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CPA Newsletter #71, Sep 1994

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


September 1994

Number 71

Preservation Science Research Agenda Moves Forward

After two years of investigation and analysis, the Preservation Science Council (PSC), composed of 16 preservation administrators and four scientists, developed descriptions of six research projects addressing top-priority needs for extending the useful life of collections. The project descriptions call for the development of management tools that preservation administrators in libraries, archives and other repositories can use to make decisions about reformatting and other preservation options.

The research agenda involves investigations into the chemical deterioration of paper, film and magnetic media, as well as environmental and storage conditions. The agenda has been broadly publicized in newsletters of library, archival, and research organizations and at annual meetings of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic Artistic Works and the Society of American Archivists. One recommended project-;to yield recommendations for types of storage enclosures for film-;has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New York State Coordinated Preservation Program.

In the research report on paper aging in this newsletter, James Reilly, one of the council’s scientist members, observes that the ASTM research program shares many technical objectives with the recommended project on assessing the influences of lignin on paper permanence. The Canadian Council of Archives and the National Library of the Netherlands Conservation Research Library, among other international contacts, have indicated interest in collaborating on paper research; a small group of scientists from several countries will be informally exploring how such research might be cooperatively carried forward.

The PSC recommendation for research on specific predictions concerning the life expectancy of different types of paper under different temperature and relative humidity conditions resulted in the Commission publication, Isoperms-;An Environmental Management Tool, by Donald K. Sebera. The request for research on binding adhesives led to new cooperation and sharing of preliminary research data between a scientist from the Canadian Conservation Institute and an informal group of experts commenting on Library of Congress work in this area. Research underway at the National Media Laboratory, St. Paul, MN, relates closely to the PSC request for research on the longevity and durability of magnetic media, and several cooperative ventures are under discussion.

Project descriptions are available from the Commission. For more information, contact Maxine Sitts, Program Officer.

Library of Congress Examines Digital Imaging Resolution

The Preservation Directorate of the Library of Congress has contracted with Picture Elements Incorporated for consulting services to work toward resolving preservation issues related to the use of digital imaging technology in libraries and archives. The project will develop a database for captured images for purposes of comparison and evaluation; develop various approaches to image capture and compression for representative materials from the Library’s print and pictorial collections; develop a methodology for evaluating image quality based on compression; provide programming to support interchange and interface needs; and develop standards-based approaches to the development of a proposed preservation file format.

A report summarizing findings and recommendations is being prepared and will be shared with the preservation community. For additional information contact Basil Manns in the Preservation Research and Testing Division at (202) 707-5213.

Results of Collaborative Mass Deacidification Test Available

Columbia University recently released a final report detailing results of a small, eight-month, pre-pilot test run of the Akzo Chemicals DEZ mass deacidification process (See also September 1993 Newsletter). The collaborative project, involving Columbia, New York University, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, was developed to foster discussion about the test results and to formulate a full-scale mass deacidification project for the 11 New York State Comprehensive Research Libraries.

A total of 400 volumes were deacidified, approximately 130 from each of the three participating institutions. Items were chosen from among the libraries’ regular contingents of non- brittle volumes in need of rebinding.

The test was a success in that all volumes finished the process with higher pH values, but the participants found that many of the post-treatment pH values were still in the acidic range. A majority of the volumes appeared to have suffered no visible change; however, several other problems were noted. A strong odor was evident during unpacking, and in about one-tenth of the sample, the filler and pigment in the cloth had been loosened during the treatment. A few volumes had plastic coated paper covers whose plastic bubbled and split during treatment, and three had adhesive failure. The process proved to have no problems with loss of Selin spine labels, notably a major difficulty in previous test runs.

Overall, damage was primarily held to covers, which are most likely to be replaced during rebinding, and the iridescent patches in books with glossy paper and photographs. Some recommendations generated from the pre-pilot test included scheduling pick-up and delivery at a location which has a loading dock, and making sure that before engaging in production-level work, there is a steady supply of volumes to be treated.

In December of 1993 Akzo Chemical announced its decision to shut down its DEZ plant. This brings the participants’ involvement with deacidification to an unexpected halt. The group plans to remain abreast of developments with other deacidification processes and undertake further investigations as new processes become commercially available. For further information contact Janet Gertz, Director for Preservation, Columbia University Libraries, 535 West 114th Street, New York, NY 10027-7029, (212) 854-5757.

New York State Library Provides Preservation Support to Research Libraries

The New York State Library (NYSL) has announced seven grants to research libraries for cooperation in preserving endangered research materials. The grants, part of a Coordinated Preservation Program enacted in 1984, total $350,000, and will preserve collections of materials important to the State and support research in preservation techniques. The 1994-95 projects include:

  • Digital Training for Preservation Administrators. Cornell University will conduct one-week training seminars for representatives from the 11 Comprehensive Research Libraries on the use of digital technology for preservation reformatting. Two participants from each library will study components of imaging systems, costs and quality/production tradeoffs, longevity factors in digital information, and access-related issues.
  • Enclosures and Air Pollution in Image Preservation. The University of Rochester, with the cooperation of seven other Comprehensive Research Libraries, will support a two-year scientific research and development project in library preservation. The research, one of the projects put forth by the Commission’s Preservation Science Council (PSC), will investigate the deleterious effects of pollutants on color and black-and-white photographic materials, especially microfilm, and test available storage enclosures for storing various types of imaging material.
  • Isoperms for Color Photography: a two-year preservation research and development project. The University of Rochester, and other Comprehensive Research Libraries will support the second year of a two-year research project at the Rochester Institute of Technology to investigate optimum storage strategies for color photography. This research, also related to a PSC project, tests the isoperm approach in which the effects of storage temperature and humidity on life expectancy are quantified over a wide range of possible conditions for color negative film, color slide film, color print paper, and cinema positive film now on the market.

For more information on these and the other projects receiving grants, contact GladysAnn Wells at NYSL, Library Administration, (518) 474-4660.

NHPRC Announces Application Deadlines

The NHPRC recently announced its FY1995 application deadlines for project activities that reflect the goals and objectives set forth in its strategic plan, To Protect a Priceless Legacy: The Preservation and Use of American’s Historical Records. The deadlines are October 1, 1994; February 1, 1995; and June 1, 1995, with different types of project activities eligible against different deadlines. These project activities include:

  • Current documentary editing projects
  • Projects to help local organizations preserve records and make them accessible
  • New documentary projects, in various forms of publication
  • Projects that help carry out the national agendas for archival progress put forward by the Society of American Archivists and the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators
  • Projects that encourage collaboration within the states to archival and records management
  • Projects for creating and updating state strategic plans meeting records needs

NHPRC guidelines discuss eligible projects and deadline dates, as well as outline application procedures and advice on the granting process. For further information or to request materials contact the NHPRC – NP, Room 607, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C. 20408, (202) 501-5610.

A Science Review
Research on Paper Aging

James M. Reilly, Director
Image Permanence Institute

A workshop to identify what research may be needed to develop new standards for permanent papers attracted more than 100 representatives of the paper industry, research organizations, government agencies, and the preservation community July 6-8, 1994, in Philadelphia. “The Effects of Aging on Printing and Writing Papers” was convened by the Institute for Standards Research of The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) in support of the work of ASTM Subcommittee D 6.50 on paper and paper products composition. The event was co-sponsored by 20 organizations including U.S. and Canadian pulp and paper companies, the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property, the National Information Standards Organization, the National Library and National Archives of Canada, the U.S. National Gallery of Art, and the Canadian Conservation Institute.

Many of the technical objectives in ASTM’s ambitious program overlap with those identified by the Commission’s Preservation Science Council (PSC) for its recommended projects. The difference is that council projects focus on preservation management of collections rather than paper specification, which is the ultimate purpose of the standard. For example, the technical problems of how to perform predictive accelerated tests are a topic in both programs, but the council wants to use the information to learn more about the life expectancy of existing paper collections and how to make them last longer by better storage, while the ASTM program needs the same information to establish functional tests for paper permanence that will be applicable regardless of pulping technology or paper composition. The ASTM program could provide valuable insights into test methods, and the council’s recommended projects can go beyond the test method issues to result in useful management tools for preservation.

The ASTM workshop grew out of the desire of producers of so-called “high-yield” pulp (pulp which contains significant amounts of non-chemically refined fiber, or lignocellulose) to base standards for permanent paper on functional, not compositional, criteria. Recent ANSI and ISO standards do not allow papers containing even modest amounts of unrefined wood fibers (which necessarily contain lignin, a non-cellulosic component of wood) to be considered as “permanent”. Moving to a “performance-based” rather than a compositional definition of permanent paper would allow any type of paper to be deemed “permanent” providing it can meet the requirements of the standard. This is an issue with a long history of debate and discussion. In fact, the PSC has identified the question of the effects of lignin on paper permanence as one of the six key research projects most needed in library and archives preservation.

More than the interests of a few pulp producers are at stake since many grades of paper are being manufactured with a significant content of less-than-fully-refined fiber, and it is certain more will be made in the future. Government mandates to include recycled fiber, lower cost, and ecological considerations all tend to increase the presence of lignocellulose in finished paper. Papermaking technology is changing, and “blends” of fiber from different pulping methods will be more and more common.

From the preservation perspective, lignified papers have traditionally meant papers that will turn brown and fall apart, and thus they have no place in a standard for permanent paper. These problems, in paper science parlance, are referred to as “color reversion” and “loss of mechanical properties”.

The validity and nature of predictive accelerated tests is a critical issue, because if they are valid and cover the right functional properties of paper, then the test methods define permanence, not the recipe or the pulping technology. Emerging as critical issues were: the demonstrable correlation of test methods with natural aging processes; the ability of existing mechanical property tests to reflect actual failure patterns of paper; the need for sufficient understanding of light and pollution-induced mechanisms of decay; and verification of the correct methods for conducting aging tests (e.g., single sheets versus stacks).

There was general agreement concerning the advantages and objectives of a standard that would contain relevant predictive tests for paper permanence. If there were agreed-upon ways to measure and predict when paper will discolor or become brittle (or any other relevant property), then paper could be specified in terms of minimum life expectancy for a particular property or properties as measured by the tests in the standard. This is how ANSI and ISO standards address the issue of fading of color photographs-;not by telling the manufacturers how to make film, but by providing a standard method for measuring how long film will last at specified storage conditions. If this approach is to work for paper, much needs to be done by the preservation community to define the important functional properties of paper and the critical amounts of change in such properties to use as “end points” in life expectancy testing.

ASTM announced that it would be seeking funds to conduct the research that the workshop identified using an advisory panel (consisting of the 20 sponsors of this workshop) to screen proposals from interested laboratories. The society intends to issue a request for preliminary research proposals inviting labs to submit project ideas. With proposals in hand, ASTM will attempt to raise the funds and then contract with individual labs for pieces of the work. The focus of the research program is to be squarely on accelerated test methods, since these were identified as at the heart of any new ASTM standards.

Preservation Through Digitization at the University of Minnesota

Excepts from “Preserving Archival Material Through
Digitization”, LibraryLine, Vol. 5, No. 4 (July 1994). By Bruce H.
Bruemmer, Archivist at the Charles Babbage Institute.

…”As the Libraries make data files available on Gopher and Mosaic servers, there is increasing interest in making the resources of archives and rare book collections available over the networks. Other institutions that have made data from special collections available through the internet have reported use by patrons who would never have visited a reading room. At the same time, patrons increasingly view computer terminals as the sole source of information in the library, when in fact there is so much more available. Added to institutional costs and the lack of standards for preserving image files are the overwhelming costs of reformatting collections.

Archival collections present inordinate problems for scanning: their fragility and value prevent the use of document feeders, they are found in all sizes, and the varying image quality would demand constant changes in scanner settings. To scan the entire holdings of the Charles Babbage Institute is estimated at a minimum cost of $5 million.

Until these issues are resolved, digital files are likely to complement rather than replace originals. Once digitized, there is no limit to the potential for new use of resources from archives and special collections. Yet, using machine-readable files for preservation requires caution and patience, qualities that are not commonly found in an environment driven by computer technology.”

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.

M. Stuart Lynn–President
Maxine K. Sitts–Program Officer, Editor

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