The Evidence in Hand: Report of the Task Force on the Artifact in Library Collections

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(11/01, 123 pp.) $20
ISBN 1-887334-88-2

Although film and digital technology have made the intellectual content of artifacts far more accessible to researchers, scholars have an abiding interest in consulting the original. Maintaining original artifacts while also providing increased access to surrogates poses new challenges to university and library administrators, who must make difficult choices about how to invest in information resources.

In 1999, CLIR convened a task force of scholars, academic officers, librarians, and archivists to investigate the role of artifacts-original, unreformatted materials-in library and archival collections, and the value of those materials for scholarship and teaching. The inquiry was sparked by a recognition of the growing tension between how much information is produced and how much can be acquired, preserved, and made accessible in meaningful ways. The task force members were asked to articulate a framework for making or evaluating institutional policies for the retention of published materials and archival or unpublished materials in their original form.

The report deals in detail with the ways in which artifacts and their physical frailties affect their research value-originality, faithfulness, fixity, and stability-over time and with how libraries can minimize the risk of unacceptable loss of that value. It investigates the specific issues around selected media, such as paper-based printed matter, moving image and recorded sound materials, and objects that exist in digital form, and points to two key strategies-preventive maintenance and use of surrogates-currently in use in libraries that can be scaled up to deal with a problem of this magnitude. Specific recommendations are provided for different media.

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