Close this search box.
Close this search box.

CPA Newsletter #104, Nov/Dec 1997

Commission on Preservation and Access Newsletter

The Commission on Preservation and Access


November/December 1997

Number 104

CLIR to Survey Models of Digital Archiving

H ow can we ensure that digital documents remain readable and comprehensible into the future when the computer software and hardware on which they depend become obsolete so quickly? The need to describe digital information so that it can serve an archival function has been much discussed, as has the need to migrate digital information to new media to prevent its loss through media decay and technological obsolescence. But issues of software dependence are also of fundamental importance, and it will be useless to advance on other fronts-by developing metadata description standards and records-management procedures and migration strategies that prevent loss-if the digital records simply cannot be read.

CLIR has asked Jeff Rothenberg, of the RAND Corporation, to undertake the initial phase of a project to develop an assured technological basis for preserving digital data, records, and documents. His inquiry will involve key computer hardware or software companies at work on the relevant technologies. Over the next six months, in consultation with an advisory group from the Digital Library Federation and the Association of Research Libraries’ Preservation Committee, Mr. Rothenberg will survey current efforts in the field of digital preservation, characterize alternative technological strategies to solve the software-dependence problem for digital records, and determine which of the alternatives seem to offer the most promise of a comprehensive, long-term solution. He will describe and evaluate as well the preservation models and strategies that are embedded in these technological alternatives (including their organizational, administrative, and economic aspects) and develop an informal framework to help institutions progress toward true digital archiving.

CLIR Alters and Expands Publications Program

Early in 1998, the Council on Library and Information Resources will begin to implement an expanded publications program that reflects the work being done within each of its four programs: the Commission on Preservation and Access, Digital Libraries, the Economics of Information, and Leadership. Some aspects of the publications agenda will be familiar and some will be new. The most immediate change will be evident to readers of this newsletter. Beginning in January 1998, the monthly CPA newsletter will be replaced by a bimonthly CLIR newsletter, with information on the organization’s full range of activities and interests. In the spring, CLIR will launch a second newsletter, to be issued on a quarterly basis, meant to inform audiences outside the United States about preservation-related developments here and abroad.

In addition, CLIR will issue annually up to half a dozen substantive reports, of the kind with which the CPA especially has been identified in the past, on a variety of technical and managerial topics. Among the reports scheduled for the coming year are the following: an overview of reformatting and its role in preserving and making accessible the print record that exists in America on brittle paper; a position paper on the advantages and the disadvantages of digitizing library materials; and a manager’s perspective on digital conversion of large historical pictorial collections. CLIR will continue the Research Briefs series begun earlier this year to describe the outcome or the current status of projects it has supported. Finally, the CLIR Website, redesigned and enlarged in 1998, will be an essential adjunct to the print-publications program.

Canadian Research on Permanent Paper Answers Old Questions and Raises New Concerns

In January 1992, the Government of Canada mandated that all of its own publications intended to be retained for their informational or historical value must be printed on stable alkaline paper. (Today, Canadian manufacturers produce enough alkaline paper to meet the growing need for permanent paper). At the same time, the Government of Canada tasked the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) to initiate development of a “National Standard of Canada,” consistent with international standards, for paper stability.

Standards for permanent paper for printed library materials were developed and recognized by the American National Standard for Information Science (ANSI) in 1992, as well as by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1994. They are based on the chemical composition of the paper and specify that paper should

be alkaline and contain at least 2% calcium carbonate to act as a buffer, or alkaline reserve, against acid hydrolysis. The standards also mandate that lignin content must not exceed 1%. This restriction derives from the observation that papers from mechanical pulps (groundwood) are not very stable and that the instability may be a direct result of the high lignin content, about 25% in most species of wood. However, there was little scientific data on which to base any conclusions about the role of lignin in paper permanence, and, for that reason, CGSB commissioned research into this issue.

In 1994, under the auspices of CGSB, research developed and funded by both government and industry began. Thus, the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa (CCI) and the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada in Montreal undertook a research program sponsored by the Industry Canada and Cultural Heritage Departments, the National Library and National Archives of Canada, the Alberta Government (Economic Development and Tourism), and firms such as DuPont Canada, Fibreco Pulp, Slave Lake Pulp, Millar Western Pulp, and Louisiana Pacific.

The full results of the research will be published in three parts in Restorator in the coming year, but preliminary results show that, while lignin does in fact lead to discoloration in paper over time, it does not lead to loss of mechanical strength if buffered with 2% calcium carbonate. The research has also looked into a matrix of conditions thought to accelerate degradation but heretofore little investigated, including various calibrations of temperature, humidity, and pollutants and particulates.

Most significant of all, perhaps, are the results of the testing for the effects of air pollution on acidic, alkaline, and rag papers. According to the Canadian researchers, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the common pollutants present together in areas with industry and heavy automobile traffic, have been found to accelerate greatly the degradation of all unbuffered papers, including alkaline and rag papers. Preliminary results indicate the need to do further testing of the effects of these common pollutants on library materials. There is also a need to test environmental conditions inside library and archival buildings to determine the extent to which the pollutants penetrate into stack areas and to understand what actually happens between the covers of a book and whether bound volumes act to concentrate or disperse pollutants. (It has been found, for example, that lignin absorbs more pollutants than cellulose. Does that mean that lignin might, in fact, act as a buffer for pollutants?)

In the meantime, and until the additional research occurs, a draft permanent-paper standard for Canada, based more on performance rather than on composition, has been prepared for approval by the Canadian General Standards Board.

David Grattan, Acting Manager, Conservation Processes and Material Research Division at CCI, reports that it has begun another paper permanency project. More than a year ago, CCI won a bid to conduct work for the Institute for Standards Research of the American Society for the Testing of Materials (ASTM) in Philadelphia. The project, which began on May 15, 1997, is studying the effects of aging on printing and writing papers. It differs from the Canadian study in that it is being conducted, in Grattan’s words, “to develop better test methods for paper and thus to enable future standards to be based on the performance rather than the composition of papers.” CCI is part of a project team from the Library of Congress, the Image Permanence Institute (Rochester, New York), and Forest Products Research Laboratory (Madison, Wisconsin).

Library of Congress Releases Study on Preserving Video Heritage

A major new report, in five volumes, from the Library of Congress reveals that America is allowing an important part of its cultural heritage, the audiovisual record of the first few decades of American television and video history, to deteriorate and disappear. The documentary history of the medium that so powerfully affects our lives survives only in fragmentary form, either because programs were never recorded, or because they were recorded and then erased, or because tapes have been kept in inadequate storage conditions.

The report makes clear that videotape was not meant to be a permanent preservation/recording medium. As a format, it courts obsolescence (more than 100 videotape formats have reached the marketplace since 1956) and is much too subject to chemical and physical risk. Yet, for the past several decades, America’s audiovisual history has been entrusted primarily to videotape. Because television stations routinely discarded tapes or reused them to save storage space, some three decades of local television news footage-the substantive moving-image documentary record of American cities, communities, events, and personalities from the 1950s through the 1970s-have been almost completely lost. The financial inability of video artists and independent video producers to preserve their own work has further increased the loss.

The report urges that the cause of preserving video materials be advanced through a series of critical initiatives: by allocating shares from FCC broadcast-spectrum auction proceeds to benefit preservation efforts at nonprofit archives; by creating a private-sector organization to raise funds for television and video preservation projects at nonprofit archives and institutions; by establishing a Study Center for Video Preservation that would provide technical information to institutions across the United States and maintain equipment able to copy obsolete formats; and by encouraging the nation’s largest television archives, at the Library of Congress itself, to exercise to the fullest extent the off-air taping authority it possesses under the 1976 Copyright Act.

The principal author of the report was William Murphy of the National Archives and Record Administration. He used information gathered through hundreds of interviews, the deliberations of three task forces, and public hearings and written statements from 100 individuals and organizations. Volume 1 contains the report; volumes 2-4, the transcripts of the public hearings; and volume 5, the written statements. The report may be purchased from the Government Printing Office. Ordering information, and an on-line version, can be found at For additional information, contact Steve Leggett at (202) 707-5912; fax (202) 707-2371; e-mail:

Preservation Film to Be Shown on PBS
T he new Terry Sanders film Into the Future: On the Preservation of Knowledge in the Electronic Age, produced in association with the Commission on Preservation and Access and the American Council of Learned Societies, will be broadcast nationally on PBS on Tuesday, January 13, 1998, at 10:00 P.M. EST. (Check local listings for exact time.)

For further information, please contact Abby Smith, Preservation and Access Program Officer at CLIR, at 202-939-4758 or

The film may be purchased in both hour-long and half-hour versions. To order, contact:

    • American Film Foundation
    • P.O. Box 2000
    • Santa Monica, CA 90406
    • Phone: 310-459-2116 · Fax: 310-394-1260
    • Prices:
      • One-hour VHS – $59.50 plus $10 shipping and handling
      • Half-hour VHS – $39.50 plus $10 shipping and handling

ANNOUNCING: The 1998 A.R. Zipf Fellowship in Information Management

The Council on Library and Information Resources has established a fellowship to honor A.R. Zipf, a pioneer in information management systems. The fellowship is awarded annually to a student currently enrolled in graduate school, in the early stages of study, who shows exceptional promise for leadership and technical achievement in information management.

Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. The amount of the award in 1998 will be $5,000. Applications for the fellowship may be requested by phone (202-939-4750) or fax (202-939-4765), or by writing to the following:

A.R. Zipf Fellowship
Council on Library and Information Resources
1755 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20036

Completed applications must be received at the Council no later than April 1, 1998. The winner will be notified by June 1, 1998.

Library of Congress to Acquire New Preservation Facility

On November 13, 1997, Congress passed legislation authorizing the Library of Congress to accept a well-equipped facility in rural Virginia for the storage and preservation of audiovisual materials. The 140,078 square-foot building in Culpeper, about 70 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., was purpose-built as a high-security structure for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, which has used it for almost 30 years. With the help of a generous grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation of Los Altos, CA., the library will acquire and retrofit the facility to provide state-of-the-art storage and preservation of its large audiovisual collections.

The Library has statutory responsibility under the American Television and Radio Archives provision of the 1976 Copyright Act and the National Film Preservation Act of 1996 to preserve and make accessible the audiovisual heritage of the United States. With over half of the nation’s film heritage counted among its holdings, the Library includes in its collections more than 150,000 film titles, 85,000 television titles, 2,500,000 sound recordings, and 3,000 paper prints of early films. In many cases, the Library holds the only extant copy of a title.

When the Culpeper building is refurbished, the Library plans to consolidate its collections in a cost-effective, centralized location, where films, sound recordings, and television titles will be processed, stored, and preserved and then made accessible via fiber-optic links to the Library’s reading rooms in Washington. The facility will be renamed the National Audiovisual Conservation Center.

EROMM available on CD-ROM

The European Register of Microform Masters (EROMM) is now available on a CD-ROM. It contains some 360,000 bibliographic descriptions of microfilm masters contributed by European libraries. The CD-ROM, for use on PCs working with DOS or Windows 95 (a minimum of 1 MB free memory on hard disk is required), may be ordered from the EROMM Secretariat in Goettingen, Germany ( for approximately $100 (DM 180). For more information, see


The Commission on Preservation and Access
A program of the Council on Library and Information Resources1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 500
Washington,DC 20036-2188
Phone: (202) 939-4750
FAX: (202) 939-4765
Commission WWW Site:

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 activities and is directed to university administrators, scholars, and faculty; preservation specialists and managers; and members of consortia, governmental bodies, and other groups sharing in the Commission’s goals. The newsletter is not copyrighted. Its duplication is encouraged.

Publications Order Fulfillment:
Alex Mathews,


Did you enjoy this post? Please Share!


Related Posts

CPA Newsletter #103, Oct 1997

The Commission on Preservation and Access Newsletter October 1997 Number 103 Donald Waters to Head Digital Library Federation onald Waters has joined the staff of the

CPA Newsletter #102, Sep 1997

The Commission on Preservation and Access Newsletter September 1997 Number 102 Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Formed by Merger he Council on Library

CPA Newsletter #101, Jul-Aug 1997

The Commission on Preservation and Access Newsletter July-August 1997 Number 101 New Commission Report SGML as a Framework for Digital Preservation and Access new report from the

Skip to content