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CPA Newsletter #73, Dec 1994

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


December 1994

Number 73

Magnetic Media Partnership to Develop Management Tool

The National Media Lab (NML), St. Paul, MN, has joined with the Commission Preservation Science Council to pursue the development of management tools for the storage and life prediction of magnetic media. The immediate goal is to determine how to optimize for the preservation community the research the NML has developed to date.

The NML brings to the collaboration an extensive program of experimental research and mathematical modeling on a range of magnetic media types. These data track media stability on such physical and chemical properties as: binder hydrolysis, remanence, coercivity, top coast adhesion and friction. Changes in these properties are plotted over time at various temperatures and relative humidities.

This project addresses the critical needs of one of the fastest growing collections of materials in developed and developing countries alike-;magnetic media in all its forms. Magnetic media contains scientific and engineering research data, demographic, historical and social information, and digital and analog music and video.

There is little doubt that magnetic media used for archival purposes will need to be “migrated” at some point in its life. However, there are almost no extant management tools to prioritize magnetic collections for migration or for spotting degradation before the media is unreadable. There are no published specifications for the permanence of information recorded on magnetic media.

Magnetic tapes and diskettes are not considered to have archival properties, so “archival storage” is simply prolonging the inevitable loss of the information. For example, the General Accounting Office (GAO) reported on the improper storage of 1.2 million magnetic tapes belonging to NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). They allege that nearly 1/2 of 130,000 tapes stored in Laguna Niguel may be irreversibly damaged. The problem is partly hydrolysis of the binder used to hold the magnetic particles to the polyester film base.

While there is ongoing research and data available on durable or “robust” magnetic media, archivists and librarians do not have access to this information or understand little of the nature or properties of the media, how it reacts to ambient conditions in storage and during use, and how that relates to the long-term preservation and use of the information recorded on magnetic media.

In 1993 the Preservation Science Initiative carried out a survey of preservation administrators from fifteen major U.S. research institutions. The survey asked the administrators to set priorities for scientific research based upon their analysis of preservation needs in their own institutions. Overall, administrators ranked magnetic media as one of the highest preservation priorities today. Of the fifteen institutions that participated in the survey: Stanford University Libraries, Yale University Library, Northwestern University Library, Library of Congress, New York State Archives and Ohio State University Libraries all ranked magnetic media as their most pressing problem. In addition to those surveyed, several major audio-visual archives and professional associations in the U.S. support the need for this research including The National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute and The Louis Wolfson II Media History Center and Popular Music Collection, Georgia State University.

In order to concentrate on the types of media relevant to libraries and archives, we are seeking assistance in the following areas:

  • Types of magnetic media that make up the bulk of extant collections.
  • Types of media used or contemplated for migration or back-up.
  • And/or types of media by manufacturer, magnetic particle, binder and substrate.

Those interested in participating are requested to contact:

James R. Druzik
The Getty Conservation Institute
Maxine K. Sitts
Commission on Preservation and Access (


Chris Ward
New York State Archives

Commission to Release 1993-1994 Annual Report

The Commission’s 1993-1994 Annual Report is scheduled for release and distribution this month. The report covers activities in the International Program, the Brittle Books Program, Technology Assessment, Scholarly involvement, Communication, and Institutional and Education Initiatives. This year’s special report section highlights work in Preservation Science Research, “a necessary component of a comprehensive preservation program to address critical technical issues faced by colleges, universities and archives that are responsible for both large and small culturally important collections.”

Copies will be distributed to Commission sponsors and mailing lists, and additional copies will be made available while supplies last.

SHOT Members Explore Technologies for Preservation, Access

At the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT, October 6-9, 1994, Lowell, MA), the Commission’s technology display featured two separate photo-CD demonstrations. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries displayed full-color photographs from their special collections on photo-CD and other media in various resolutions, providing hands-on opportunities for scholars and professors to examine materials and comment on their preferences for use of reformatted images. The set of materials was prepared by Luna Imaging, Venice, CA.

The Ford Museum provided a sound-and-picture photo-CD presentation on plans for enhancing access to and preservation of museum collections-;three-dimensional artifacts and library materials-;using digital technologies. The SHOT members, while at differing levels of technical knowledge, were nearly all end-users rather than producers. As such, they were most interested in how the technology could be useful to them, either in the classroom or in their own research. The most frequent questions concerned how professors and scholars could obtain the images and citation information from their own work sites.

A lunch time workshop organized by the Society’s secretary and co-sponsored by the Commission addressed preservation and access issues that confront technology historians through a discussion panel that included a museum professional, a historian at NASA, and two business/technological historians with experience in contract research for government and corporations. In recent years, scholars seeking access to research collections in the private as well as government arena are finding cumbersome restrictions more common, complicated questions about copyright unanswered, and classification of government documents troublesome, according to the SHOT secretariat. Historians of technology, including those who work with artifacts as well as documents, face special difficulties. SHOT is considering possible actions to support preservation and access initiatives. The workshop highlighted the problems that exist in preserving records and gaining access to them, but also identified the role that historians can play in educating various holders of records and artifacts about this subject. The Society expects to take a more direct stance on this subject, believing there exists a need to inform members about ways to deal with these issues. The SHOT exhibit was supported by funds from the Gladys Krieble Delmas and H.W. Wilson Foundations.

For more information, contact Bruce Seely, SHOT Secretary, Department of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931-1295. Email BSEELY@MTU.EDU.

Museum Computer Network Receives Grant to Explore Long-Term Access

The Museum Computer Network (MCN) was one of two recipients in the Arts and Culture category of the Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, receiving an award of $158,150 to support Cultural Heritage Information Online (CHIO). CHIO, a project of the consortium for Computer Interchange of Museum Information (CIMI), will create a database of multimedia folk art available to Internet users. Project CHIO will demonstrate access to text, images, and publications.

According to Maxwell Anderson, Chair of the Association of Art Museum Directors, CHIO represents a concerted effort to prepare for the interactive future of U.S. museums, and this important grant is a first step in the large-scale interconnection of institutions, artworks, and audiences. CIMI’s aim in undertaking this project is to help assure that valuable cultural heritage information can truly be shared electronically with a large number of people far into the future. CIMI argued in its application that if standards are not implemented by the museum community now, “while museums are in the relatively early stages of information automation, the electronic doors to many of these museums may be closed to the public and the rich contents hidden from view.”

For further information contact John Perkins, CIMI Project Manager, 16 Schooner Dr., RR1, Boutiliers Point, Nova Scotia, Canada B0J 1G0.

Report Calls For Humanities and Arts Voice in NII

An alliance of major humanities and arts organizations has issued a report calling on the Federal Government to recognize the value of the American cultural heritage in planning the National Information Infrastructure (NII). Humanities and Arts on the Information Highways – a Profile, coincides with the release of a related position paper by the White House Information Infrastructure Task Force at a Council on Competitiveness conference (September 7-8, 1994).

The federal paper, part of Putting the Information Infrastructure to Work (Vol. II), presents strategies for applying information technologies to the cultural sector. The Alliance, led by the Getty Art History Information Program, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Coalition for Networked Information, has issued the report to stimulate and guide response to the Administration’s call for public comment. The report defines the special challenges and opportunities associated with digitizing cultural heritage information, and highlights ways in which a fully interactive and exploratory environment would transform the NII from a link between computers to a link between people.

Copies of the report are available upon request. Contact the Getty Art History Information Program, Director, Eleanor Fink, 401 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1100, Santa Monica, CA 90401-1455, (310) 395-1025, ext. 1164.

Preservation Management Seminar Inspired Reed College Workshop

As a follow-up to the second Preservation Management Seminar for College Librarians, held on the Wellesley College campus July 22-30, 1993, Reed College sponsored a book repair workshop in April 1994.

According to Marilyn Kierstead, Special Collections Librarian at Reed College, “The preservation seminar at Wellesley College gave us the information and inspiration for examining this library’s approach to preserving its collections. One of the most basic tools in the preservation arsenal is the treatment of damaged books. We have always repaired our materials in what seemed to us the quickest and easiest ways possible but without a great deal of thought, certainly not in the broader context of preservation. It was apparent that we need to look more seriously at what we did in repair and to consider long-term effects.”

Kierstead indicated that attitudes about preservation had been changed, and “everyone came away with an understanding of preservation needs and an appreciation of the importance of their jobs. We see this as only a beginning. We hope to expand that preservation awareness for our own campus and for our neighboring libraries.”

For more information on the third Preservation Management Seminar – to be held Summer 1995 in the Southwest – contact Tom Clareson at AMIGOS, (800) 843-8482.

Collection Care and Preventative Preservation Manual Available

The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) recently announced the publication of the second edition ofPreservation of Library and Archival Materials: A Manual. This updated and expanded version of the manual was funded in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum Services (IMS). Rapid technical changes and the evolving viewpoint of the preservation profession prompted NEDCC to update the manual and add topics that were not included in the original publication.

New leaflets include “Importance of Collections Policies,” “Light Protection for Library and Archival Materials,” “Storage Solutions for Oversize Paper Artifacts,” and “The Implications of Digital Imaging for Preservation.” The manual is approximately 250 pages and consists of a series of 46 technical leaflets, 11 of which are new. The emphasis is on collection care and prevention of deterioration of whole collections. Topics covered include planning and prioritizing, the environment, emergency management, storage and handling, reformatting, and conservation procedures.

Copies are available for $40.00 from NEDCC, 100 Brickstone Square, Andover, MA 01810. For questions regarding the manual contact Sherelyn Ogden, (508) 470-1010.

Update on Cooperative Microfilming in Finland

Esko Häkli, director of The National Library of Finland, provides the following short report on a cooperative preservation microfilming project with the National Library of Estonia.

“Helsinki University Library initiated at the beginning of 1993 a major project with the aim to microfilm all Estonian newspapers from the period of independence, 1918-1940. Newspapers are, as the only reliable record of everyday life at that time, heavily used and subject to a rapid physical deterioration.

About 500 titles mainly in Estonian with about 800,000 pages will be microfilmed during a period of five years. In addition to newspapers in Estonian a minor number of newspapers in Russian and other foreign languages are included.

The project will be financed by Helsinki University Library.

The microfilming is being done in Tallinn, Estonia, by the National Library of Estonia. Two other Estonian libraries, the Library of the Academy of Sciences in Tallinn and the Library of the University of Tarto participated in the Project. The laboratory work is done in Helsinki by the Audiovisual Centre of the University, that also is responsible for the technical quality of the films. International standards are being followed.

During the past period of one and a half years, ten newspapers have been filmed resulting in 330 reels of rollfilm. According to the agreement between the cooperating libraries, each of the Estonian libraries receive a full set of microfilms free of charge. Helsinki University Library has been given the right to sell copies of the microfilms to other libraries and interested bodies worldwide.”

Häkli’s report revises the information in the “Microfilming Projects Abroad” section of The International Project 1992 Update published in January 1993. Remaining copies are available at no charge from the Commission.

Complimentary Brochures Available

Brochures prepared as part of technology demonstrations from the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Library and the Pennsylvania State University Libraries are available from the Commission. The JHU brochure focuses on the preservation aspects of Project MUSE, an initiative to provide networked access to the JHU Press’s scholarly journals. The Penn State brochure describes a demonstration project to test the feasibility of digital imaging technology for scanning and storing archival materials. An accompanying fact sheet provides answers to frequently asked questions about the project. The brochures, as well as a listing of technology demonstrations hosted by the Commission, are available from Sonny Koerner, Communications Assistant.

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
Sonny Koerner-;Managing Editor

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