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CPA Newsletter #66, Apr 1994

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


April 1994

Number 66

New Report on Authenticity of Preserved Electronic Information

A new Commission report, Intellectual Preservation: Electronic Preservation of the Third Kind, by Peter S. Graham, discusses the need to assure the integrity and authenticity of information as originally recorded. Preservation of the media and of software technologies will meet only part of preservation requirements if the information content has been corrupted from its original form, whether by accident or design. The need for intellectual preservation arises because the great asset of digital information is also its great liability; the ease with which an identical copy can be made is paralleled by the ease with which a change may undetectably be made.

Graham is Associate University Librarian for Technical and Networked Information Services, Rutgers University. He presents the problem in the form of several questions that confront the user of any electronic document, whether text, hypertext, audio, graphic, numeric, or multimedia information:

  • How can I be sure that what I am viewing is what I want to see?
  • How do I know that the document I have found is the same one that you used and made reference to in your footnote?
  • How can I be sure that the document I now use has not been changed since the last time I used it?
  • To put it most generally: How can a reader be sure that the document being used is the one intended?

The 8-page report discusses kinds of changes that can occur in the digital environment and potential solutions for authenticating a document, including hashing, the concept of the “widely witnessed event”, and digital time-stamping. No matter what approach is used for long-term authentication of electronic information, Graham concludes, it is important that libraries identify some solution that allows scholars, students, readers, publishers and information users to have confidence that their electronic resources are authentic. Intellectual Preservation: Electronic Preservation of the Third Kind is being mailed to those on the Commission’s mailing lists. Copies are available for $10.00, prepayment required, from the Commission. Commission sponsors receive all publications at no charge.

DPC Goals Set Context for Collaborative Preservation

The Commission has published the mission and goals statement of the 11-member Digital Preservation Consortium (DPC) to provide a context for current and future collaborative preservation and access initiatives involving new technologies. The statement was first developed in March 1992, when the DPC consisted of eight universities. Current membership includes University of California, Berkeley; Columbia University; Cornell University; Harvard University; University of Michigan; Pennsylvania State University; Princeton University; Stanford University; University of Southern California; University of Tennessee; and Yale University.

The development of the National Information Infrastructure (NII) and the growing use of the Internet are creating a rapidly-changing environment for collaborative preservation and access. Within this environment, the DPC seeks to advance the use and utility of digital technology for the preservation of and access to library materials by fostering needed infrastructure. In recent meetings, DPC members have discussed in broad terms how academic libraries can contribute within this evolving landscape. Several areas of possible DPC action are being considered, including:

  • increasing the involvement of museums, art galleries, university presses and publishers and others with a stake in digital collections in DPC projects;
  • working more closely with vendors to influence standards and open systems; and
  • coordinating with campus-wide efforts to develop distributed computing environments.

Preservation and access projects of DPC members will be demonstrated at a series of Commission-sponsored exhibits at scholarly and publishing conferences over the next 18 months. Examples of preserved and digitized materials and access products will be displayed.

The Digital Preservation Consortium Mission and Goals (March 1994, six pages) is being distributed to the Commission’s mailing lists. Copies are available for $10.00, prepayment required, from the Commission. Commission sponsors receive all publications at no charge.

Board Member Recognized by APSA

Sidney Verba, Director of the Harvard University Library and Commission board member, has received the James Madison Award from the American Political Science Association (APSA). The award is given triennially to a living American political scientist who has made a distinguished scholarly contribution to political science. It was presented at APSA’s 1993 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

RLG Completes Field Test of Archival Selection Tool

A field test of a preservation decision-making tool developed by the Task Forces on Archival Selection has concluded that the model is as yet inadequate for making long-term preservation plans. In their report to the Commission in 1993, the task forces voiced the need for “a systematic methodology for developing preservation priorities for archival materials at institutional, inter-institutional, and national levels.” (See summary in the April 1993 newsletter.) As one part of their two-year project, the task forces developed a decision model for assessing the preservation needs of archival collections, which the Commission asked the Research Libraries Group (RLG), Inc., to field test.

Staff from 15 RLG institutions conducted the test over a five-month period in 1993. In general, the participants found the tool simple to use but–perhaps because of its simplicity–inadequate as a decision tool upon which long-term preservation plans for a repository could be made. Many of the participants concluded that the survey did not gather enough specific, detailed, quantifiable information about preservation needs. They noted that in most cases their general feelings about the collections surveyed were confirmed, although in some cases the survey pointed out areas which needed to be assessed in more detail.

Most participants noted that any opportunity to conduct a systematic examination of a repository’s collections is of benefit, particularly for institutions that have never conducted surveys or assessments of need. They also felt that the instrument may be of most use as an initial step in the assessment process for an institution that has no existing program to evaluate and prioritize the preservation needs of its collections.

One significant criticism of the instrument was the level of subjectivity inherent in every step of the survey process. The lack of sampling methodology that might have produced quantifiable and statistically reliable data about the state of need of the collection made it difficult to gather information, and even more difficult to determine whether the results might represent anything more than the opinion of the surveyor.

In spite of the lack of endorsement of the instrument in its present condition, participants felt strongly that work on needs assessment tools for archival collections is of paramount importance and should continue. The instrument was seen as a necessary step in the development of a comprehensive program for assessing and prioritizing the preservation needs of archival collections.

Staff in the participating institutions represented a range of experience in archival management and preservation. The field test was conducted under the direction of Laurie Abbott, RLG Member Services Officer, who compiled RLG’s final report. The complete task forces report and the decision model are scheduled to be published by the Society of American Archivists.

Excerpted from Final Report of the Archives Preservation Needs Assessment Field Test, January 1994, Laurie Abbott, Research Libraries Group

The Netherlands Preservation Plan Favors International Stance

The future of our paper past, the final report of the National Preservation Office of the Netherlands (CNC) on the Mass Conservation Trial Programme, has been issued in English to support that office’s view of the universal character of the preservation problem and its strong support of an international approach. The November 1993 report also includes a policy statement on the best means for tackling the problem of deteriorating paper materials in The Netherlands.

The CNC policy aims at the microfilming (and in due time possible conversion to digitization) of one copy of each publication that has been published in The Netherlands in the 19th and 20th centuries. The CNC expects to set up a national register of microform masters (The Netherlands Register of Microform Masters–NROMM) that will share its data with the developing European Register of Microform Masters (EROMM). After microfilming, original books will be stored separately under environmentally controlled conditions, awaiting some form of deacidification. The CNC also has developed a plan for microfilming all Dutch newspapers, which it hopes to start later in 1994.

Among the conclusions in the report:

  • In the major libraries in The Netherlands, between 2 and 2.5 million volumes are directly endangered.
  • The deterioration is continuing at an as yet undetermined rate.
  • There is no single method pre-eminently suitable for mass conservation.
  • The causes of deterioration are known: not only the internal acidification of the paper, but also environmental factors such as climate, air pollution, and extent of use.

The CNC recommends that preservation policy focus on conversion (microfilming and newer media), treatment (deacidification and strengthening), prevention (climate control, and paper standards), and research on paper and newer media. English copies of The future of our paper past (CNC-Publications, 5) are available from: CNC Secretariat, c/o Prins Willem-Alexanderof 5, P.O. Box 90407,2509 LK The Hague, The Netherlands.

The CNC is a joint association of the National Library and the State Archives of The Netherlands. It is offering full support to the establishment of the European commission on preservation and access. In addition, the CNC has expressed interest in the activities and results of the Commission’s Preservation Science Council, since The Netherlands is undertaking collaborative research projects and has prepared a national research program on preservation.

The Memory of the World

In 1992, UNESCO started to implement a new program called Memory of the World to preserve and restore known and unknown library and archival treasures. Pilot projects in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Yemen have been started or completed.

Within the framework of this program and with the financial support of UNESCO’s General Information Programme (PGI), two meetings were organized by the Polish National Commission for UNESCO in Pultusk, from 12 to 14 September 1993: the first meeting of the International Advisory Committee and Regional Consultation on Conservation, Preservation and Promotion of Documentary Heritage of Central and Eastern European Countries.

These two meetings were intended to define the Memory of the World program and set its main objectives. Some 25 specialists, directors of national libraries and archives, attended both meetings. Hans Rütimann, International Program Officer for the Commission on Preservation and Access, was one of the invited observers and representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as private enterprises who participated.

The discussions resulted in a number of conclusions and recommendations which will allow the launching of the program on a large scale, after being received and approved by the General Conference at its twenty-seventh session.

The Recommendations of the International Advisory Committee can be found in their entirety in the publication cited at the end of this article. Among them are the following:

  • Recommends that the Memory of the World program be defined as a new approach to the safeguarding of endangered documentary heritage, the democratization of access and wider dissemination. The objectives of the program, which are complementary and of equal importance, concern preservation by the most appropriate techniques, access without discrimination, and distribution of derived products to the widest possible public;
  • Recommends that the concept of documentary heritage be extended to include, not only manuscripts and other rare and precious documents in libraries and archives, but also documents on any media, in particular audiovisual documents and recorded oral traditions, the importance of which varies from one region to another;
  • Recommends that the selection of the holdings and collections for the Memory of the World program be based on the following criteria: content, national, regional or international significance, physical condition, context, risk situation, project feasibility (implementation foreseen within a reasonable period of time). The irreplaceable nature of the documents, holdings or collections concerned is to be determined by combining these criteria;
  • Recommends that priority be given to activities concerning a region or a number of countries, or undertaken in cooperation and in partnership, that minorities and their cultures as well as the heritage of other nations be taken into account and that these criteria be adapted to national and regional contexts;
  • Recommends that UNESCO assume the role of coordinator and catalyst to sensitize governments, international organizations and public and private foundations to the program and foster the development of partnerships for the carrying out of projects.
Adapted from the Unisist Newsletter Vol. 21, No. 3-4, 1993. Published by UNESCO.

Popular Microfilming Guide Under Revision

A second edition of Preservation Microfilming: A Guide for Librarians and Archivists that will update information on standards and technical improvements is due for publication in Spring 1995. Awarded the Waldo Gifford Leland Prize by the Society of American Archivists, the guide has been a popular teaching and training tool for many librarians and organizations since it was first published in 1987. In addition to technical information, the new edition will reflect the growth and diversity of cooperative preservation microfilming projects.

Preparation of the guide is being funded by a grant to the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) from the Online Computer Library Center, Inc (OCLC). ARL is overseeing the new edition in cooperation with American Library Association Publishing. Preservation Consultant Lisa Fox is serving as the editor assisted by an advisory committee of preservation experts. Staff at Preservation Resources will provide technical support.

TAAC Takes on New Member

Brian L. Hawkins, Vice President of Academic Planning and Administration, Brown University, has accepted an invitation to join the Commission’s Technology Assessment Advisory Committee (TAAC). Dr. Hawkins has served as a consultant to over 350 organizations, combing his academic and business experience that spans over two decades. He will be welcomed during the TAAC meeting planned for May 4, 1994.

TAAC is a group of eight representatives of industry and academia working in the field of digital technology and its applications in scanning, storage, transmission and printing. The group was charged in 1989 with advising the Commission on applications of electronics for the preservation of and access to deteriorating paper-based materials, and exploring the growing implications of the relatively short life cycle of electronic publications, records and files as well as non-print analog materials.

Exhibit and Cd Demo at PSP/AAP Annual Meeting

The Commission’s modular exhibit and a demonstration of photographs preserved by the University of Southern California, a member of the Digital Preservation Consortium, were on display at the 1994 annual meeting of the Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers (PSP/AAP) in Washington, DC, February 9-11. The program, titled Catching the Wave, focused on ways to successfully implement the electronic revolution. At the Commission’s exhibit, the most frequently-discussed topics were intellectual property rights and new models for scholars, publishers, and libraries to work together to produce, disseminate, and preserve information. Staff members from the Library of Congress and the National Agricultural Library staffed the exhibit, which was supported by grants from the Gladys Krieble Delmas and H.W. Wilson Foundations.

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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