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CPA Newsletter #83, Oct 1995

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


October 1995

Number 83

Scholars Explore Digitization for Access to Papyri

Hitherto, the study of papyri has been significantly limited. Because of their fragile and fragmentary condition, papyri pose significant preservation challenges. Equally challenging is gaining research access to papyri since collections, even single documents in fragments, are scattered internationally. Until now scholars unable to visit collections have had to choose between photographs (prohibitively expensive) or published papyri (which precludes seeing the original text). The use of digitization to help overcome these difficulties is explored in Digital Imaging of Papyri by Roger Bagnall, Professor of Classics and History, Columbia University, a report prepared under contract to the Commission.

Digital imaging provides an opportunity to create a world-wide virtual library of images, freeing scholars and students everywhere to study relevant papyri in any collection. A digital library of this magnitude would encourage wider use of papyrological texts in study and teaching about the ancient world and greatly improve the quality of research.

Digital Imaging of Papyri was prepared with the assistance of participants in the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS) and other expert consultants after a meeting in Ann Arbor, MI, in March 1995. APIS is an interinstitutional project growing out of a committee established in early 1994 by the American Society of Papyrologists to study imaging and other current technological developments and establish standards.

The new report relates the purpose and methods of the APIS study. Further, it defines archival and delivered images, discusses ways and means for capturing physical attributes of papyri and the preferred methods of capture, details technical standards and specifications, and ends with a brief discussion of quality control, migration and refreshment issues.

Digital Imaging of Papyri (8 pp., September 1995) is available for $10.00 from the Commission on Preservation and Access. Prepayment is required, with checks in US funds made payable to “The Commission on Preservation and Access.” Commission sponsors receive all publications at no extra charge.

Report Proposes Options for Scholarly Involvement

A new Commission report–Difficult Choices: How Can Scholars Help Save Endangered Research Resources?–caps a seven-year initiative that has had as its goal the recruitment and formation of scholarly committees to investigate the state of decay and preservation of collections within their separate disciplines. The report concludes that a preferred option is for the Commission to work with scholarly associations to take leadership responsibility for preserving materials of priority importance for their fields, expanding the deliberations to include materials that should have priority for digitization.

The Commission began to investigate strategies for preservation selection in 1988. By 1995, the Commission had worked with scholars in six fields, forming scholarly advisory committees in history, art history, medieval studies, modern languages and literature, philosophy, and Renaissance studies. Scholars in additional fields, including some of the sciences, also have been included through an interdisciplinary task force on the special problems of preserving research materials containing texts linked with images.

At least two broad themes emerge in the new report: the understandable reluctance of scholars to make choices because of the unpredictability of research needs, and the advisability of collaborative, cross-institutional preservation. The report proposes that scholarly associations charge existing committees (or form new ones) to work with the Commission on preservation matters. These committees could also bear responsibility for promoting the preservation of its field’s most important research materials, address the question of which library materials should have priority for digitization, and promote the creation of a register of library materials that have been or are being digitized.

In addition to the discussions noted above, the report contains appendices providing a bibliography of published preservation guidance and a list of committee membership. The report, supported by grants from the Gladys Krieble Delmas and H.W. Wilson Foundations, was prepared under contract to the Commission by Gerald George, who has served as Director of the American Association for State and Local History and Executive Director of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Difficult Choices: How Can Scholars Help Save Endangered Research Resources? (28 pages, August 1995) is available for $10.00 from the Commission on Preservation and Access. Prepayment is required, with checks in US funds made payable to “The Commission on Preservation and Access.” Commission sponsors receive all publications at no extra charge.

Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information Seeks Comments on Draft Report

In December 1994, the Commission and the Research Libraries Group created the Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information. The purpose of the 21-member task force is to investigate the means of ensuring “continued access indefinitely into the future of records stored in digital electronic form.” (For background, see January and March 1995 newsletters.)

The task force has issued its draft report, which it considers a work in progress, and now seeks comments from the community. In the words of the task force co-chairs John Garrett and Donald Waters, “We believe that the dialogue that grows from the circulation of this draft will sharpen its content and help identify additional, practical and affordable ways to contribute to the information infrastructure.”

“This is precisely the dialogue we wish to encourage, and we believe the draft report supports this goal admirably,” noted presidents of both organizations, James Michalko of RLG and Deanna Marcum of the Commission. The Commission and RLG are making the draft report, entitled Preserving Digital Information, widely available in paper and electronic form. Electronic versions are available from RLG.

FTP server:
Web site:

The task force has opened a listserv to support the dialogue. Subscribe by sending the message: subscribe archtf-lto

Once subscribed, you may add comments to the list. Otherwise, comments may be addressed to either task force co-chair, John Garrett,, or Donald Waters, Comments are due by October 31, 1995. The final report is expected early in 1996.

… [T]he loss of the NEH … would be a cultural tragedy for all Americans.

Since it was founded in 1965, the NEH has awarded $2.9 billion in some 51,000 fellowships and grants, and its Challenge Grants program, in place since 1977, has generated more than $1.3 billion in nonfederal aid for American libraries, museums, universities and colleges. Its net of activities reaches very wide…. It funds local history centers, educational programs at all levels and the unending task of preserving millions of old documents and brittle newspapers, both physically and on microfilm.

–“Why America Shouldn’t Kill Cultural Funding,” by Robert Hughes,
Time Magazine, August 1, 1995, page 67.

National Film Preservation Strategy Released by Library of Congress

An action plan for collaborative film preservation, which culminates three years of study, is available from the Library of Congress. The plan is presented in the June 1995 report, The National Film Preservation Plan: An Implementation Strategy.In contrast to previous hefty reports, the new report is 12 pages in length. It lays out a timetable, possible participants, and a brief action plan for each of 30 recommendations detailed in the August 1994 document, Redefining Film Preservation. Recommendations fall into three broad areas: Saving (conserving) the Film Element, Increasing Funding and Fostering Partnerships, and Expanding Public Access and Outreach.

The national plan was mandated by Public Law 102-307 (the National Film Preservation Act of 1992), which directed the Librarian of Congress, in consultation with members of his advisory National Film Preservation Board, to conduct a study on the current state of film preservation activities and to design a national plan to improve these efforts and guarantee the survival of our film heritage. After two public hearings and analysis of hundreds of statements from the film community, the Board listed among its major conclusions:

  • Fewer than 20 percent of feature films from the 1920s survive in complete form.
  • Many lost American films can be found only in foreign archives.
  • Funding for film preservation programs has fallen to half its 1980 level when adjusted for inflation.

The National Film Preservation Plan: An Implementation Strategy (June 1995) is available at no charge from: Stephen Leggett, Motion Picture Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540.

For all those who love film, the unquestionable duty becomes ensuring that surviving–and future–films will forever remain a living part of the American Memory, secure for the public’s education and enjoyment.

–From The National Film Preservation Plan: An Implementation Strategy, June 1995, Library of Congress

College Library Preservation Management Seminar Intensive and Interactive

An intensive look at preservation management concerns and solutions was the focus of the third Preservation Management Seminar for College Libraries, held July 9-17 at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM. Sponsored by AMIGOS Bibliographic Council and the Commission’s College Libraries Committee, the session gave attendees from across the U.S. and around the world an opportunity to learn about and discuss management approaches to their most pressing preservation problems. Participants consisted of Brad Cole, Northern Arizona University; Steve Dalton, Northeast Document Conservation Center; Sandra Harris, Linda Hall Library; Cecilia Hunter, Texas A & M University-Kingsville; Galina Kislovskaya, Library of Foreign Literature, Moscow; Carrie Marsh, The Claremont Colleges; Jami Peelle, Kenyon College; Ramon Sanchez Chappellin, Biblioteca Nacional de Venezuela; and Mary Sieminski, Clark University.

The faculty, led by national preservation consultant Lisa Fox, covered topics ranging from Planning and Managing a Preservation Program to Preservation Selection and Library Binding. Karen Motylewski, Director of Preservation and Conservation Studies, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Texas at Austin, led sessions on the Nature of Library Materials and Environmental Control. Jane Hedberg, Serials Librarian and Preservation Administrator at Wellesley College, and Tom Clareson, AMIGOS Preservation Service Manager, co-presented a day-long module on Disaster Preparedness and contributed to several other modules. Many of the evaluations mentioned the intensity level of the seminar (each day’s agenda ran from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.), but praised the level of interaction between participants and faculty, as well as the practical, analytical approach to preservation management offered throughout the seminar.

One of the highlights of the week was an evening lecture by Kevin Donovan of Luna Imaging, Inc., Venice, CA. His discussion of management of digitization systems for preservation and access was a new component in this seminar, and it drove discussion in even more diverse directions. As one participant noted, the seminar “reinforced what I knew, expanded on that knowledge, and gave me new ways to think strategically.”

by Tom Clareson, AMIGOS Preservation Service Manager

The Preservation Management Seminar was developed by the Commission’s College Libraries Committee, in cooperation with the SOLINET Preservation Program (Atlanta, GA), to provide management training for part-time preservation administrators. It has been offered by various organizations every two years in different regions of the country. The College Libraries Committee continues to serve as advisor to the seminar.


(August 8 – September 6, 1995)

University of Alberta
Boston Public Library
University of California, Berkeley
University of Connecticut
Emory University
Franklin & Marshall College
University of Kansas
University of Michigan
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
State University of New York at Albany
Syracuse University
Washington University (St. Louis)

Sponsor Pledges Continuing

Several more sponsors have pledged support for Commission goals and activities in addition to those announced in the July-August and September newsletters. These institutions join with other libraries and archives that have chosen to contribute to national preservation and access initiatives working in concert with the Commission. Sponsors receive all publications at no cost. More complete information about sponsorship is available in a brochure from Commission headquarters.

National Digital Library Federation Planning Underway

The work of the National Digital Library Federation (NDLF) is advancing with the appointment of Patricia Battin as coordinator for the next six months and the support of a $100,000 planning grant from the IBM Corporation. Henry Gladney, a research scientist at IBM’s Almaden facility, will provide technical assistance for a nine-month period, also with IBM Corporation support. Battin is the founding president of the Commission, and Gladney is a member of the Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information.

The NDLF was formed in May 1995 to establish the governance structure and technical infrastructure for a collaboratively managed, physically distributed, not-for-profit repository of digital information in support of instruction and research. It seeks to integrate the capabilities of digital technologies with the strengths of research libraries and institutions of higher education to provide convenient and affordable access to our intellectual and cultural heritage. More information is available in the June and July-August 1995 newsletters.

Meetings over the next several months of the directors of the 15 founding institutions and a planning task force will address many issues including: additional NDLF membership; technical infrastructure; digital library content; archival responsibilities; human resources; and governance. The planning task force has asked libraries and archives interested in NDLF participation to provide the Commission with a description of current and planned digital projects and an indication of the level of institutional support available for digital library activities.

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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