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CPA Newsletter #89, May 1996

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


May 1996

Number 89

Commission Forms Scholarly Task Force on Hispanic Literary Heritage

Dr. Nicolás Kanellos, Director of the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project at the University of Houston, has accepted an invitation to chair a new scholarly task force charged with articulating a strategy for identifying and preserving Hispanic materials in the United States. The eight-member task force has been asked to assess the preservation and access problems associated with U.S. Hispanic materials and recommend the policies and possible solutions that research libraries around the country could adopt in order to fulfill their role as stewards of the nation’s collective cultural and intellectual heritages.

The task force is the first to be formed following the recommendations of a Commission report prepared by Gerald George,Difficult Choices: How Can Scholars Help Save Endangered Research Resources? (8/95, 24pp). The new group is expected to make recommendations that can be incorporated into a written report that will be widely distributed to the scholarly community, the research library and archival communities, and university administrators.

The first meeting of the task force is scheduled for early June. The names of task force members will be announcedas soon as invitations to join the group have been accepted.

Filming Underway for Documentary

Production of a major documentary film/video on the management and preservation of information in the electronic age began this month as a collaborative project of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Commission. The documentary, to be prepared as a one-hour broadcast film and a 30-minute video, has received funding from The National Endowment for the Humanities, Xerox Corporation, and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. (See the January 1996 newsletter for background.)

Filmmaker Terry Sanders, producer and director, started filming after a series of research visits to higher education officials and technology experts. Sanders, president of the American Film Foundation, most recently produced the 1995 Academy Award-winning feature documentary Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision. Sanders was co-founder and associate dean of the Film School of California Institute of the Arts and has been a visiting professor of film production at the University of California, Los Angeles.

With the working title Into the Future…, the documentary is about the human record–the cumulative accounts of individual lives, ideas, knowledge and events–and how a new and important component of that record, digitized information, might best be gathered, preserved and made accessible. The film steering committee provided this rationale for such a documentary at this point in history:

For centuries, the elements of the human record, while great in number, were relatively few in kind: man-made structures, manufactured utilitarian items, works of art and other artifacts reflecting individual creativity, and the written records of experiences, discoveries, and imagination found in unique manuscripts or published in books and journals. By and large, these elements of the record of the past are tangible–they can be touched, studied directly, copied, compared, and (in some cases) carried about. In recent years, and with visible success, serious attention has been given to the preservation and accessibility of much of this inheritance.

The future form of much of the record of human activity is rapidly changing because of the development of computers and dramatic innovation in telecommunications, including the Internet and the World Wide Web. Much information is now stored, manipulated and distributed as electric charges or bursts of light rather than as print on paper. The sheer quantity of digitized information now being generated and the great speed with which it is being processed and distributed have transformed social processes, commercial enterprises, and, in yet uncertain ways, all of teaching and learning.

Into the Future… will open such issues for consideration by a wide audience. The hour-long film will be developed for presentation on prime time national public television. Videotapes will be distributed to provide a base for discussion in many settings, including colleges and universities, boardrooms, libraries and government. Multi-language translations of the program will be available for use around the world.

Film Steering Committee
Patricia Battin, Consultant
Douglas Greenberg, President and Director Chicago Historical Society
Stanley Katz, President, American Council of Learned Societies
Peter Lyman, University Librarian, University of California, Berkeley
Deanna B. Marcum, President, Commission on Preservation and Access, Council on Library Resources
Terry Sanders, American Film Foundation

Commission to Explore New Science Research Agenda

The Commission’s preservation science research initiative, first established in 1990, has begun a new phase of deliberation to develop an agenda to support preservation management in a changing environment. This new exploratory work of the Preservation Science Council is being funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The Preservation Science Council (PSC), composed of scientists and preservation administrators, will be meeting July 31 – August 2. Between now and then, ideas for new research will be gathered and prioritized. It has been more than two years since the PSC completed its initial series of meetings, which resulted in descriptions of the six highest priority projects and the development of several management tools.

This year, the PSC will re-examine its previous work in light of changing priorities, tight budgets, and divergent opinions about the direction of the preservation field. In this evolving environment, the group expects to set a new course for preservation research that reflects today’s needs. Normally, very few opportunities exist for direct interaction between consumers and producers of research. The PSC has realized that its composition, coherence and shared perspective make it uniquely able to construct a prioritized and achievable research agenda for preservation.

The problem is never a shortage of topics for research. The true difficulty is to identify and refine those research ideas that have the most practical value to preservation, yet are scientifically valid and have a reasonable chance of being done. Included in the latter criterion is the simple fact that laboratories must exist which have the capability and willingness to do the projects. Among the research ideas which the PSC might explore are:

  • how best to lengthen collection life by use of scientific environmental control schemes,
  • how best to use low-temperature storage for tape and films,
  • what studies could be done on optical and magnetic media life, and
  • what can be determined about the life expectancy of modern printing and writing papers.

Other ideas for consideration can be addressed to Program Officer Maxine Sitts at the Commission (Email – or Science Advisor James Reilly, Director, Image Permanence Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, PO Box 9887, Rochester, NY 14623-0887 (Email –

Library of Congress Issues RFP to Digitize Microfilm

The Library of Congress on January 31 issued a request for proposals (RFP) to digitize portions of its retrospective 35mm microfilm collection as part of its National Digital Library Program (NDLP). The project may extend up to 5 years and create 700,000 to 1.5 million digital images.

The project will digitize a wide variety of microfilmed materials, including printed sheet music, books, periodicals, and manuscript collections that include U.S. Presidents’ papers and early Congressional documents. The selection of these materials reflects the NDLP’s overall goal of providing access to the unique holdings of the Library of Congress.

The RFP alerts potential offerors to complications that may arise in seeking to achieve high-volume scanning production with microfilm created over a period of almost 50 years. The film included in the project was produced from 1950, when preparation and bibliographic practices were often cursory, through 1994, by which time such practices were subject to rigorous standards and guidelines. Due to the many formats that were filmed and the diverse filming practices used during that half-century, the film exhibits variation in quality, resolution, tonality, reduction ratios, and orientation. Thus, the RFP anticipates vendors may encounter special difficulties in image cropping, rotation, changes in resolution, and deskewing, as well as in dealing with targets, unevenly spaced frames, and segmented images (as happens when large documents such as maps are filmed in sections).The RFP requires production of digital images that can be electronically stored, displayed, and distributed, but also outlines quality specifications designed to ensure they can be printed readily.

Finding aids and other bibliographic information are being developed by the Library to be used with the scanned images. The RFP calls for the successful vendor to provide a file naming structure that will underpin the navigation mechanisms that will be used for access to the materials. While many institutions build access tools in a step separate from the scanning process, the LC project envisions combining them so that, when the images are loaded into the Library’s retrieval system, they will link to bibliographic records or finding aids.

Judging from the list of vendors that attended the February 15 Preproposal Conference, interest in the project appears high. Proposals were due March 19. It is likely that there will be a lengthy period of evaluation and discussion with qualified offerors, with the possibility of an award in the summer.

Copies of the RFP are available, while supplies last, from: The Library of Congress, Contracts and Logistics Service, 1701 Brightseat Road, Landover, MD 20785. Requests must reference RFP96


Names of Commission Sponsors
The names of Commission sponsors have been added to the Commission’s Web pages.
Web site
European Commission on Preservation and Access (ECPA)
The European Commission on Preservation and Access has established the European Preservation Information Center (EPIC) on the World Wide Web at
Guide to CD Care
A guide to CD care has been made available on the Kodak web site. The guide talks about both long-term aging and catastrophic failure. Kodak intends to publish the guide in paper format, but wanted to first provide the virtual version on the web. Contents of “Permanence, Care, and Handling of CDs” include discussions of how long CD’s can last, safe handling, and storage conditions, as well as CD permanence in perspective.
Web site document also can be obtained by beginning with the Commission’s Web page and then linking to CoOL’s Electronic Media page.
Preservation Science Research
The preservation science research initiative now has its own page on the Commission’s World Wide Web site. The site will report on the agenda for 1996-1997 as it develops and provides for feedback and comments to the Preservation Science Council and Program Officer Maxine K. Sitts. Web site

European Commission Draws 30 Nations to Leipzig

The first major conference of the European Commission on Preservation and Access (ECPA) did much to raise the profile of preservation and of the ECPA and to build awareness of the need for international cooperation and coordination. The conference, Choosing to Preserve, took place March 29-30 in Leipzig, Germany, and was co-organized by Die Deutsche Bibliothek Frankfurt/Leipzig.

The 160 participants came from 30 countries throughout Europe, including good representation from Central and Eastern Europe. In addition to librarians, archivists, and curators, participants included scholars, academic administrators, publishers, and representatives from the commercial sector. There also were at least 4 representatives from governmental bodies present, from Ministries of Culture, Education, and Science, and the like.

At this early stage in its development, the ECPA focused the conference on education and awareness-building more than on charting specific action strategies. To move forward, the ECPA must get preservation onto the agendas of multiple political bodies in vastly disparate countries. One objective of the conference–to establish some common ground–was realized when participants discovered they were facing the same type of problems. Another priority for the organization and for this conference was to cultivate scholarly involvement, and models developed by the Commission in the United States appear useful.

The conference garnered considerable attention in the press. Several lengthy articles appeared in Leipzig and regional newspapers before the conference, and a press conference afterwards was well attended. Journalists asked the basic questions–“What is the problem?” “What caused it?” “When did it begin?” “Why does it matter?”–that can lay a foundation for further work with the media.

After the conference, a delegation of the Commission in the U.S. met with the ECPA Board. A strong partnership between the two organizations promises to offer many opportunities to expand international access to scholarly resources.

For background, see the March 1995 (no. 76) and January 1996 (no. 85)

Brazil Translation and Training Project Moves Forward

Work is well underway to translate a core body of preservation literature into Portuguese. A group of Brazilian librarians, archivists, curators, and conservators in 1995 identified English-language publications that addressed important Brazilian concerns and that could be applied readily in cultural institutions. The group chose articles and leaflets on subjects ranging from planning and selection to book repair, pest management, and digitization.

To date, ten translations are nearly completed. By the end of the project, over thirty publications will be translated.

The Commission undertook to obtain translation permissions, and U.S. publishers such as the American Library Association, American Institute for Conservation, Association of Research Libraries, Northeast Document Conservation Center, and Society of American Archivists have been most generous in authorizing use of their publications in the project.

The publications are an important building block in establishing more effective preservation programs in Brazil. They also will be used in the second phase of the project, in which five week-long seminars will be conducted regionally to train about 70 librarians and archivists in preservation management.

The need for current technical information and trained preservation managers was deemed critical in advancing preservation within Brazil, and resulted in the development of this project by Ingrid Beck (National Archives) and Solange Zúñiga (National Foundation of Arts). The highly collaborative project involves an alliance of over 13 major cultural institutions in Brazil. The Getulio Vargas Foundation is administering the project in cooperation with the Commission under a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For background, see the February 1996 newsletter (no.

The Netherlands Releases Mass Deacidification Report

A study entitled Deacidification of Books and Archival Materials with the Battelle Process provides an independent insight into the effectiveness of this mass deacidification system. The February 1996 report from the National Preservation Office of the Netherlands (CNC) describes the aims of the study, background of the Battelle treatment, and materials tested, focusing primarily on the results of the study. In distributing the report, CNC Secretary Hans Jansen notes, “As a conclusion of this research we can say that using the Battelle process appears to result in a positive contribution to the durability of the paper, both in books and in archival materials. However, despite this positive comment it can be concluded that the Battelle process suffers from a number of shortcomings which can obstruct a large-scale application.”

The study was conducted by John Havermans and Ronald van Deventer of the TNO Centre for Paper & Board Research, and Sophia Pauk and Henk Porck of the National Library of the Netherlands. The report is available (CNC-publication no.9) from: secretariaat CNCp/a Prins Willem-Alexanderh of 5, Postbus 90407, 2509 LK Den Haag.

The European Commission on Preservation and Access has contracted with Dr. Porck for a report an all mass deacidification processes

Not all Commission reports are distributed free-of-charge to everyone who receives this newsletter. Sponsors and key contacts will continue to receive all reports at no cost. Others can use the Order Form, available via mail or fax from the Communication Program, or on the Commission’s World Wide Web site.

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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