The Commission on Preservation and Access
Preservation in the Digital World
A new report from the Commission provides an intellectual rationale for maintaining the centrality of preservation concepts and ethics in an increasingly digital environment. Preservation in the Digital World, by Paul Conway, suggests that many of the basic tenets of preservation management can be applied in a highly technological environment, but that some long-held principles may no longer apply. The report considers where the accumulated knowledge and experience of preservation management may be most effective, and where it may be more difficult to affect change.
Today, the abundance of digital information is accompanied by an assumption that the ability to produce and preserve high-quality images will improve as the technology matures. However, those involved in digital imaging projects have learned that the technology, in and of itself, provides no simple solutions. Conway urges that preservation planning, management, and action be carried out at the highest level, since information in digital form is far more fragile than the clay and papyrus that have survived through centuries.
In making the case for a heightened role for preservation management, Conway argues that digital imaging technology is more than another reformatting option. Imaging, he states, involves transforming the very concept of format, rather than creating an accurate picture of a book, photograph, or map on a different medium. Thus, a digital world transforms traditional preservation concepts from protecting the physical integrity of the object to specifying the creation and maintenance of the object whose intellectual integrity is its primary characteristic.
During its development, the report sparked a number of in-depth discussions among preservation managers and technical specialists. The Commission trusts that with its dissemination, the report will stimulate even broader involvement as we explore together how to maintain the safety and accessibility of the world’s historical and cultural heritage as far into the future as possible.
Preservation in the Digital World (24 pages, March 1996) is available for $15.00 from The Commission on Preservation and Access, 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 740, Washington, DC 20036-2117. Prepayment is required, with checks made payable to “Commission on Preservation and Access.” Commission sponsors receive publications at no charge.
Joint Testimony on Behalf of NEH Stresses Importance of Federal Role
As in past years, the Commission, the National Humanities Alliance, and the Association of Research Libraries recently provided joint testimony in support of funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Testimony focused on the importance of the federal role in promoting a variety of preservation programs nationwide, and on what would be lost to scholarship and to the American public if funding were reduced.
The complete text is available from the ARL web site: http://arl.cni.org/index.html
Excerpts from the Written Statement
On Fiscal Year 1997 Appropriations for the National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities programs have been a catalyst in stimulating a national response to the preservation crisis….
At the March 6, 1996, House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, it was reported that budget reductions for preservation programs mean that 20,000 brittle books and 230,0000 newspaper pages will not be microfilmed this year. Over 900 archival and special collections of unique materials judged highly significant by U.S. institutions will not be preserved or made accessible, and 130,000 cultural objects identified as valuable and requiring preservation will continue to languish, undocumented and unavailable for study. Perhaps even more far-reaching for the general public, nearly half the people who would have been trained in preservation skills and awareness will be excluded from regional education programs….
Reductions in the preservation program of NEH strongly affect not only the scholarly community, but all citizens concerned with our history on national, state, and local levels. As an example in purely practical terms, when the coordinators of a large, cooperative NEH-funded microfilming project learned that their three-year grant had been pared by one year, cultural and historical collections dealing with state histories of Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee had to be cut from the list of embrittled materials targeted for rescue. Some 37 percent of these collections, already identified as important for preservation microfilming, remain on shelves, slowly crumbling to dust….
The National Endowment for the Humanities, in cooperation with other organizations concerned about preservation of our intellectual and cultural heritage, has carefully developed all its preservation programs to reinforce and strengthen this nation’s capacity to protect and revere its heritage–from the well-established ivy-covered columns of a great university, to a small town’s historical archives, to a family attic with forgotten genealogical records and photographs.
We must recognize that libraries and archives cannot carry out nationally-valuable preservation efforts on their own. The leadership exercised by the National Endowment for the Humanities has meant that hundreds of individual efforts are leveraged and added to an overall nationwide program, rather than standing apart and redundant. This principle holds true whether the program is microfilming of brittle books and newspapers, training of preservation experts, or conserving of special materials. A shared body of knowledge, skills, tools, and resources is being created that enables the individuals and institutions that form our nation’s preservation enterprise to move ahead with shared confidence and expertise.
In fact, NEH’s brittle books program is being hailed by librarians as creating the first virtual library in the world that also happens to be a vital source for digital conversion. The brittle books collection exists in many locations, yet is accessible as an entity in national databases; when completed, it will rival the collections of many major research libraries in this country. “We owe it to present and future scholars (to say nothing of the taxpayers who foot the bill) to make it fully accessible to patrons as a complex collection with many uses and many points of access,” states librarian Paul Conway, who challenges colleagues to move the brittle books literature into the digital arena. Only with the NEH’s carefully conceived and well executed plan could such a vision be entertained as a reality, one-third of the way through the brittle books agenda….
Today we are seeing the widespread results of federal funding and NEH leadership in the myriad preservation actions of local, regional, state, and national organizations. The Division of Preservation and Access has stimulated participation and cooperation from universities; state, public and special libraries; historical societies; archives; and museums, often with matching financial support from local sources….
Rather than reduce funding to support these preservation activities, now is the time to strengthen NEH’s investment in a program that is producing far more than Congress anticipated even nine short years ago. The thousands of contributors to nationwide preservation efforts energized and catalyzed by NEH are now on board, not only in producing the expected numbers of preserved items, but in helping plan and create new preservation options and services. This is the time for Congress to stay invested in a strong program that will document our nation’s historical and cultural legacy.
Preservation Microfilming Workshops Incorporate Digital Technologies
NEDCC, The Northeast Document Conservation Center, presented one of a series of three-day workshops on preservation microfilming last month at the University of Kentucky at Lexington. The programs, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and The H.W. Wilson Foundation, are designed to train project administrators in libraries, archives, and other research institutions to plan, implement, and manage filming projects. The workshops also present information on digital technologies and their role in hybrid systems. In addition, participants learn skills for planning preservation microfilming projects; for selecting materials for filming; for developing specifications; and for writing contracts with vendors.
Speakers at the Kentucky workshop included Susan Wrynn, Director of Reprographic Services at NEDCC; Andrew Raymond, Regional Advisory Officer, New York State Archives; Paul Conway, Head, Preservation Department, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University; Lisa Fox Preservation Consultant; Bob Mottice, President of Mottice Micrographics Inc.; and Christina Craig, Coordinator, Preservation Microfilm Service, Southeastern Library Network.
Four more workshops are scheduled: May 13-15 in Sacramento, CA; June 10-12 in Las Cruces, NM; September 9-11, Chapel Hill, NC; and October 7-9, New York City. For more information or to register, contact Gail Pfeifle at the Northeast Document Conservation Center, (508) 470-1010; FAX (508) 475-6021.
Conservation Workshops Focus on Environment for Archival Records
CCAHA, the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, announces the following daylong workshops to be held in 1996, with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Instituting a Conservation Environment Monitoring Program
- March 11, at the New Jersey State Records Center, Ewing Township, Trenton, NJ. Co-sponsored by the New Jersey State Archives, Department of State, the New Jersey Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, and the New Jersey Historical Commission, Department of State.
- September 19, at the Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, VA. Co-sponsored by the Virginia Historical Society.
For both dates: Speaker: William P. Lull, principal and senior conservation environment consultant of Garrison/ Lull Inc., Princeton Junction, NJ, and co-author of Conservation Environment Guidelines for Libraries and Archives
Have You Got the Blues? Architectural Records: Their Identification, Management, Storage, and Treatment
- June 3, at The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA. Co-sponsored by The Athenaeum of Philadelphia.
Speakers: Lois Olcott Price, Conservator of Library Collections,Winterthur Library; Bruce Laverty, Gladys Brooks Curator of Architecture, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia; and Ann Craddock, Preservation Services Representative, Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts
- October 4, at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA. Co-sponsored by the Heinz Architectural Center, the Carnegie Museum of Art.
Speakers: Lois Olcott Price, Conservator of Library Collections,Winterthur Library; Dennis McFadden, Curator, the Heinz Architectural Center, the Carnegie Museum of Art; and Ann Craddock, Preservation Services Representative, Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts
Fund-Raising: Capitalizing on Collections Care
Libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions are expanding their fund-raising efforts as the current political climate causes uncertainty about the future of federal funding for cultural organizations, programs, and projects. “Capitalizing on Collections Care: A Fund-Raising Workshop,” is being held throughout the U.S. to show how organizations can use their collections care programs to strengthen their development efforts and to target new funding sources, including the private sector and state and local governments. The National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property (NIC), Washington, DC, developed the project and is taking the workshop around the country.
The full-day workshop demonstrates how institutions can incorporate preservation and conservation creatively into fund-raising activities, to benefit both the collections care program and the whole institution. Most recently, a diverse group of sponsors, several funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, made the program possible in the Southwest. In addition to NIC, the sponsors were AMIGOS Bibliographic Council, Inc,; Preservation and Conservation Studies, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Texas at Austin; the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center; and the Texas Association of Museums.
For further information on the workshop, which will be given at a number of locations, contact Clare Hansen at NIC, phone (202) 625-1495.
To Scan or Not to Scan: What are the Questions?
SOLINET, the Southeastern Library Network, is sponsoring a full-day preservation workshop May 1 on digitizing library and archival materials. It is designed to give participants the tools needed to make informed decisions about undertaking scanning projects. The workshop is funded as part of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Morning events include two presentations: Anne Kenney, Associate Director for Preservation at Cornell, will discuss “Digital Imaging: A Theoretical and Technical Overview”; and Tom Hickerson, Director of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections and Co-Director of the Cornell Digital Access Coalition, will present “Exploring Models for Collaborative Development and Management of Digital Collections.” Deanna Marcum, president of the Commission and the Council on Library Resources, will be the keynote speaker.
The afternoon will begin with a panel discussion: Representatives from Emory University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and University of Tennessee will present case studies on their institutions’ scanning projects. Following the panel will be five facilitated break-out sessions: 1) Indexing, searching and retrieval; 2) Copyright and intellectual control; 3) Funding; 4) Implications for resource sharing–SOLINET’s role; and 5) Outsourcing scanning. To register, contact Steve Eberhardt at 1-800-999-8558 ext 285. For more information, contact Julie Arnott at ext 256.
CLR/CPA Report Investigates Online Digital Collections Inventory
Cultural institutions and universities–as major collectors, organizers, preservers, and disseminators of information–represent one of the best sources of content for the emerging global information network. Recently, there has been a burst of activity in converting portions of collections into an electronic format accessible on the Internet. Several large electronic conversion projects and related initiatives intended to test and shape the new information infrastructure also are underway.
A new report, Digital Collections Inventory Report, describes a preliminary project undertaken by the Commission and the Council on Library Resources to determine how much digitizing of library collections was planned, underway, or completed. In what was a preliminary investigation, envisioned as the first among many, Patricia McClung addressed the question of how to keep abreast of what is available on the Internet and how to inventory what will be added.
For discussion purposes and to provide some coherence in a fluid information environment, digital image projects are grouped as:
- large projects featuring national literature, history, and/or politics;
- broad subject areas with significant activity such as law, literature, history, culture, and science and technology;
- special, archival and manuscript collections; and
- infrastructure projects and “lists of lists.”
One section describes several significant projects aimed at defining and improving the existing infrastructure for online access to information. It also mentions noteworthy Web sites that lead to digital collections online. The report is being distributed by the Commission and Council to stimulate discussion and solicit further input on the potential usefulness, scope, and desired features of an online digital collections inventory. Digital Collections Inventory Report (64 pages, February 1996) is available for $20.00 from the Commission on Preservation and Access, 1400 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Commission sponsors receive publications at no charge.
Commission on Preservation and Access
1400 16th Street, NW, Suite 740
Washington, DC 20036-2217
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.Deanna B. Marcum–President
Maxine K. Sitts–Program Officer, Editor