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CPA Newsletter #95, Jan 1997

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


January 1997

Number 95

New Report Explores Scanning of Visual Collections

Digital Image Collections: Issues and Practice, by Michael Ester, December 1996 (36 pages, $15.00).


he Commission has published a number of reports on the preservation and access implications of scanning text and microfilm. This report focuses on what sets the digitization of visual collections apart from other scanning projects. Projects to digitize visual collections present their own unique set of questions and concerns, as well as issues that overlap with digital capture of text. For the report, we asked Ester to draw upon his previous studies and writings for the museum and art history communities. Through his experiences at both the Getty Art History Information Program and Luna Imaging Inc., the author provides library and archives administrators and others who oversee digitization projects with ways of thinking about this activity for the long-term benefit of preservation and scholarship.

At one level, this paper can be considered another in a series on scanning projects–an extension, so to speak, of the tutorial on scanning of text (Kenney and Chapman 1995) and the reports from Columbia University on scanning of papyrus (Bagnall 1995) and large-scale maps (Gertz 1995). But as it evolved, the report took on a wider context, including things technical, organizational, intellectual, legal, and financial. It provides basic suggestions about planning digitization projects, practical guidelines for working with images, and some final thoughts about the future systems and infrastructure needed to provide collections of images over the long-term.

The paper assumes a broad definition of visual collections and resources. The concepts can be applied, with some small shifts in terminology, to historical photograph collections, art historical material, maps, text and image publications, architectural drawings, and so forth.

One of the most telling conclusions is that it is difficult to accomplish a large-scale digitization project with the same level of speed, quality, and enthusiasm as initial tests. If we are to use digitization as a tool to provide worthwhile, enduring access to some of our most treasured cultural and historical resources, then we necessarily must take time at the outset to become informed, establish guidelines, and proceed in rational, measured steps to assure that such reformatting of visual matter is accomplished as well and as cost-effectively as possible. Just as with other reformatting technologies, including preservation microfilming, doing the job once properly will prove more economical and valuable in the long run.

Digital Image Collections: Issues and Practice is available for $15.00, with prepayment required. Send check made payable to “Commission on Preservation and Access” (U.S. funds only) to Alex Mathews at the Commission address. 

Oversize Color Images Project Completed; Phase II Creates Online Access


he Oversize Color Images Scanning Project, funded by a Commission contract in 1994, sought to investigate digitization as a way to provide access to brittle volumes in which the text is accompanied by color and oversize illustrations. Columbia University Libraries/Academic Information Systems tested the hybrid approach of creating microforms for long-term storage and then scanning the microforms to create an online digital use version.

In Phase I, Columbia staff compared direct digital scans of five original color, oversize maps from the New York State Museum Bulletin with scans of single-frame color microfiche of the same maps. They determined that scanning the microfiche could produce files with resolution equal to that of the scanned originals. The investigators concluded that scanning and digitization are capable of capturing the level of information needed to provide preservation-quality surrogates for oversize, color printed documents such as maps. [See the article, “Maps Successfully Scanned; Quality of Capture Outstrips Display and Access Options” in the Commission in the Commission Newsletter #82, September 1995. See also, Oversize Color Images Project, 1994 ­ 1995: A Report to the Commission on Preservation and Access by Janet Gertz, 8/95, 24pp., $10 in print from the Commission.]

In Phase II, the filmed and then scanned versions of both the text and illustrations of the Museum Bulletin were integrated into online facsimiles of the volumes accessible over the Internet. Images, text, and reports of both phases of the project are available at Columbia’s Web site:

Of particular interest in the Phase II report on the Columbia Web site are speculations about the future. Investigators note, “True evaluation of the site as a research tool will not become possible until a large enough body of material is available in digital format to warrant researchers’ time…. . Until the materials are put under the stress of everyday use, we are not going to find out what works and what proves to be a serious impediment to sustained use.”

Columbia is embarking on another funded project that will use the same methodology to microfilm and scan the 1930s Shanghai women’s magazine Ling Lung. This title is frequently used, and Columbia’s holdings are the only complete run available outside of Shanghai. Thus, investigators believe that the resulting 20,000 files of texts and illustrations should provide a good test of whether scholars will find a bit-mapped version of a brittle serial a viable research tool.

Preservation Science Council

IPI to Explore Economical Ways to Increase Collection Longevity


he Image Permanence Institute (IPI) at Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, has received a $300,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of a three-year research project entitled The Economics of Providing an Optimized Preservation Environment. This and other funding will enable IPI to study and document the extent to which scientifically regulated environmental conditions can increase the life expectancy of objects in institutional collections without increasing–and perhaps even decreasing–operating costs.

Upon conclusion of the project, IPI will publish a booklet to guide institutions in their efforts to preserve fast-disappearing collections within the constraints of existing operating budgets, heating and air conditioning equipment, and work patterns. In addition, IPI will create software that institutions can use to analyze temperature and relative humidity data.

In August 1996, the Commission’s Preservation Science Council selected this project as one of the six top priority research needs for 1997-1998.

The IPI study will depend in part on implementation of the new time-weighted preservation index (TWPI) technology developed over the past five years. (See the November 1995 Commission publication by James M. Reilly and others, New Tools for Preservation: Assessing Long-Term Environmental Effects on Library and Archives Collections.)

TWPI analysis provides a quantitative assessment of the impact of storage conditions on the decay rate of collection materials. In the project, IPI will use the Preservation Environment Monitor, or PEM–a new type of temperature and RH measuring instrument–for some of the data collection.

IPI will work in partnership with the energy management firm of Herzog/Wheeler & Associates and three cultural institutions selected as test sites. IPI will lead the project and provide the expertise for optimizing the storage environments within the participating institutions. Hertzog/ Wheeler will provide operating-cost and engineering analysis. According to Reilly, IPI director, “The idea is to use an industrial management approach where collection life expectancy is viewed as a quantifiable product–one that is created by a process with definable costs and whose manufacturing procedures can be improved.”

“If objects can be made to last longer for the same or less cost,” says Reilly, “institutions can spend less on responding to deterioration and more on providing intellectual access, which is a fundamental part of their mission. Keeping collections in usable condition is important both to an institution’s ability to serve society and to its economic life.”

The Image Permanence Institute is the world’s largest independent laboratory devoted to research in image preservation. It is co-sponsored by the Society for Imaging Science and Technology and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

— Adapted from IPI Press Release

James M. Morris Appointed Vice President

Washington, D.C. —

James M. Morris has been named vice president of the newly merged Council on Library Resources and Commission on Preservation and Access, effective January 2, 1997.

Morris was most recently the director of the Division of Historical, Cultural, and Literary Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and associate editor of The Wilson Quarterly. Prior to that, he served as secretary of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and as its program director for Higher Education. Morris earned his Ph.D. in Classics from Yale University, where he later joined the Department of Classics and served as dean of Jonathan Edwards College.

The position of vice president, which is new to the Council and Commission, was created to increase the merged organization’s capacity to work with a broad range of institutions and individuals in both the library and academic communities to address emerging issues in preservation and information access. Deanna Marcum, president of the Council and Commission, noted that “The mission of the new, merged organization calls for significantly increased collaboration with many other organizations. Jim Morris, with his experience in the scholarly and foundation communities, will be a great asset to the new enterprise.”

— Adapted from December 4, 1996, News Release

 NDLF Update

NDLF Digitization Projects Under Way

I n pursuance of its goals of collaboratively enabling the creation of a distributed digital library, the contents of which will be preserved and remain accessible over time and changes in technology, the National Digital Library Federation has recently approved planning or partial implementation support for two testbed digitization projects.

The first is called The Making of America, Part II. This project seeks, in an NDLF context, to follow upon The Making of America, Part I, a joint project of Cornell University and the University of Michigan. The project intends to create a large digital corpus of works from and about the period 1850-1920 in American history and will include textual as well as photographic and other media. This period is both rich in research, teaching, and learning value and vulnerable because of fragility of the largest portion of media upon which the works appear.

The second project receiving some support is the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS), a scholar- and library-led project that involves both NDLF and non-NDLF institutions, including one European university. This project seeks to create a common electronic architecture for access to the most important collections of papyri. APIS will allow remote access to images, texts, catalogue records, and bibliography linked by hypertext.

What joins the otherwise disparate contents found in these two projects is a common approach to the problems of architecture, discovery and retrieval, and archiving. Each will build upon the other’s interoperable architectures. Put slightly differently, while the “works” or contents are as different as one can imagine, like the pages and binding of that wonderful machine, the Book, the medium for the reader will be remarkably similar.

— Tony Angiletta, Acting Program Director, NDLF 

Commission Welcomes Oberlin Group Sponsors

T he Commission welcomes the following 51 college libraries as Oberlin Group sponsors for the 1997 year. As sponsors, these institutions will receive complimentary publications and newsletters and will participate in programs and activities developed in cooperation with the College Libraries Committee. To inaugurate the sponsorship, each institution is receiving a set of informational materials and a selection of Commission publications and newsletters. The Oberlin Group is a loose federation of library directors from liberal arts colleges (see Nov.­Dec. 1996 Commission Newsletter).
Oberlin Group Sponsors
Agnes Scott Albion Amherst Bates
Berea Bowdoin Bryn Mawr Bucknell
Claremont Colby Colgate Colorado
Connecticut Davidson Denison Dickinson
Earlham Franklin & Marshall Gettysburg Grinnell
Gustavus Adolphus Hamilton Haverford Hope
Kalamazoo Kenyon Lake Forest Macalester
Middlebury Mills Mount Holyoke Oberlin
Occidental Reed Rollins Simmons
Skidmore Smith St. John’s St. Lawrence
St. Olaf Swarthmore Trinity College Union
Vassar Washington & Lee Wellesley Wesleyan
Wheaton Williams Wooster

International Program Receives Mellon Support for New Initiatives


he Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded an $800,000 grant to support new activities of the International Program from 1997 to 1999. The grant will fund preservation and access initiatives in specific regions of the world, focusing particularly on Southern Europe, South Africa, and Latin America. Ongoing activities in collaboration and advocacy, bibliographic access, publications, and training also will continue.

The International Program has been an integral part of the Commission’s agenda since its inception in 1989. It encourages cooperation among nations to help assure worldwide access to preservation records and preserved materials.

In the next three years, the program also will work with other Council and Commission programs to address preservation and access in the context of new digital technologies. 

ECPA Obtains Support for Preservation Work, Website

T he European Commission on Preservation and Access has acquired important new support over the past year. A request to national libraries and archives in all European countries last summer resulted in dozens of letters offering to cooperate on projects, with 19 major institutions agreeing to contribute financially. The ECPA notes that in a time when budgets are so tight, such a response indicates great commitment on the part of the library and archives community.

In addition, the ECPA received a grant from the European Commission to expand its Web site ( to include a directory of preservation activities in European countries. Information is being collected for this project, which runs until fall 1997. 

New York State Funds Preservation & Access Projects

I n September 1996, the New York State Library announced new grants to research libraries to preserve endangered materials in research libraries. The eight grants, totaling $350,000, will preserve collections of materials important to the State and will support research in preservation techniques. Among them are:

Preserving the Literature of Natural History of the Northeastern Bio-region. In this three-year project, Cornell University and the New York State Library will complete the preservation of the core historical literature of natural history and natural resources in the bio-region surrounding and including New York.

Enclosures and Air Pollution in Image Preservation. The University of Rochester, with the cooperation of seven other comprehensive research libraries, will support a three-year scientific research and development project in library preservation. The research will investigate the deleterious effects of pollutants on color and black and white photographic materials, especially microfilm and test commonly available storage enclosures to determine the extent of protection afforded by each type and determine those best suited for storing various kinds of imaging materials. The Image Permanence Institute at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY is the prime contractor for the research.

For more information, contact Barbara Lilley, Conservation/ Preservation Program
Officer, New York State Library, Library
Development, 10C47 Cultural Education
Center, Albany, NY 12230. (518)474-6971.

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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