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The Blueprint, Phase One: 1996–1997


Documentation in Portuguese

Selection. In 1995, CLIR began to provide the working group with extensive, up-to-date bibliographies on preventive conservation topics. The working group viewed current information on preservation and good institutional management and planning as essential to a preservation program. New technical knowledge, procedures, and practices alone are not enough; they must become a permanent part of the institution’s operations that is independent of individual staff members’ movements. This is particularly important in Brazil, where staff continuity cannot be relied on to sustain institutional change. For this reason, the team included publications covering both collection management and technical procedures in the final set of 52 documents selected. (See Appendix I.)

The selected texts were grouped under six headings:

  • preservation of paper-based material
  • photographs and film
  • magnetic media
  • environment
  • disaster planning
  • reformatting (microfilming and digitization)

Thirty-seven of the shorter texts were grouped into eight technical notebooks:

  • storage of works on paper
  • conservation procedures
  • collections environment
  • disaster management
  • integrated pest management
  • planning priorities
  • preservation planning and program management
  • document reformatting

Fifteen other works were bound individually, for a total of 23 separate documents amounting to 906 pages.

Translation. CLIR obtained permission from the copyright holders to translate and publish the selected articles in Portuguese. Because professional translators were not available at the Brazilian institutions, experts in each of the specialized areas were invited to translate the literature into Portuguese. Since technical glossaries did not exist in Portuguese, the project then hired other specialists to revise the translations to achieve the desired consistency in terminology. It would have saved time and money if a basic glossary had been prepared before work on the translations began.

Publication. A design firm created a visual identity for the collection of texts to be published by applying a standard document design. The cover features a logo in the form of a book with a simplified Brazilian national flag. The document format was European standard (A4 page size); two thousand sets were printed in blue ink on white, acid-free paper.

Fig. 3. Project logo


Distribution. Upon publication, complete sets of the translations were sent to each of the 160 participants registered for the six core workshops held between May and September, for use as personal study material. An additional 1,332 sets were distributed between September and November 1997 to institutions registered in the survey database by then. These included 147 sets sent to the organizers of regional workshops who then distributed the documents to workshop participants.

CLIR identified individuals and institutions in Portuguese-speaking countries with an interest in preservation, and 14 sets were sent to such institutions in Portugal, 20 to Mozambique, and 12 to Cape Verde. In addition, 52 sets were sent to key Latin American institutions outside Brazil. Brazilian universities with programs in archival and library science received 210 copies. Two hundred copies are in reserve for future distribution to other Lusophone countries and for archival purposes. The documents have also been made available on the Web site, but many institutions do not have ready access to the Web or the funds to print the 906 pages in a set.

Second Edition. A second edition of about 1,000 sets will be printed for a larger distribution, including all the institutions that signed up for the program after October 1997. A portion of the prize money from the Andrade award was earmarked to pay for this printing. In preparation for the second printing, the documents are being revised for consistency of terminology.

Institutional Database

Survey Design. The purpose of the survey was not only to learn about institutions’ preservation priorities and to identify candidates for participation in the workshops but also to establish a database and baseline for assessing the condition of collections and the impact of preservation activities. The questionnaire was designed to build the database and to obtain general information about the institution, the numbers and qualifications of technical staff, the size and content of collections (paper, film, tape, diskette), and existing preservation practices. (See Appendix II for English version of the questionnaire.)

Mailing List. To ensure that the questionnaires, and later the workshop invitations and documents, reached the people who would need to take action, a comprehensive and up-to-date mailing list was needed. The most complete existing inventory was the 1988 Cultural Census, a joint effort of the federal Ministry of Culture and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. Although out of date, it provided a comprehensive listing of archives, libraries, and museums, including the composition of their collections. Two library guides provided good coverage of libraries and other institutions owning rare books: the 1994/95 Guide to Brazil’s Public Libraries and the 1994 Guide to University Libraries, published by the Commission of University Libraries and by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Another very good inventory was the database of conservation departments of museums, libraries, and other institutions kept by the São Paulo University. It was up-to-date but did not include archives. There were three good sources for archival institutions: the National Register of Federal Archives, published in 1990; the database of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, which included university archives; and the surveys of the National Council of Archives.

The coordinator’s staff combined the information from these sources into a master mailing list of nearly 5,000 public and private institutions. The main criterion for including institutions in the list was that they held print or film collections. In October and November 1996, the questionnaire was sent to all 5,000 institutions. An accompanying cover letter, addressed to the head of the institution, explained the project objectives and promised to send a set of the translated preservation literature in exchange for filling out and returning the questionnaire.

Survey Results. As each questionnaire arrived, the working group began to get excited because it meant that another institution had expressed a basic level of interest in preservation. In other words, someone would be expecting the texts, and there would be candidates interested in participating in the workshops. By January 1997, when the working group was writing the first report to the sponsoring agencies, 600 replies had been receiveda 12 percent response rate. By October 1997, when the first sets of documents were distributed, 1,332 institutions had responded and were registered in the databasea 27 percent response rate. As of June 1999, the total had risen to 1,622, nearly a third of the institutions on the master mailing list.

In meetings and congresses throughout the country, members of the working group spread the word about the project’s objectives and the intention of developing a database, and encouraged institutions to complete the questionnaire. Participants in the core and the first regional workshops also became advocates and missionaries, even sitting with staff of other institutions and helping them fill out the sometimes complex questionnaire. This kind of help was crucial to institutions that were short of staff and might find it difficult, for example, to determine the total linear meters of archival shelf storage, the percentage of works cataloged, or the periods covered by their collections.

In three states-Rondônia, Maranhão, and Mato Grosso do Sul the rate of response to the questionnaire was markedly higher than in other states because of the activism of committed individuals. For example, two enthusiastic participants from Maranhão State in the Northeast visited the heads of institutions other than their own in the state capital, São Luís. The tropical climate of São Luís put its many valuable collections at serious risk, and these two individuals realized that broader participation in the project was crucial to the future of these collections. During their rounds to other local institutions, they found leaking roofs and damaged documents, and uncataloged and inaccessible collections in the archives of the Archdiocese of São Luís. Their meeting with the archbishop to make the case for completing the questionnaire and participating in the project happily coincided with the arrival of documents providing ecclesiastical guidance from the Vatican in favor of preventive conservation. Following their visit, the Archdiocese hired a student to catalog its archives and complete the survey questionnaire. The same student attended the regional workshop organized by the two activists and received the set of publications.

Two other cases of participants actively spreading the word occurred in the states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Rondônia, both located deep inland on Brazil’s western border. Questionnaire responses from both these states far exceeded those from some other states that had larger numbers of established institutions and document collections. In Mato Grosso do Sul, interest in preservation has also been stimulated by partnerships, including faculty exchanges, with universities in the neighboring state of São Paulo.

Fig. 4. Responses to questionnaire, by region, 1996-1997


Database. The information in the general fields included the institution’s name, location, and contact information. These data provided the basis for effectively distributing the translations, selecting the first group of participants for the core workshops, and indicating to partners in each state which other institutions in their state were selected to receive the publications. This helped the partners identify which institutions should be invited to the second round of workshops.

Besides these general fields, the database contains the following:

  • four fields to designate the type of institution (archive, library, museum, or other; public or private; academic or nonacademic; and federal, state, or municipal)
  • thirteen fields to indicate the types of materials in collections (handwritten or typed documents, books, periodicals, rare books, photographs, slides, films, videos, audio recordings [including compact disks], magnetic tapes, works of art on paper, maps and charts, and posters)
  • three fields for collection conditions (percentage of collections cataloged, percentage of works accessible by computer, and preservation data such as environmental and storage conditions or microfilming projects)
  • one field to indicate the professional qualifications of technical staff

These fields allow one to search for and compile subsets and statistics that help in understanding the needs and capabilities of subgroups of institutions. For example, a search of the 1,622 institutions registered by June 1999 for all institutions housing handwritten documents would produce a list of 633 institutions. A search by type of institution would indicate that 334 of these are libraries, 175 are archives, 114 are museums, and 10 are other types of institutions. As another example, one could discover that there are 539 institutions with rare book holdings, including 25 with more than 5,000 volumes cataloged. Of all institutions with rare book collections, 200 have cataloged more than half of their collections, 101 use staff or contractors for conservation and binding services, and only 10 have invested in microfilming for preservation and access.

In the future, the information in the database could help organize and direct preservation workshops that focus on different kinds of materials and collections, such as rare books or photographs. Likewise, studying responses to the questions about working conditions in institutions with very low rates of works cataloged will reveal the kinds of topics that will be most useful for future training in this area. The more detailed the information that future surveys provide, the better prepared the project will be to target future investment in documentation and training. As more institutions fill out the questionnaire, a more accurate picture will emerge from the database.

Core Workshops

Multiplier Effect. The main objective of the core workshops, entitled “Preservation Planning” and held starting in May 1997, was to train a first group of participants from institutions that had responded to the questionnaire and to ensure that the document sets would be put to optimum use. These institutions were chosen for their ability to become regional partners for the project. The regional partners would then serve as reference centers for preventive conservation in their states and take responsibility for organizing the regional workshops. In this way, all the institutions that had responded to the questionnaire and become part of the database could acquire the knowledge of the core group of participants.

Workshop Content. Each workshop lasted five days and was organized in three modules:

  1. principles of preventive conservation, planning, and preservation surveying
  2. materials, environment, storage, disaster planning and prevention, and reformatting (corresponding generally to the publication topics)
  3. site visit and demonstration of environmental monitoring, preparation of written program documentation, and review of principles

Most classes were theoretical and included audiovisual presentations and demonstrations on such topics as preservation surveying and environmental monitoring. Since most participants were in managerial positions, both the planning and technical sessions incorporated a preservation management perspective. In particular, there was an emphasis on planning for the future and producing written documentation on institutional programs for purposes of continuity. Continuity is a problem in many institutions in Brazil because, in the absence of written program documents, frequent changes in managerial and technical staff result in a haphazard sequence of activities.

Number of Workshops and Participants. The working group had originally planned to offer five workshops, one in each region, for a total of about 70 participants with an average of 12 to 15 participants per workshop, including two or three participants per state. As it turned out, two core workshops were necessary to accommodate the large numbers of respondents in the Southeast. The total number of participants was 160; workshop size ranged from 16 in the Central-west to 33 in the South. Since the project budget had provided travel funds for five workshops with 70 participants, supplemental funding was required. More than half of the institutions funded travel for their participants, and this freed project funds to underwrite travel expenses for participants in the North and Central-west regions, whose institutions could not afford to send them over the long distances to the core workshop sites. CLIR provided supplemental funding for the sixth workshop in the South.

Table 1. Number of core workshop participants and document sets distributed, by region, 1997


Location and Schedule. Core workshops were scheduled to coincide with each region’s most comfortable season. The first two were held in the North and Northeast in May, the rainy season, when temperatures are relatively cool in the Amazon basin and along the coast. The Brasília workshop was scheduled for June (mid-winter in the Southern Hemisphere) before the air became too dry in the central plateau. By scheduling the last workshop in the South in September, the coldest winter weather was over and spring was already on the way. The workshop cities were chosen for ease of access within the region and for the number or relevance of institutions located there. The hosting institutions were chosen for their leadership position and their knowledge of institutions in their region, which enabled them to help select candidates for the workshops.

Sites and host institutions of the core workshops were as follows:

May 1997, North: Belém (Pará State), Pará State Archives

May 1997, Northeast: Recife (Pernambuco State), Joaquim Nabuco Foundation

June 1997, Central-west: Brasília (Federal District), Federal District State Archives

July 1997, Southeast: Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro State), Bank of Brazil Cultural Center

September 1997, Southeast: São Paulo (São Paulo State), University of São Paulo

September 1997, South: Laguna (Santa Catarina State), Preservation Laboratory, IPHAN

Selection and Invitation of Participants. The working group selected two groups of participants from the database for the core workshops:

  1. directors and administrators of institutions who were active in preservation, would be capable of leading efforts to organize the second round of workshops in their states, and would be able to sustain their involvement; and
  2. university professors and coordinators of library and archival science courses who would be in a position to include new preventive conservation material in course curricula.

Candidates were invited through the directors of institutions. Invitations were preceded by telephone conversations with the directors. The purpose of these calls was to present the project and workshop objectives and to explain the knowledge dissemination responsibilities that participants and their institutions would have following the workshop.

Instructors. The working group chose eight workshop instructors: Luíz Antônio Cruz Souza (CECOR, Conservation Center, Federal University of Minas Gerais), chemist; José Luiz Pedersoli, Júnior (CECOR, Federal University of Minas Gerais), chemist; Clóvis Molinari Júnior (National Archives), film and record conservator; Marcus Vinicius Pereira Alves (National Archives), historian, film, and record conservator; Márcia Melo (Funarte), historian and photographic conservator; Rubens Ribeiro (National Archives), photographer and art historian; Solange Zúñiga (Funarte), librarian and historian; and Ingrid Beck (National Archives), paper conservator and museum specialist. Since all instructors had full professional commitments, the work was organized in teaching pairs so that they could alternate teaching dates to fit the available time. The instructors adapted the coursework to fit local needs and conditions in terms of climate, institutional resources, and participants’ level of knowledge.

Teaching Materials. Since few institutions had the tools and equipment required for the environmental monitoring demonstrations, a full kit was assembled by borrowing from several institutions. Samples of preservation materials, such as acid-free paper, polyester film, UV filters, and pH pens, were also distributed. Each participant received a full set of the published documentation for personal use. Instructors developed and distributed separate teaching materials for the participants to use in presenting their own workshops. Participants also received printed lists of the database information for institutions in their own states to use in selecting participants for the regional workshops that they would be organizing. To recognize their new status as partners in the project, at the end of the workshop, each participant received a certificate of participation in the workshop and a certificate of partnership in the project.

Videos. Participants also received copies of the four videos used as teaching aids in the core workshops. Funarte contributed the copies of its video, Preservation of Glass Negatives, and the project added Portuguese subtitles to the video Slow Fires, which addresses the problem of paper deterioration. The project also produced two new 15-minute videos. Preventive Conservation in Libraries and Archives shows the main risks related to collection security, safety, and preservation, and demonstrates the need for preservation planning and basic preservation procedures. Insect Control in Archives and Libraries identifies common insects that damage library and archives materials in tropical areas. The video shows techniques for monitoring, preventing, and controlling such damage and recommends the use of effective nontoxic methods.

Participant Evaluation. At the end of each workshop, participants filled out an evaluation form with questions on the quality of content, teaching methods, and materials. Ninety-five percent of participants considered the quality of the content to be excellent and 80 percent judged the teaching methods and materials very good. Participants unanimously considered both the content and materials to be practical, relevant, and usable in their institutions. Participants also generally praised the project itself, which they believed provided an opportunity to broaden knowledge and practice of preservation planning and preventive conservation methods. Several program managers acknowledged the need to review their priorities. Academic leaders and professors saw a need to expand coverage of preservation in their curricula. Workshop instructors gained valuable understanding of similarities and differences in training across the country.

Regional Workshops

The core workshop participants wasted no time in disseminating what they had learned. Responses to a letter sent in November 1997 to participants in the core seminars indicated that 17 follow-on workshops had been held in 12 of 27 states, and study groups had been set up to plan workshops in 6 other states. The level of follow-up activity depended on the personal initiative of the organizers and was highest in places where at least two people worked together in a team effort. There were other places where little activity was planned, and seven states failed to respond at all to the November 1997 letter.

Participants from the Northeast, who were among the first to complete the core workshop in May 1997, organized the first regional event in São Luis (Maranhão State’s capital) in September 1997. Besides training an additional 30 participants, the organizers used the workshop as an opportunity to lobby successfully for state funding. They invited the state secretary of culture to a meeting with the heads of the State Library and the State Archives, who were attending the workshop. The secretary of culture was also invited to a demonstration by a specialist from Rio de Janeiro of environmental monitoring equipment as a tool to cope with the effects of the Northeast’s tropical climate. The state secretary subsequently decided to provide resources to improve preservation conditions in the State Library and State Archives.

Regional workshops were held both in large metropolitan areas and deep in the Amazon basin. In São Paulo State, 265 participants took part in workshops at four locationsthe University of Campinas in Campinas, the Archives and Memory Foundation in Santos, the University of São Paulo in São Paulo, and the Brazilian Association of Bookbinding and Restoration (ABER), also in São Pauloin November 1997. In contrast, in Óbidos, a small city on the banks of the Amazon in Pará State, the head of the small local museum organized a workshop for which participants traveled long distances by boat in August 1997 to represent their small, mostly ecclesiastical, institutions, which house valuable document collections.

The academic community became very active in organizing regional workshops. The organizers of the São Paulo workshops were staff from the library and archives of the University of Campinas, a prominent academic institution. Most workshop organizers invited lecturers from local universities, and interest was high among academic specialists and scholars who participated in the workshops. Several universities have also begun to create new courses in preservation for the archives and library sciences curricula or to update and expand the contents of existing courses.

Fig. 5. Number of workshops held, by region, 1997-1999


The feeling that momentum was building was confirmed by responses to a second letter, which was sent to all 160 participants in the 1997 core workshops in October 1998. The number of events nearly trebled in 1998. While in the Northeast in 1997 there were two workshops in two states, in 1998 there were eight workshops in six states. The same increase in activity was seen in the South and Southeast in 1998, where 11 and 10 workshops were organized, respectively. As of September 1999, there have been 84 regional workshops with 3,605 participants.

Change has come about quickly in the states where information dissemination and training were carried out. Some institutions have started to incorporate managerial procedures aimed at the preservation of their collections. For example, the State Archives of the Federal District in Brasilia followed up the 1997 core seminar by reviewing collections safety and preservation in a newly constructed building and decided that major improvements were required. Changes were made to the building’s roof; internal stairways were constructed and two external stairways were removed; fire extinguishers were installed and the electrical system was upgraded, and windows were adjusted and fitted with UV filters to seal out damaging light, dust, and insects. The institution subsequently received a $5,000 grant from Harvard University’s Latin American Library and Archives Program for the purchase of air conditioners and air purifiers for effective environmental control. Similar investments were made in institutions in Minas Gerais, Maranhão, and São Paulo.


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