourages cooperation among nations to eliminate redundancy and maximize use of financial resources, and the use of compatible formats to help assure world-wide bibliographic access to preservation records.

National Library of Poland to Begin Microform Conversion Project

The Commission has contracted with the National Library of Poland to convert to machine-readable form the register of microforms held by Polish libraries. The project will speed up the input of data on collections of Poland’s libraries to the databases and make access to them easier, while helping to facilitate access to important and valuable materials for scholars of both Europe and America.

The three-year project is scheduled to begin on January 1, 1994. It is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The converted records–bibliographic citations of microforms available in Polish libraries–will become an integral part of the automated catalog of the Polish National Library. All information converted to machine-readable form under this project will be made available to the U.S. library and scholarly communities in a U.S.-compatible format.

This contract is viewed as a way to begin involving countries outside the European Community in the International Project initiative to make preservation records widely available.

Report on International Scholars Conference

Preserving The Intellectual Heritage, a report on the recent international conference organized by the Commission and supported by the Rockefeller and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations, provides the recommendations and outcomes of the week-long meeting. The June 7-11, 1993 conference, held at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy, consisted of 23 scholars from 11 western European countries and the United States who explored the development of new scholarly linkages in fields that depend heavily on deteriorating literature printed on acid paper.

The papers and informal comments by conference participants are paraphrased or summarized at appropriate points in the report. Conferees recognized the importance of raising the level of awareness about decaying books among scholars, librarians, university officers, cultural ministers, publishers, private foundations, professional societies and parliaments, without taking a position on which methods of preservation are preferred. However, it was agreed that it is important not to delay preserving materials until a particular method has been proved optimal. Instead, the most flexible, dependable and economical methods are suggested to be used at once. The report details how discussions of strategies for enhancing both inter-European and transatlantic cooperation led to a unanimous vote to create a European commission on preservation and access.

Preserving The Intellectual Heritage is available while supplies last for $10.00. Prepayment in U.S. funds is required. For further information contact Sonny Koerner at the Commission.

Pilot Project to Collect Information on Central Collection

The Commission convened an initial meeting of representatives from Harvard, Yale, Columbia and New York Public Libraries, the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), and Iron Mountain in August 1993 to develop a pilot project for a central distribution service for print masters of preservation microfilms. The project will collect cost, logistics and feasibility information for the operation of such a service.

Representatives have developed pilot project procedures for retrospectively standardizing the necessary retrieval information in the bibliographic record, for transferring that information to Iron Mountain via OCLC, and for shipping the films to Iron Mountain. Eventually, procedures for prospective records management will be recommended to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for inclusion in their guidelines.

Although the pilot will begin with library-mediated service, the objective is to make access available directly to the end-user.

Science Research Initiative Sets Priorities

The group of 16 preservation administrators and four scientists convened by the Commission within the Preservation Science Research Initiative has reached agreement on a first set of six priority projects to support library and archives in their efforts to extend the useful life of large research collections. The considerable consensus in defining this initial set of projects indicates significant progress toward a long-term science research initiative that will specifically address the needs of preservation administrators.

The first six research projects identified for development focus on the chemical deterioration of specific materials in large collections and address pressing materials science questions that relate to the environmental conditions and storage of collections of paper, film, and magnetic media. Requests for proposals (RFPs) are now being developed by the group, operating under the name of the Preservation Science Council. All RFPs call for the production of one or more management tools designed to be useful to preservation administrators for decision-making and cost-benefit analysis. RFPs will be made public over the next 18 months as they are completed, with the first expected within six months. The Projects involve research on:

Paper: Lignin. Assess the influences of lignin in a paper on its permanence, including such factors as color changes upon aging and possible deleterious effects upon non-lignin papers coming into contact with lignin-containing papers.

Paper and Book Collections: Evaluate the role of the moisture reservoir in paper and book collections under fluctuating RH and temperature conditions. Tests to include a broad range of materials and microclimate storage conditions, e.g., single isolated books, books and documents in various boxes, shelves of boxes.

Paper: Temperature and RH Dependence of Deterioration. Use of accelerated aging experiments to yield more absolute predictions concerning the life expectancy under different temperature and RH conditions of five types of paper found most commonly in libraries and archives.

Magnetic Media. Phase I: Review the status of current research on the longevity and durability of magnetic media, identify tools useful to librarians and archivists in managing these collections, and identify the research necessary to develop the tools, leading to Phase II.

Film. Research to yield recommendations for the types of storage enclosures that are best for microfilm, movie film, and sheet film, so as to minimize acetate base degradation.

Binding Adhesives. Design a laboratory process to accelerate the national aging process of polyvinyl acetate adhesive (PVA) films and to test the relative performance of several widely used PVA formulations.

The science research group first met in September 1992 at a 2 1/2-day workshop hosted by the Commission, followed by a one-day planning meeting in February 1993. The current stage of work culminated with a second 2 1/2-day workshop at the Belmont Conference Center in Elkridge, MD in September 1993. The initiative is supported with funds from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Consensus on the projects came about through group discussions, prioritization exercises, and questionnaires, with the following criteria:

  • immediacy of the problem.
  • extent of impact and significance on institutions and materials (numbers affected).
  • ease and ability to translate research results into practice.
  • cost in time and dollars of implementing results in institutions.
  • scientific validity of research design and results.
  • extent to which project enhances and helps other research completed or underway.

Digital Preservation Consortium Projects Move Ahead
USC Working to Preserve California Historic Society Collection

The University of Southern California (USC) libraries have established a steering committee and identified several key issues in the first phase of an Image Preservation and Access Project. Operating under a contract with the Commission, USC is developing an implementation plan for a combined preservation and delivery system for its California Historic Society Collection.

Many elements affect the design decisions made in implementing an integrated system for archiving, retrieving, and delivering digital images in a network environment. The committee has identified several key issues that affect the overall planning of the project including: quality and size of the Imagebase; mass storage model; accessibility and architecture; hierarchical image decomposition; user interface; and project planning.

The collection contains about 23,000 images that document development of the Los Angeles region from 1860 to 1960. Subject content of this collection is extensive and varied, ranging from ground transportation systems, aviation and shipping, street and city views, to whole collections of regional photographs by prominent local photographers.

Currently, the library is completing a three-year project to catalog the entire collection in USMARC format with textual description of all the items held within that collection. The database is accessible in a local area network, and USC libraries and the computing center are in the process of importing the database to a Unix environment and providing it over the Internet as a part of the USCinfo system. This would allow image delivery via the campus network to both library public access workstations as well as to end-user remote access workstations. USC libraries and computing services are fully committed to the development of a wide area network image delivery system for the purposes of preservation, research, and access.

UTK Scanning the Galston-Busoni Collections

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK) Libraries, in another Digital Preservation Consortium project, has scanned some 2,038 pages of the Galston-Busoni collections and formed a complete paper file of all scans organized according to the Bayne guide to the archives. The file is in the form of Docutech printouts that serve as a mechanism for quality control and, as accumulated, provide an important resource for access to the materials while preserving the originals until all is available online in a network environment.

Operating under contract to the Commission, the UTK project is exploring the potential of digitized page images as a long-term preservation technique for both text and graphics and experimenting with the access to and management of that collection. The Galston-Busoni collections consist of scholarly materials relating to late 19th- and 20th-century music and musical composition and performance, and contains some 1,500 scores for piano, 102 miniature scores, and 31 books. This collection was chosen for the wide variety of formats and types of materials, allowing for a thorough test of the capabilities of imaging technology.

UTK set goals for the project based on routine production, but the challenge of new technology hindered progress in three ways: 1) the kinds of materials contained in the Galston-Busoni archives presented challenges to scanner operators due to formats and conditions, and multiple types of images demanded trial-and-error testing; 2) specified “half-time” operation demanded that the scanning process be done from top priorities down; and 3) preservation scanning means the best quality that can be obtained. If it is assumed that the original is no more–as will one day be the case–what must be left to posterity is the very best image that the technology of 1993 can produce.

Despite problems, the project has completed the scanning of largely hand-written correspondence and other personal and business communications, as well as photographs, postcards, performance programs, performance reviews from contemporary newspapers and periodicals, the handwritten manuscript scores, and some published music contained within the collection.

ARL Publishes Statistics, Commends NEH Preservation Program

The 1991-92 ARL Preservation Statistics report, published by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), offers evidence of the continuing growth in preservation expenditures, staffing, and activities. The report highlights progress over the last five years of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) cooperative preservation microfilming program that has stimulated a 72 percent increase in preservation microfilming activities in ARL libraries since the program started, and documents the development of staff increases. In 1991-92, some 95 institutions reported having preservation administrators, a 20 percent increase over those institutions reporting in 1987-88.

The statistics report is available by prepaid order to ARL institutions for $20 and to non-members and individuals for $60. Contact ARL, Publications Department, Dept. #0692, Washington, DC 20073-0692.

“New Technologies, New Access, New Risks”

The Commission’s modular exhibit now offers two photo-display options. A new set of center photograph panels depicts the transitional nature of both the brittle book and the preservation technology used to capture information, with the overlying message of “New Technologies, New Access, New Risks”.

This new option complements the existing center photograph panels that depict a brittle page of a book. Borrowing institutions may choose either set of panels. In either case, the photo is framed by four blank felt panels to display messages, signs, or photographs targeted to any specific audience.

The exhibit will continue to travel to higher education institutions and a number of scholarly conferences throughout the coming year. The Commission’s other exhibit, the giant brittle book, is also scheduled to attend a number of events, and in conjunction with the modular exhibit, has been successful in carrying the preservation message to some 30 different institutions and conferences since its inception. For a more complete description of the exhibits, contact Sonny Koerner at (202) 939-3400.

Newsletter Insert
Implications of Electronic Formats for Preservation Administrators

This exploration of new responsibilities that will be required of preservation administrators in the evolving digital environment was written by Peter Jermann, Preservation Officer at Friedsam Memorial Library, Saint Bonaventure University, NY, after he attended the Electronic Formats Workshop of the Preservation Intensive Institute, August 1-6, 1993, at the University of Pittsburgh. Jermann based this essay on the presentations of Dr. Michael Spring, Department of Information Science, University of Pittsburgh, workshop instructor. The institute is one of a series of continuing education programs in library and archival preservation funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

As people concerned about the implications of electronic technology for preservation, we need to understand three basic concepts: (1) all digital information is coded information; (2) digital technology can be used as a tool for preservation; and (3) regardless of whether we exercise the options presented by number 2, we have to cope with analog and digital electronic records that already exist or will be produced.

(1) Digital information is coded information

The first concept, that all digital information is coded, means that in order to preserve digital information and provide future access to this information, we must also preserve the key that translates the code. Digital information is merely a series of 1’s and 0’s (bits) gathered into parcels of 8 (bytes) that are gathered into collections called files. The meaning of these bits, bytes, and files can be, and often is, arbitrarily determined by the information’s creator. Though we may come to excel in preserving the physical media on which digital information is stored, without the key to decipher the information preserved, future access will require the services of a cryptographer.

The solution for those faced with the responsibility of transferring information to or preserving information in electronic formats is an awareness of and support for standards that define the meaning of digital information. We need to know who creates standards and how we can influence their development. We need to be aware of existing standards such as the ASCII standard (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) for text and TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) for graphics, as well as the hundreds of proprietary formats established by software vendors. Finally, we need to look to the future and support both the development and the use of emerging universal standards such as UNICODE (ASCII code + a possible several billion English and non-English national characters), TIFF and SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language–a standard used to describe documents which may include textual data, image data or other data in predefined formats).

(2) Digital technology as a preservation tool

Digital technology can be used as a tool for preserving information currently in non-digital format. The uses of this technology include analog to digital conversion (for sound and video recordings), image to digital (for documents, books, photos, etc.) and text to digital (OCR/ICR–optical or intelligent character recognition).

In order to understand conversions to digital format, we must understand how the digital record relates to the original. What do we gain and what do we lose? All digital conversions are based on series of discrete samples of the original information, whether an analog recording, a page from a book, or a photograph. The completeness with which the original information is captured is determined by the distance of these samples from one another, either in time or space, (e.g., dots per inch, samples per second) and the quality of each sample taken. The more samples taken and the higher the quality of the sample, the higher the potential resolution of a digitally reproduced copy.

The quality of the sample directly relates to the size of the scale by which the each sample is measured. For example, if a color photograph is scanned into digital format, we could sample at three quality levels ranging from low to high. We can sample it as a black and white image (using only two values for any given sample), a gray scale image (up to 256 different values of gray per sample) or a full color image (up to 16.7 million different color values per sample).

Once we understand the relationship between the original information and its digitized copy we need to understand the limits and costs of the technology. What are the costs of information input, information storage, and information output? What information might be lost, or enhanced? What are the limitations of image to digital or audio to digital conversions? Once information is digitized how do we store it?

The quantity of information digitized represents its own limitations. The more information we save (higher sampling rate and/or more values per sample) the higher the cost of processing and storing that information. Storage requirements can be tempered by a variety of data compression schemes. As preservation specialists we must understand that compression algorithms can be lossless (no information lost on decompression) or lossy (decompressed information differs from the original compressed information). What do we gain and what do we lose in such schemes?

Once our information is digitized and compressed, how do we organize the data (see discussion on standards in part 1 above), and how do we retrieve it? What are the limitations of converting a graphic image of text, such as the scanned image of a page from a book, into keyword searchable, character based information? What are the advantages or disadvantages of CD-ROM? How stable is the physical medium?

Only when we understand the technology involved in the hardware and software, can we make decisions concerning the uses of digital technology as a preservation tool. These decisions must be guided by answers to the following questions:

  • By whom and how will the information be used?
  • Can digital technology achieve the quality required by these perceived users and uses at a cost we can afford?
  • Will access to a digital copy increase or decrease demand on the original?
  • Should textual information be digitized as an image, as is currently done with microfilm, as text that can be indexed and searched on a computer, or should it be digitized in both formats?
  • How can we index or catalog the digitized information?

The answer to these questions will help us answer questions like the following:

  • Is digital technology the answer to this particular application or should more traditional means be used?
  • At what resolution should an image be scanned or an analog audio recording sampled?
  • Should basic black and white printed text be scanned as a black and white image or as a gray scale image?
  • Should we use a lossy or lossless compression to store our data?

(3) Coping with electronic records

As preservation specialists we must learn to cope with existing electronic records as well as those we produce through our preservation efforts. Preservation of electronic formats requires that we know and understand a) the logical format or code by which the information is translated to human terms; b) the technology that can read the information on the particular medium on which the electronic record exists; and c) the life of the medium on which the information is stored.

(a) Logical format. The importance of the encoding scheme or format of digital information places two requirements on preservation specialists. First, it requires that as digital information is collected we must acquire knowledge of the format in which it is stored. This knowledge must be inextricably tied to the electronic record through cataloging or other means. Further, it is necessary to insure that the specifics of the format are preserved somewhere (see part 1 above). If the format is peculiar to the records in hand, as may be the case with a custom-designed software application, then we must also obtain a detailed record of the encoding of that format and ensure that it remains tied to the data. Second, we must support the development and use of universal standards so that the problems associated with the existing standards lessen with time.

(b) Reading technology. Whereas the format tells us how information is arranged within a digital file it tells us nothing about the mechanism required to read the digital information from the particular medium on which it is recorded. Information regarding this reading technology, like the format or coding information, should be tied to the electronic record through cataloging or other means. We need to know and document the hardware or combination of hardware and software that enables us to read the electronic record from the particular medium in our possession. We cannot assume that all similar media require similar technology to read. Magnetic tapes, for example, can contain digital or analog information and can only be read by an appropriate machine. Floppy disks are an example of media that can be physically identical yet incompatible. Disks formatted on an Apple computer are not easily read on IBM compatible computers, nor are IBM formatted disks easily read on Apple computers.

(c) Life of the medium. Finally we need to understand that the life of the medium (magnetic tape, floppy disk, CD-ROM, etc.) on which electronic information is stored depends on a combination of two factors. The first is the rate of the medium’s physical decay. How long is the medium capable of maintaining its information intact? The second factor is the life expectancy of the technology used to write to and read from that medium. Should this technology disappear the information on the medium becomes inaccessible.

This combination of factors affecting the life of a electronic medium requires the preservation specialist be diligent on two fronts. He or she must act in a traditional sense and monitor the condition of the artifact on which the electronic information is stored. When the artifact can no longer sustain the information, like a brittle book unable to support its printed message, it must be copied or its electronic image refreshed on the existing medium.

Unlike a brittle book, however, the preservation of electronic media requires that the specialist monitor the technology that placed the information on the electronic medium. The obsolescence of the brittle book’s printing technology has no impact on its preservation. The obsolescence of an electronic reading technology can mean loss of access to the information stored with that technology. Consequently, in addition to monitoring the artifact the preservation specialist must monitor both the reading technology connected with the artifact and emerging technologies that will supersede that technology. It becomes his or her responsibility to migrate data to the newer technology before the old technology disappears.

Fortunately, a significant advantage of digital electronic data (though not analog data) is its ability to be refreshed, without loss, on its existing medium or transferred, also without loss, over a wire from one computer to another regardless of hardware and/or software differences. If the reading technology is properly documented (see part b above) any data produced by a given technology can be quickly identified en masse and transferred to a newer medium.

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 Sonny Koerner – Managing Editor

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