This project has been a valuable learning opportunity for all its participants and has stimulated widening circles of discussion, awareness, and action. It has been the largest cooperative effort among librarians and archivists ever undertaken in Brazil. Those who have been involved in the project have learned many valuable lessons that could be useful in other countries where library and archives communities are thinking of undertaking similar efforts.
- The original project concept, that is, to combine mutually reinforcing documentation, training through workshops, and networking through a Web-accessible database of institutions, has proven very practical and effective.
- The concept of ever-widening circles of information distribution, through local and regional events, has proven even more successful than the working group ever imagined.
- The use of the questionnaires as a tool for engaging institutions in a dialogue and getting feedback about priorities has also proven effective and self-reinforcing. The 1998 questionnaires were returned much more promptly than the first mailing in 1996 and the responses gave more detail.
- The use of the database as a multipurpose tool for both analysis and practical activities, such as distributing publications and selecting workshop participants, has proven extremely effective. The working group members hope that the option of registering on the Web site and the public availability of the database on the Web site will spur the growth of the database’s coverage over the next few years.
- Expanding access to the World Wide Web is fundamental to the continued dissemination of preservation knowledge. In a country where distances are vast and communications often difficult, investment in a dedicated system to connect the institutions is essential.
- The videos and environmental monitoring equipment have proven the most effective teaching tools, both in the workshops and in more open institutional settings.
- It is important for participants to have their own personal sets of documentation and teaching materials in order to empower them to spread the word and become activists.
- The working group did not expect that terminology would prove such a knotty issue in the translations of the texts from English to Portuguese. It would have saved time if a basic glossary had been prepared and provided to the translators before they began their work.
- The working group did not expect that the demand for workshops and more training would be increased, rather than satisfied, by the first two rounds of workshops.
- The working group did not expect that it would be so difficult to convey the importance of reformatting through microfilming as a preservation strategy and tool. Workshops and a subtitled video have been developed to emphasize this point.
- Perhaps the most difficult lesson was that the new ideas about preservation did not take root equally well in all regions and states. Some areas need to be targeted preferentially to ensure that advances in preservation are spread reasonably equitably across the country.
- It is not easy to set up a cooperative working environment among diverse institutions, but perseverance yields generous dividends.
The project has much to accomplish before June 2000. However, it has already become the largest cooperative endeavor between the library and archival communities in Brazil, and its impact has been profound. Two factors have been critical to the effectiveness of the project. First, it was broadly inclusive and successful in awakening participants to a common missionthat of improving preservation of and access to the accumulated knowledge in Brazilian institutions, whether public, academic, or private. Second, through cooperation and partnership, the project has involved growing numbers of individuals and institutions, thus widening circles of discussion, awareness, and action. In this way, the impact of the initial investment in awareness, information, training, and broad institutional involvement has been multiplied for all of its participants. Preservation awareness and ways to address the deterioriation of library and archival materials are no longer the prerogatives of large institutions in urban centers. The project reached out to the regional and local levels, involving institutions that had never been included to such an extent.
The continuously expanding work group has the positive sense that the project has no individual owners, but belongs to all who have an interest in helping disseminate the information and support the preservation of library and archival holdings. Professionals from many backgrounds have become interested in the problems of preservation management and will be encouraged to cooperate on solutions.
The project has promoted knowledge among professionals and has brought into focus the country’s most pressing preservation needs. As Brazil commemorates 500 years of discovery, there is now broader recognition of how much must be done to preserve its cultural memory. The project to build preservation knowledge in Brazil has created a will and the means to cooperate toward that end.