The Commission on Preservation and Access
Newsletter April 1989 Number 11
Washington Testimony: The
Promise and Challenge of Nationwide Preservation The following comments are excerpts from the published statement of Sidney Verba, University Librarian, Professor of Government, and Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor at Harvard University, speaking on behalf of the Association of Research Libraries, Commission on Preservation and Access, and National Humanities Alliance on the Fiscal Year 1990 Appropriation for the National Endowment for the Humanities before the Subcommittee on the Interior and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, US. House of Representatives, March 22, 1989.
On Scholarship, Learning, and National Preservation Efforts
[Five years ago] the problem of our disappearing record [brittle books] seemed beyond solution. It was of such a magnitude that one could only imagine working around its edges. To deal with the matter comprehensively would require a level of resources beyond that which the various research libraries could muster and a degree of coordination that seemed beyond the capacity of our diverse institutions… [Now] the increased funding that has gone into the preservation of brittle books has made it possible for us to anticipate that much of what is at risk of destruction will now be saved …. If we are to solve this problem, we have to work as a synchronized, coordinated whole–dividing up the task in a meaningful way so as to maximize the resources we have…. We can move ahead at Harvard with major preservation projects in the knowledge that our work will complement rather than duplicate that of other libraries.
On Preservation as Seen from the Discipline of Political Science
I would like to go beyond the abstract statistics or the illustration of a randomly selected book to show how an entire field of endeavor can be endangered by the crumbling of our library resources….In the late nineteenth century, voting turnout in presidential elections was in the 75-80 percent range; by the 1920’s it fell to the 50 percent range–lower than today. Why did this happen? To answer the question, scholars have turned to study the changing nature of American elections and the American party system from the end of the Civil War through the early part of the twentieth century…. The point is that the written record of this era–the party histories, the campaign documents, the candidate biographies, the local party accounts–are on acid paper. And much of the material is reaching the end of its shelf life…. We cannot lose our knowledge of that period–even if it is on paper laced with acid. The NEH program will prevent that from happening.
On Harvard and the National Program
Rarely has a program caught on as quickly as the NEH program …. It is a program for which we have been waiting. We had talked of our problems and we had bemoaned our fate. And we had, in fact, done a good deal on preservation. We had, with our resources, with federal resources, and with private resources, filmed over 16 million pages of fragile materials. But we were ready to do more …. The important thing is that we will be adding to a national endeavor. That fact energizes our efforts for we can see a real payoff in adding our work to that of others. I want to stress the secondary impact of the NEH program. It will do more than support a vast amount of filming in those institutions that receive funding under the program. If the experience at other institutions is like that at Harvard, it will stimulate many other preservation activities. In our planning for the NEH program, we have redesigned our organizational capacity for preservation, a redesign that will allow us to meet the challenge of the new level of work. And we have directed our efforts at fundraising with our supporters and alumni toward the task of preservation. The prospect of NEH funding, rather than reducing our commitment to raise additional funds, has increased it.
If what differentiates humans from other species is the ability to use language, and if what differentiates civilization from pre-civilized forms of life is the ability to record that language by written words, then it follows that our essence as humans is contained in the written words we pass from generation to generation. These written words, entrusted to library collections, are turning to dust–and with that part of our lives is going as well.
Permanent Paper Measure
Introduced in House An identical companion measure (HJ. Res. 226) to Sen. Claiborne Pell’s SJ. Res. 57 was introduced by Rep. Pat Williams on March 23. Both measures would establish a national policy to promote and encourage the printing of books and other publications of enduring value on alkaline, permanent papers. Rep. Williams was joined by five cosponsors including Rep. Sidney Yates, who has championed the cause of preservation microfilming. Four more senators have joined the original 19 cosponsors of the Pell resolution, but more cosponsors are needed for both measures. Please urge your Representatives and Senators to sign on; especially important are members of the House Government Operations Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and their respective government information subcommittees.
Scholars Selected for
Advisory Committees in Art History, Philosophy Appointments to two more of the Commission’s Scholarly Advisory Committees are now complete: Committees on Art History and Philosophy will be holding their initial meetings this month and next. We expect that a Committee on Modern Language and Literature will be constituted by June. Previously, in January 1989, the Committee on History held its first meeting (see the December 1988 Newsletter for a list of members and the February 1989 Newsletter for a review of the meeting). Members of these Committees are being asked to help develop a strategy for preservation and a set of priorities for selecting what is to be saved in each of the major fields of scholarship. The initial meetings involve very preliminary discussions over a wide range of subjects related to scholarship and preservation. No formal minutes are kept and no conclusions are reached. Over the next several months, participants will be consulting with colleagues in their respective disciplines as they develop suggestions for selecting materials for preservation. As consensus is reached in particular disciplines, the Commission will publish the committees’ reports.
Scholarly Advisory Committee On Art History
Professor Egbert Haverkam-Begemann Institute of Fine Arts New York University Professor Phyllis Bober Department of Archaeology Bryn Mawr College Professor Richard Brilliant Department of Art History and Archaeology Columbia University Professor Lorenz Eitner Director Stanford University Museum of Art Mr. Alan Fern Director National Portrait Gallery Professor Larry Silver Department of Art History Northwestern University Professor Deirdre C. Stam School of Information Studies Syracuse University
Scholarly Advisory Committee on Philosophy
Professor JoAnne Boydston Center for Dewey Studies Southern Illinois University Professor Richard Burian Department of Philosophy Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Professor Edwin Curley Department of Philosophy University of Illinois, Chicago Professor Norman Kretzmann Department of Philosophy Cornell University Professor John McDermott Department of Philosophy Texas A M University Professor Jerome Schneewind Department of Philosophy Johns Hopkins University Professor Charles Young Department of Philosophy Claremont Graduate School
The preservation issue…lies at the heart of professional scholarly endeavor. “Access to our past is indispensable to our future,” the American Philosophical Association points out. Only if the words and artifacts of our predecessors can be preserved, will we have that access.from the “Preservation Initiatives Among ACLS Societies:
A Report”, ACLS Newsletter, Autumn 1988, pp. 11-12.
Acid-Free Paper Pledged by
Major Publishers Commitment Day,” held March 7 at the New York Public Library, has been hailed as a landmark in book preservation, with many major publishers committing themselves to use acid-free paper for first printings of quality hardcover trade books. The preservation campaign leading up to the day was spearheaded by author and library trustee Barbara Goldsmith, who started a group called Authors and Publishers in Support of Preservation of the Printed Word (see November 1988 Newsletter). Organizations endorsing the preservation effort included the Association of American University Presses, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, and PEN. Over 100 publishers and authors were present for the pledge-signing. On March 16, the NYPL reprinted the commitment pledge with signatures of 40 publishers and 43 authors as a full-page ad in the New York Times. Advocating the use of alkaline paper for publications of enduring value has been a prime objective of the Commission since its founding. In June 1988, the Commission endorsed a letter from member Herbert Bailey to AAP President Nicholas Veliotes encouraging the use of acid-free paper. In late 1988, the Commission, along with the Association of Research Libraries and the National Humanities Alliance, sponsored a briefing package about alkaline paper, which was distributed to publishers, Congress, and higher education officials.
Preservation as a National
Concern Reaches New Level of Visibility and Maturity Lears, Newsweek (3/20), and Publishers Weekly (3/17) all carried articles about brittle books during March. Another refreshing note: Preservation humor is making its way onto the scene. Wilson Library Bulletin ran a cartoon on brittle books in its February 1989 issue, and University of Connecticut Library Director Norman D. Stevens applauds an increasing number of lighthearted approaches to preservation in his article ‘ Humor and creativity: Preservation” in the March 1989 CRL News. Preservation humor is not brand-new, however, nor is it avoided by some of the major institutions. Stevens cites a 1965 report by David Weber (Stanford University Libraries Director) which described the successful conclusion of a project, funded by the Sopwith Graphics Foundation, to develop a new felt tip pen ink containing a soluble pigment, 99.3% of which is absorbed into the fibers of book paper within 48 to 72 hours, thus eliminating the damage caused by users who underline and otherwise deface library books through the use of the more common felt tip pen. Also noted: New York University Libraries, the Music Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and Ohio State University Libraries. Watch for more preservation humor promised for the June 1989 Wilson Library Bulletin.
We must proceed in a way that preserves flexibility to respond to new and unknown situations. We have to tolerate a certain amount of ambiguity and even ambivalence, not about whether, but how to proceed….Every great human endeavor has proceeded as much on promise as on certainty. I [want to] underscore the overriding importance of the human or sociological factors to the development and success of a national preservation program: Education and awareness, leading to public support and action; funding and requisite political support on the scale required; [and organization, to achieve essential cooperation, sharing, logistical support, and agreement upon objectives.Concluding speech by Dr. Billy E. Frye (Chair of
Commission’s Board), October 1988 Symposium on Paper Permanency sponsored by the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry.
New Commission Publication:
Art Historians Confront Preservation Needs Scholarly Resources in Art History: Issues in Preservation explores the unique requirements of art historians for productive participation in the new federally supported preservation microfilming program. The 43-page booklet is divided into two major sections: A report of the Spring Hill (MN) Seminar on Scholarly Resources in Art History convened by the Commission September 29-October 1,1988, and a paper by Deirdre C. Stam on Art Historians and Their Use of Illustrated Texts.” A preliminary section summarizes the discussions and recommendations of the seminar, covered in the November 1988 Newsletter. The Stam paper, which forms the major portion of the publication, reviews art historians’ use of illustrated texts and summarizes recent Art Bulletin articles on the state of research in various art-historical subfields.
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.Patricia Battin–President
Maxine K. Sitts–Program Officer, Editor Pamela D. Block–Administrative Assistant Return to CLIR Home Page >>