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CPA Newsletter #79, May 1995

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


May 1995

Number 79

From the President
The Fullest Definition of Preservation

The Commission on Preservation and Access has enjoyed strong leadership since its inception. My goal is to build on the strength that I find in the organization. In 1994, the Board identified the areas of emphasis for future work, and I plan to continue with those directions, making modifications as circumstances and opportunities dictate.

The challenge for the Commission in the next few years is to incorporate the needs for digital preservation without being overtaken by them.

Long before the problem of deteriorating books has been solved, we are faced with serious new problems in the digital arena. Both are important problems if we take as our charge “to preserve and provide access to the human record.” The Digital Archiving Task Force and the Digital Preservation Consortium are important and timely projects to chart the course for preservation and access in the digital world, and their results will be reported upon frequently.

But the challenges of preserving international materials, as well as the materials of many of the smaller repositories in this country, will have to be confronted in more traditional ways. The Commission must not lose sight of the fullest definition of preservation and access if it is to meet its obligations.

Over the next several months, the Board and the Commission staff will review all existing programs, consult widely with the library, archival, and education communities about their needs and requirements, and set priorities for action over the next year or two. As in the past, this newsletter will report upon the work of the Commission. For those who prefer electronic information, the Commission has established a Home Page on the World Wide Web. For updated information, consult

Deanna B. Marcum

Chronicle Points to Agreement on Preservation During Electronic Copyright Discussions

“If there is an aspect of copyright regulation and electronic communication on which librarians and publishers can agree, it is the need to preserve old books.” So begins a short article, “Electronic Rescue of Old Books Gains Support,” by Robert Jacobson in the March 10, 1995, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Both copyright owners and users “endorse using electronic methods to save vulnerable books in print,” according to the article, which cites an appeal for rescuing brittle books by M. Stuart Lynn, Commission vice-president for technology, during a recent federally sponsored meeting. (Also see “No Copying,” by Jacobson, in the same issue.)

New Internet Access through CAUSE

In January 1994, the Commission announced it had granted permission to make its publications available in electronic form to CAUSE (The Association for Managing and Using Information Technology in Higher Education). CAUSE has just announced the availability of selected Commission publications through its Gopher or Web servers:

CAUSE Gopher
CAUSE World Wide Web

A more complete collection of Commission documents is maintained at CoOL (Conservation OnLine) at Stanford University.

Paper Splitting Tested in Germany

The International Program translated this article into English to acquaint readers with recent tests of paper-splitting as a preservation technique. Both mechanical wet treatment and hand splitting paper activities have been practiced at the Regional Center in Leipzig, the University Library of Jena, and the provisional central state restoration workshop in Tübingen for years. The project is one part of a comprehensive national plan to improve the state of collections by providing better organizational and material conditions. Activities in Leipzig are focused on individual and large-scale restoration, mass deacidification, care and maintenance of the collections, and microfilming.

by Dr. Hartmut Weber
From Archiv-Nachrichten (No. 9, December 1994)
Newsletter of the State Archive Office, Baden-Württemberg

In the race against the inexorably spreading, insidious paper decay, the possibilities of saving endangered books and documents in time have increased after all. In cooperation with the Deutsche Bücherei in Leipzig, the Landesarchivdirektion of Baden-Württemberg has promoted the development of a paper splitting machine which has been in the process of proving itself for several weeks in a test phase in the City of Leipzig.

Already in 1989, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the cooperation between Saxony and Baden-Württemberg had been agreed upon in order to realize the bold idea of Dr. Wolfgang Wächter, Chief Restorer in Leipzig, to mechanize paper splitting. In the paper splitting process paper with a thickness of only a fraction of one millimeter is separated into a front and back side, in order to glue an exactly fitting, very firm and very thin reinforcing paper in between. Thus, damaged or brittle paper regains its original stability without any alteration to the paper surfaces; even the watermarks remain visible. The paper splitting process is an effective restoration method in the core of the paper, where damaging factors such as acids or wood pulp exert their destructive influence. Even when other methods such as deacidification and resizing fail, paper splitting can still be used as a safe, mechanical reinforcement method.

Paper splitting, known since the year 1848, has so far been a labor intensive manual restoration technique and thus also very expensive. While procedures based on the division of labor are used in Leipzig, at the University Library in Jena and in the provisional central state restoration workshop in Tübingen, in order to increase productivity, there was no way around a paper splitting procedure by machine in order to efficiently treat the incredibly large amounts of damaged papers.

What at first seemed impossible became reality: a machine, 2 meters high and more than 6 meters long, performs the difficult work of paper splitting, glues the reinforcing paper in between, presses and dries, and will in the future also automatically release and cut the paper. This will be achieved by means of an enzyme treatment that will separate the split and reinforced paper from the carrier. Sponsored by the Federal Minister for Research and Technology, the machine was designed and built by Becker Verfahrenstechnik (an engineering company) in Korb in the Rems Valley. The prototype is now being tested in the Zentrum für Bucherhaltung (Center for Book Preservation) in Leipzig. Another device will be operated at the Institut für die Erhaltung von Archiv- und Bibliotheksgut der Landesarchivdirektion (Institute for the Preservation of Archive and Library Material of the State Archive Office). Within the framework of the 1986 State restoration program, preparations are underway to establish in Ludwigsburg laboratories and workrooms that will service preservation and conservation needs of libraries and archives in Baden-Württemberg. The facility will be operational in the fall of 1995.

With this machine, Saxonian inventiveness combined with Swabian resourcefulness revolutionized paper restoration: in future it will be possible to save thousands of pages of damaged books or documents from certain decay in one work day. The Saxons and Swabians have thus righted what their fellow countrymen of previous generations caused: it was, after all the Saxonian Keller and the Swabian Voelter who, 150 years ago, contributed to a large degree to the global paper decay with their invention of paper manufacturing by means of inexpensive wood pulp.

Joint Testimony Supports The National Endowment for the Humanities

Since 1988, when Congress first approved funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Brittle Books program, the Commission has cooperated with the National Humanities Alliance and the Association of Research Libraries in providing annual testimony before Congress in support of the Endowment’s preservation programs. With much at stake this year, the three organizations were allowed an opportunity to provide four pages of written testimony to House and Senate subcommittees.

Statement On Fiscal Year 1996 Appropriations for the National Endowment for the Humanities

Prepared for The Interior Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate and
The Subcommittee on the Interior and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations,
U.S. House of Representatives
March 31, 1995

The National Humanities Alliance, Association of Research Libraries, and Commission on Preservation and Access appreciate the opportunity to provide this written testimony on the preservation programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities for the House FY-96 appropriations record. This testimony was prepared by Patricia Battin, the founder and first president of the Commission until her retirement June 30, 1994. Ms. Battin was one of the initial proponents of the 20-year Brittle Books program managed by NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access.

In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a Fiscal Year 1989 appropriation bill increasing the budget of the NEH Office of Preservation to $12.5 million. This action effectively created the nationwide preservation program that uses modest funds to stimulate cooperation and resources to intelligently preserve and provide access to our nation’s endangered intellectual heritage. During the past seven years, the NEH-managed program has become a model for nations around the world.

In an extraordinary partnership with libraries, archives, private foundations, publishers and international agencies, NEH has conceived and now coordinates an unprecedented battle against the crumbling acidic paper that threatens our recorded knowledge stored in libraries and archives. The track record of the Endowment’s preservation efforts is impressive. As one example, after the first seven years of the 20-year Brittle Books program, accomplishments are right on target with our 1988 projections: Some 660,000 embrittled volumes are preserved or undergoing preservation. With a 33 percent cost-sharing requirement, 70 institutions are participating, from small archives and colleges to large research consortiums.

Preservation programs are not entitlement programs. All institutions applying for grants must go through a rigorous review process and provide one-third of the project’s funding. As reported by NEH, since the establishment of the Office of Preservation (now Division of Preservation and Access) in 1986, projects supported by the Endowment have leveraged over $6.4 million in gifts. Moreover, in FY1994, grants generated a level of cost-sharing totaling $19.4 million, equaling 84 percent of the Endowment’s investment of federal funds.

The design of the Endowment’s coordinated series of programs recognizes the fact that our nation’s libraries and archives are not distributed evenly throughout the 50 states, ruling out the efficacy of a block-grant approach. The Division of Preservation and Access, for example, provides grants for statewide planning that enable each state to design a preservation program most suitable for its specific circumstances within the context of the national effort. In 1994, NEH was helping support preservation projects within 156 institutions and humanities organizations in 40 states and the District of Columbia.

Brittle Books

Only federal stimulus could make possible such a cooperative, sustained, and massive salvation effort as the Brittle Books program. Prior to 1988, the library and archival profession had repeatedly sounded the alarm, but to little avail. Millions of books were crumbling and turning to dust on shelves in libraries and archives. Scientific research had determined the cause of the decay: Acidic-based paper had been introduced in the mid-nineteenth century to respond to the demand for books and journals fueled by the spread of literacy and the growth of American scholarship. So-called “slow fires” triggered by the acids in the paper were breaking down the cellulose fibers that give paper its structural strength.

Surveys confirmed that nearly 80 million books in North American libraries were threatened with such destruction. Of that number, 12 million were unique titles requiring high-priority preservation. Not only were books endangered, but also maps, music scores, archival records, and other paper-based materials. By 1987 it had become unhappily evident that the individual efforts of the Library of Congress and large research libraries to preserve their collections were simply inadequate to the challenge.

Since our intellectual heritage belongs to all of us, it seemed eminently reasonable that the national interest required a federal response with judiciously determined priorities, coordinated leadership, and shared expenditures of public and private funds. The bold vision of Congress in October 1988 in recognizing the appropriate role of the federal government to help individual institutions preserve distinctive collections for the benefit of all citizens is amply documented by the NEH’s record of achievement since that time.

The Brittle Books program is an outstanding example of the use of federal funding to support the national interest in which the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts. The program was carefully crafted not only to preserve the holdings in our nation’s libraries but to make them accessible to all citizens in ways that were not possible before.

The massive preservation microfilming program carries a set of rigorous conditions: 1) filming that meets stringent technical standards; 2) a master negative, a print master, and a service copy for the institution; 3) entering the record into a national bibliographic database; 4) a commitment to provide interlibrary loan or film copies at cost to any requester; and 5) permanent storage in environmental conditions meeting nationally accepted standards. It also stretches preservation dollars by requiring that institutions concentrate on materials of the highest priority and that they avoid duplicating previous preservation efforts.


Newspapers represent the most widely used set of materials for learning about our history, both for scholarly studies and for individual citizens wishing to understand their own genealogical, ethnic, and local histories. Like books, newspapers are printed on self-destructing paper. Because newspaper titles may be scattered throughout a state, cost-effective preservation is even more difficult than for books. Again, the challenge has required national stimulus and coordination by NEH. Some states did preserve newspaper holdings prior to 1982, but many could not afford a systematic approach, and none provided comprehensive bibliographic access to their collections. Since it was launched in 1982, the NEH U.S. Newspaper Program has involved all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Half of these states have completed their projects. When current projects conclude, 54 million pages of disintegrating newsprint will have been microfilmed, and bibliographic records for 224,000 newspaper titles will be accessible to the general public. Under this program, microfilm copies of newspaper are available to anyone anywhere in the country through interlibrary loan. And each state project produces a newspaper bibliography to ensure full access to all citizens.

Education and Research

Education remains a high priority need for librarians and archivists as they manage an increasing array of preservation activities. In 1994, an NEH grant to the University of Texas at Austin helped support the only graduate training program in library and archival administration and conservation that focuses on preservation of library and archival materials. Another grant supported staff training in book repair techniques to help 40 libraries preserve continuing access to circulating collections. Among grant recipients were the Universities of Washington and Utah and the University of California at Berkeley. An estimated 150 supervisory staff of libraries will receive training in management of preservation microfilming projects, thanks to another 1994 grant to the Northeast Document Conservation Center, Andover, MA. And an award to the Southeastern Library Network will provide education and training services in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida.

As we continue with established methods of preserving and providing access to materials, the preservation community also is investigating how to make the best use of digital technologies for preserving and providing access to humanities materials. Cornell and Yale Universities have received NEH grants to help establish national guidelines for the interchange of microfilmed and digitized materials within a preservation environment. The Endowment’s support for such activities is crucial at a time when no single institution has enough resources to conduct research and development projects.

We must ensure that emerging technologies are used to provide enhanced access to the humanities to an even broader population of citizens. We also are concerned that humanities materials created with new technologies can be safely preserved for long-term reference. Both of these goals–enhanced access and preservation of digital formats–require new efforts. We welcome a proposed special initiative of NEH–Technology and the Humanities–to be implemented in 1996. Building on its past research, NEH would support projects that (1) apply electronic technologies to teaching the humanities at all levels of the educational system, (2) digitize texts, documents, images, and sound records, to constitute a digital library of humanities resources, and (3) expand public access to the humanities through technology and telecommunications. These activities are absolutely essential to this nation’s education, preservation, and research efforts.

International Influence

In 1988, we were primarily concerned with saving the contents of American libraries. We didn’t foresee the remarkable impact of the Congressional initiative on the international scene. The example of NEH leadership over the past seven years has resonated beyond our national boundaries and stimulated the governments of other nations–large and small, developed and emerging–to take similar actions. The wisdom of that vision has been recognized again and again as other governments have used the American experience as a model in organizing their own preservation programs. As a consequence, the international community is sharing with us the enormous effort to save and make accessible the fragile memory of the world. This coordinated international effort–patterned after the NEH program–provides our schools and libraries with needed intellectual resources from around the world with minimum cost and redundancy.

While developing its “Memory of the World” program, UNESCO has built upon the Endowment’s preservation experience. UNESCO has contracted with IFLA (the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) to develop general guidelines for safeguarding the documentary heritage, a “world list” of library collections that have suffered damage since 1900, and a “world list” of current activities aimed at safeguarding the documentary heritage. Most recently, the new European Commission on Preservation and Access representing eight countries (with more to come), has issued its statement of aims and objectives that contributes to the preservation goals of the Endowment and pledges to work with the U.S. in ensuring the preservation of the published and documentary record.

“Slow Fires,” the documentary film on preservation funded by NEH was a hit on U.S. public television when released in 1987. It has since been televised in Belgium and Portugal and been viewed by administrators of national and regional libraries in China, France, Great Britain, Belgium, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Peru. It has been translated into Russian, Chinese, French, Portuguese and Spanish. And it has sparked worldwide preservation activity, funded by others, that is salvaging materials of importance to U.S. students, teachers, and researchers.

In Conclusion

The Endowment’s preservation activities provide Congress with an ongoing success story of public money wisely spent, leveraging resources nationally and internationally. What was conceived and promised by the Endowment in 1988 is being delivered by the Endowment (together with supporting institutions) in 1995.

Success to date, however, is predicated on a long-term view. The Brittle Books program, a 20-year effort to save three million volumes, is only 25 percent complete. The network forged by the Endowment–institutions that are sharing costs and working cooperatively for the benefit of all–is poised to deliver the remaining portion of the promised volumes by their due date and to expand their collaborative preservation activities under the able leadership of the NEH. The 104th Congress has the historic opportunity to continue the legacy so wisely established by its predecessors, so that our children and grandchildren can know and understand their heritage.

Excerpts from the Statement of Sheldon Hackney,

Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities, before the Education, Arts, and Humanities Subcommittee of the Labor and Human Resources Committee of the United States Senate, March 2, 1995.

… “Our purpose is as important as it is simple. We help to preserve our cultural heritage and strengthen our understanding of it–without that we do not know who we are. We promote citizenship grounded in an appreciation of our fundamental principles –without that we would not know where we should be going. We ensure that the humanities belong to all Americans regardless of how much they make or where they live–without that our democracy would not endure….

…”Since joining the Endowment, I have been consistently impressed with the high standards upheld by NEH, by the excellence of our programs, and the quality and dedication of our staff. During the thirty years of NEH’s existence, operating on one-ten-thousandth of the federal budget, we have awarded more than 51,000 grants to scholars, filmmakers, preservationists, educators, State Humanities Councils, libraries, teacher training institutes, and museums to advance the quality and the reach of the humanities….

… “Through the United States Newspaper Program, the NEH is helping to locate, catalog, and preserve by microfilming a vital part of our national history that would otherwise be lost to deterioration. By the time current projects end, this program will have microfilmed 54 million pages of disintegrating newsprint. NEH support is also saving three million brittle books by funding their microfilming over a twenty-year period. Microfilming these newspapers and books will make them available to Americans all across the country for a long time to come….

…”The National Endowment for the Humanities is dedicated to nurturing the wisdom of the nation’s citizens. No American should be left out of the humanities. That we reach so many with so few federal dollars is a tribute to the ingenuity of our grantees and to the eagerness of the American people to participate in the humanities….”

USC Libraries Complete Study of Digital Photographic Archives

The University of Southern California Libraries have completed an implementation plan for a combined preservation and delivery system for a fully cataloged photographic collection, developed under contract to the Commission. As part of the study, the University Libraries and the Computing Center digitized a photographic collection containing about 23,000 images that document development of the Los Angeles region from 1860 to 1960.

One of the activities of the USC project, “Perceived Interface & Output Requirements,” was reported upon in the March 1994 Commission newsletter. That study, based on interviews with several dozen university faculty and library staff, found that an electronic image delivery system would be used by faculty from various disciplines for both research and instruction. A digital image delivery system was perceived to have three advantages: convenience of access, speed of access and search, and individual user control.

USC’s digital preservation model states that decisions concerning the preservation of original photographic records by digital means must be subjective based on careful evaluation of a number of factors. The model reviews factors USC investigated to determine appropriate scanning parameters.

For more information, contact John Waiblinger, Assistant University Librarian for Scholarly Technology & Information Systems, USC Library, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0182 or Email:

Annual Meetings of Historians, Publishers Include Preservation and Access Demos

Members of the Organization of American Historians and the National Council on Public History provided the Commission with their perspectives on digital imaging as a preservation technique during their combined annual meeting in Washington, DC. Scholars and faculty saw demonstrations of full-color images from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries digitized by Luna Imaging, Inc.

The annual meeting of the Association of American Publishers – Professional / Scholarly Publishing Division, also in DC, focused its exhibit area on new technologies. Staff from Project Muse, the online journal initiative of the Johns Hopkins University Libraries and Press, demonstrated their software at the Commission booth.

These were the final events in an 18-month series funded by the H.W. Wilson and Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundations.

Dance, Preservation, and Access: “That which is saved is that which is valued.”

Adapted from a description of the American Dance Legacy Institute by Carolyn Adams in the Winter 1995 issue of Afterimages. Ms. Adams, a former principal dancer with the Paul Taylor Company (1965-1982), has most recently been named Curator of the American Dance Legacy Institute.

The Commission’s Preservation Science Council last year identified videotape, used to record dance, as a major concern for those responsible for preserving and providing long-term access to our cultural heritage. The Commission and the National Media Laboratory, St. Paul, MN, are developing a joint publication on the preservation and long-term storage of magnetic media.

… Preservation is about performance, access, and the distillation of quintessential meaning over time. As we, as a profession, ponder the imperiled state of our field, it behooves us, I think, to consider the nature of preservation within the broader context of a legacy.

The American Dance Legacy Institute was established to provide all Americans with the opportunity to practice, enjoy, and participate in the art of dance. This indigenous artform provides a kaleidoscopic view of diverse American traditions. As a discipline, it provides both methodology and transferable skills and though historically less accessible to the general public than other arts disciplines, it is one of the most effective means of achieving communication and human understanding….

The process through which the Institute will provide services and foster activities will create the framework for preservation. Materials will be both generated and documented. The next generation of dance artists and dance audiences will have helped create those materials while learning the skills of the future. The great dance artists of our time will gain unprecedented access to their students and their audiences because of the many levels at which they can now communicate, and because the window of access has been both widened and prolonged. The Dance Legacy Institute derives its name from the principle which guides its mission:

“That which is saved is that which is valued. That which is valued is that which is known and shared. Access, communication, and the sharing of resources provide a solid foundation for the building of relationships and the stabilization of communities. Our lives are secured and enriched to the degree that we invest and participate in the process of creating, protecting, and improving those lives.”

For more information, contact the Institute at Box 1897, Providence, RI 02912. E-mail:

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.

Deanna B. Marcum–President
Maxine K. Sitts–Program Officer, Editor

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