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CPA Newsletter #75, Feb 1995

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


February 1995

Number 75

Contract Furthers Project on Finding Aids

What are the best practices for digitally encoding finding aids to special collections, archives, and pictorial collections? That’;s what the University of California at Berkeley, under contract with the Commission, hopes to find out. The collaborative project furthers the goals of the Berkeley Finding Aid Project, which previously received a U.S. Department of Education Title
II-B Research and Demonstration Grant.

Finding aids provide access to and control of largely unpublished collections of primary-source materials, such as historical manuscripts, photographs and correspondence.

During the past year, the project developed a prototype standard and began constructing a database of 1,000 finding aids, half from Berkeley and half from collaborators. The prototype is in the form of a Standard Generalized Markup Language (ISO 8879) Document Type Definition (SGML DTD).

To work toward consensus, the Berkeley library will hold an invitational conference where collaborators will familiarize themselves with details of the prototype standard and database and the user interface so they can serve as evaluators and critics of the project.

The event will help focus on the electronic interchange of information about archival collections from libraries, archives, and special collections. A report will be published on the conference and the emerging consensus on best practices for encoding archival finding aids.

The Berkeley library has presented preliminary results to a number of groups including the Society of American Archivists, the Computer Interchange of Museum Information, the Coalition for Networked Information, and the Library of Congress.

Collaborators on the project include staff from: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, National Archives and Records Administration, National Historical Publications and Records Commission, Computer Interchange of Museum Information, Cornell University, Yale University, University of Colorado at Denver, Duke University, Centre Canadien d’;Architecture, OCLC, Rutgers University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Michigan State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Library of Congress, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Research Libraries Group, Minnesota Historical Society, Getty Art History Information Program, University of California at Los Angeles and San Diego.

More information is available from Daniel V. Pitti, Librarian for Advanced Technologies Projects, at the University of California, Berkeley, <>.

SHOT Resolution Endorses Preservation Efforts

The Executive Council of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) recently approved a resolution endorsing efforts to advance preservation and access efforts. The resolution grew out of an exhibit and workshop co-sponsored by the Commission and SHOT at its annual meeting in October 1994. Approved by a mail ballot on December 1, the resolution reads as follows:

The Society for the History of Technology, composed of scholars who work in many intellectual areas and within diverse institutional settings, is especially sensitive to the variety of sources of information on which scholarship in this field rests. Documents, rare books, oral interviews, and artifacts all are used by historians of technology. Preservation of and access to these and other scholarly materials are at the core of what we do as individuals.

The resolution urges individuals –; whenever possible –; to advance preservation efforts, especially attempts to educate institutions about the value of preserving the historical record. For more information, contact Bruce Seely, SHOT Secretary, <>

With This Issue

The introduction to a new report series on international preservation is included with this February 1995 newsletter. The International Program and Its Global Mission (January 1995, four pages) sets the stage for future reports on national and collaborative preservation initiatives throughout the world.

Scholars Visit Commission Exhibits

Scholars from the disciplines of American studies, archaeology, philology, economics, and social science visited Commission exhibits during annual meetings in late fall and early January. Developed at the invitation of the scholarly societies, the exhibits featured examples of technologies for preserving and providing high-quality access to images.

A project to provide online access to journals that takes into account the need for archiving also was displayed. Hosting the exhibits were the American Studies Association, the Archaeological Institute of America, (AIA), the American Philological Association (APA), the Allied Social Science Association and the American Economic Association.

At the joint meeting of archaeologists and philologists in Atlanta, GA, December 27-30, the Commission exhibit was paired with a new display that provided opportunities for software vendors and society members to demonstrate computer software they have created. The exhibit was described in the APA newsletter (August 1994):

“The purpose of this exhibit is to inform AIA and APA members that “information technology” is a powerful new tool to assist all scholars in finding new ways to organize and distribute scholarly data and improve everyday teaching strategies. The second display is an exhibit by the Commission on Preservation and Access. It will feature full-color digitized images of unique archival materials displayed on high quality monitors. The materials, which have been chosen for their value to the scholarly and research community, illustrate how electronic technologies can help preserve endangered library resources and improve access to them.”

The Johns Hopkins University Press and Library, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, and Luna Imaging (Venice, CA) collaborated in developing and staffing the exhibits, which are part of an educational and outreach program funded by the Gladys Krieble Delmas and H.W. Wilson Foundations.

“Preservation has become a common buzzword in the dance community, but the actual concepts of physical preservation are not always clear…. We are faced with thousands of reels
of tape recorded on now obsolete formats that require
transfer in order to preserve them from further deterioration and to make them viewable…

–; “Cut to the Videotape: The Challenge of Preserving Dance in America,” by Catherine Johnson, in New England Archivists Newsletter, October 1994 (vol.21, no.4).

Paper Permanence Featured at European Exhibition

Dr. Donald K. Sebera, a member of the Commission’;s Preservation Science Council, spoke on the conservation of acid paper and the use of permanent paper in the United States during an exhibition held in Udine, Italy, during early December 1994.

Sebera reviewed two areas: 1) the evaluation of mass deacidification processes by the Library of Congress and other libraries, and 2) the need for research on the effects of lignin on paper permanence. In addition to paper-based materials, the event concentrated on architectural, archaeological, artistic and historical property and heritage.

Sebera, recently retired as a conservation scientist at the Library of Congress, is preparing a review of mass deacidification efforts for publication by the Commission.

Italian and other experts –; especially those in the Central European countries –; who work in the cultural sector participated in the exhibition, “Restoration, Conservation, Protection,” which was held in cooperation with the Italian Ministry for Cultural Property.

Comments Sought on Oversized Color Map Project

Columbia University Libraries is investigating how to scan oversized color maps for the best on-line viewing and off-line printing. The project, under contract to the Commission, involves five large-format color maps that were scanned using a variety of methodologies. A narrative description of the project, as well as the complete set of digital images of the work in progress, is available via the Columbia University World Wide Web server at: <>.

The library is requesting comments on the project and is particularly interested in evaluations of the different images. Comments and questions can be sent via email to: Janet Gertz, Director for Preservation <>, or Susan Klimley, Geological Sciences Librarian <>.

[EDITOR’;S NOTE: The rest of this article is adapted from a report by Klimley on a demonstration at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, held in Seattle from October 23-26, 1994. The library was invited to exhibit the preliminary results of the Oversized Color Map Project by the Geoscience Information Society (GIS), an affiliate society of the major geology professional society.]

Four images from the project were loaded onto a Macintosh PowerBook and arranged in a Quick Tour to illustrate the on-line success of the smaller images and the problems with on-line display of the larger images. When telecommunication links to access the images over the Internet could not be obtained, the PowerBook was hooked up to a large monitor that provided the look and feel of the network.

Most agreed that the smaller image, the map of Herkimer at 512 x 768, was a total success as displayed on the monitor. Visitors observed, however, that the larger image –; the map of the Catskill Quadrangle at 1024 x 1536 –; was barely viewable. Yet, they concurred that it was just a matter of time before desktop computing capacity caught up. Several people suggested sectioning the maps as an intermediate option.

The printed maps also drew a favorable response. People were impressed with the high quality on the large map and the readability of the smaller map when printed on a black and white laser printer. No one remarked on color variations among the printed copies.

The exhibit drew an immediate and positive response of academic and government geologists, geologists from state geological surveys, librarians, publishers, and students. Several of the state geological survey geologists asked how they would get the publications of their surveys in the queue to be preserved in this manner.

The Preservation Committee of GIS requested that GIS contact the Geological Society of America to set up a joint Scholarly Advisory Committee on the Preservation of the Geology Literature. A representative of the American Geophysical Union expressed an interest in participating.

GIS members indicated the importance of involving the American Geology Institute –; a consortium of earth science professional organizations –; in an interdisciplinary effort. Work on setting up the Scholarly Advisory Committee will continue as one of the GIS efforts for 1995.

NEH Funds Electronic Editions of Hispanic Periodicals

The project, Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage, recently received funding from The National Endowment for the Humanities for the Electronic Editions Program of the U.S. Hispanic Periodical Literature Project. The project will issue the full bibliography, indices and digital images of all the literature contained in U.S. Hispanic periodicals between 1808 and 1960.

The electronic editions on CD-ROM will be published in three phases [I: up to 1899, II: 1900-1929, and III: 1930-1960].

It is anticipated that the first edition will be ready for publication by the end of 1996. Phases II and III will follow in two- to three-year intervals. The NEH grant supplements the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the project.

Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage is a national ten-year project to locate, preserve, study, and make accessible the literary contributions of U.S. Hispanics, from the colonial period to 1960. Its programs include Preservation and Archives Consortium.

For more information, contact Elsie Herdman-Dodge, Coordinator, E. Cullen Performance Hall, Room 256, Houston, TX 77204-2172 (713) 743-3128.

“If you have entrusted valuable information to floppy disks, CD-ROMs or other digital media in the hope of preserving it for the ages, be forewarned. Changes in hardware and software technology can make digital documents unreadable. Prudent steps taken now, however, can guarantee that today’;s records will still be accessible tomorrow.”

–; A description of the article, “Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Documents,” by Jeff Rothenberg in the January 1995 issue of Scientific American.

NYS Preservation Program Begins Tenth Year

The New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials, the flagship statewide preservation program, celebrated its tenth anniversary in 1994. During ten years, the state has dispersed over $15 million to hundreds of institutions to:

  • preserve library and archival materials of all types,
  • promote preservation awareness and education, and
  • conduct research into how materials deteriorate and how new technologies preserve them.

Among other events marking the anniversary will be an article, “Ten Years of Preservation in New York State,” by Janet Gertz of Columbia University in the April 1995 issue of Library Resources and Technical Services. Focusing primarily on the eleven New York Comprehensive Research Libraries, the article documents how the program has benefited the state and analyzes how the funds have been used. A companion article on the program’;s effects on other institutions and regional groups throughout the state is in preparation by Marty Hanson of Syracuse University.

International Program Recommended Reading

“Saving the Memory of Humanity: A Crisis in the World’;s Libraries,” by International Program Officer Hans Rütimann, is scheduled to appear in the January 1995 issue of LOGOS-; The Professional Journal for the Book World (Volume 5, Issue 4). In the words of LOGOS editors, “… Rütimann has visited 300 libraries and archives and other institutions all over the world. Helping to facilitate collaborative preservation projects among many countries, he has acquired a unique overview of the worldwide race against time and shortage of funds to save a substantial part of the world’;s library collections.” LOGOSis published by Whurr Publishers Ltd., London.

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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