First Annual Working Group Meeting
By July 1997, when project coordinators met in São Paulo with CLIR International Program Officer Hans Rütimann, the project’s success and the momentum it was generating were already clear enough to suggest that funding should be sought for its continuation. Project continuity would be crucial to further developing the information network and supporting the organizers of regional workshops. Otherwise, the cooperative atmosphere established during the project’s first 18 months would have swiftly given way to a return to isolation and the initial investment would have lost much of its potential return. The coordinator worked simultaneously on the final report for Phase One, submitted in February 1998, and a new proposal to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, submitted in March 1998. CLIR helped, again, to shape the proposal but did not apply for a separate coordination grant. The Brazil project was operating so well on its own that only travel funds for two visits by CLIR staff to Brazil were requested during the second phase.
In June 1998, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation approved funding for the project’s second two-year phase. To kick off the second phase, in October 1998 the project brought together in Rio de Janeiro a broader and larger working group than that which had been involved in the first phase. The 1996 working group had been limited to institutions near Rio de Janeiro so that they could be actively involved in meetings. It was time to bring in new partners, including those who had been active in more distant states, and to let some of the early partners bow out because they were not able to continue their involvement in the second phase.
The working group continues to grow as new, committed individuals and institutions come forward. The current working group includes 80 people from 62 institutions in 17 states. Rather than relying on face-to-face meetings, a private e-mail discussion group has been created. As new partners join, the work methodology is also changing. The larger working group has given birth to several smaller committees working on specific activities. One such committee is identifying new texts for translation and publication and is working to standardize workshop modules. Another is working on a glossary of preservation terminology, starting from the texts already published. This work is proving very helpful in the revision of the original publication set for the second edition. A third group is being formed to work on the Web site and to launch a newsletter.
At the October 1998 meeting, 16 participants from the original core workshops were also welcomed into the larger working group. Their experience and concerns helped set priorities for the project’s second phase. For example, some participants were concerned about the pressure on them to teach university-level courses on preservation. While motivated to respond, they did not feel prepared to teach at this level without further training. Others were concerned about finding ways to help participants who had not been able to organize workshops in their locations. Now that they knew more about what the project could offer, they decided it was time to gather new information from the institutions in the database about priorities and needs.
To update the data bank, a copy of the questionnaire sent in October-November 1996 was sent out again in December 1998. Attached to this original database questionnaire was a shorter one with new questions about the use of the project documentation and the videos. Heads of the 1,534 institutions who had registered up to that point were asked in the new questionnaire about training and technical assistance needs. By March 1999, 700 institutions had replied. Highlights of responses were as follows:
- Environmental conditions for preservation was indicated as a priority in all five regions and was in first or second place
- in the areas with the largest number of institutions (South, Southeast, and Northeast).
- Preservation planning was a priority in four regions and ranked in first or second place in the Southeast, Northeast, Central-west and North.
- Preventive conservation procedures were the first priority in the North and South, and a lower priority in the other three regions.
- Collection cataloging and the building and remodeling of libraries linked to disaster planning were mentioned as lower-priority concerns in the North, Northeast, and Central-west.
- There was little interest in microfilming.
These responses echoed the priorities indicated by participants in the core workshops, who had also received a copy of the questionnaire. When asked what was needed for new workshops, the project partners most often mentioned teaching materials, especially audiovisual aids, and instructors with expertise in preservation planning, preventive conservation, and storage environment.
The responses to the December 1998 surveys showed a reordering of the institutions’ priorities. While physical facilities and staff training for conservation practice were identified as the most important needs in the 1994 survey, preservation planning and improving environmental conditions now top the list.
Web Site Launch
The number of institutions in Brazil with access to the World Wide Web is growing rapidly. In April 1998, the project launched a test version of its Web site in Portuguese with access to the full text of the Portuguese translations, an institutional database, and links to related sites. A preservation map of Brazil, now under construction, presents a list of project partners in the 27 states that can offer onsite access to project documents and information on how to become a participant. Eventually, the preservation map will also provide information about institutional preservation activities being developed in each state.
The full-fledged site became operational in March 1999 and now includes a project description and objectives, a full list of the expanded working group members, the publications list, and access to the complete institutional database, updated to include the December 1998 survey. The database page includes not only search capability by field groups but also access to a questionnaire form. The Web site also includes a news page and a discussion forum that provides technical support in preservation to professionals with specific questions. Nearly a thousand visitors logged on to the site in its first four months. The Web site address, http://cecor.eba.ufmg.br, will soon be changed to http://cpba.org.br.
New workshops and repeats of the original workshops are planned for the remainder of 1999 and 2000. To compensate for the regional imbalance that favored the South and Southeast in the first round of workshops and documentation distribution, the Northeast, Central-west, and North will be given priority in receiving training support for specialists and instructors. States that have lagged behind in organizing information campaigns and local workshops are also those with the fewest resources and the most critical collections conditions, and they will be offered workshops similar to the original core training.
The working group is planning to offer three new core workshops. It will also support the continuation of regionally organized workshops by sending instructors and teaching materials. The teaching staff has been enlarged to include more instructors from institutions such as Funarte, the National Library, and several universities, as well as from regional partner institutions at the state level. Full kits of environmental monitoring tools, which the project purchased in October 1998 with Phase Two funding, will be sent to these workshops. Institutions in the South and Southeast have shown the greatest initiative in organizing regional workshops. For example, partners in Paraná State conducted their own state-wide survey of training priorities in August 1998 and, based on these results, organized a workshop for September 1999 on preservation environment, inviting three specialists from other states in Brazil. A subcommittee of the working group is planning to use the Paraná program as a model for future workshops in other states and will be making a video of the program to use as a teaching aid.
The working group is particularly concerned about the continued lack of interest in reformatting for preservation, despite the inclusion of texts about this topic in the documentation distributed in 1997. To further publicize the important role that microfilming can play in preservation, two new workshops in microfilming, which are aimed at professionals in a position to put practical training to use, have been planned for November 1999 and March 2000. The project arranged for the U.S. Research Libraries Group’s Archives Microfilming Manual to be translated for use in this course. There have been other initiatives to present the use of microfilming as a preservation tool. In March 1999, Northeast Document Conservation Center Executive Director Ann Russell visited institutions in São Paulo and Rio de Ja-neiro, meeting with Brazilian specialists at the Rui Barbosa House Foundation in Rio to discuss preservation priorities. The specialists emphasized microfilming as a priority, and the need for more information about technical quality, correct procedures, and equipment, and for the training of Brazilian technicians at North American institutions. Brazil’s National Council of Archives has also formed a group to review microfilming procedures in the Brazilian context and to establish archival quality procedures for Brazilian institutions, based on international standards. The group has already established rules for microfilming targets.
Organizing workshops at the technical and managerial levels will also generate broader awareness of the importance of microfilming as a preservation tool. Several institutions are organizing workshops to discuss the importance of electronic media preservation and to reinforce the importance of microfilming, especially in a cooperative way. Distribution of the video, Into the Future, is also creating intensive discussion about the problems of long-term maintenance of digital media. The video has already been shown at universities and other institutions in most states and on several educational television channels.
As a contribution of the Center of Memory of the Brazilian Academy of Letters (Centro de Memória da Academia Brasileira de Letras), the first two publications of a new series, Technical Communications (Comunicaçãoes Técnicas), are available on the project’s Web site. The publications are “Reflections on Collections Preservation,” by Sérgio Conde de Albite Silva, and “Space as an Element of Paper-Based Collections,” by Cláudia S. Rodrigues de Carvalho. The former was based on the project publications. The project is also planning a new group of translated texts on the themes of microfilming and digitization. Other themes will be selected on the basis of the priorities that were identified in the 1998 survey. In cooperation with the National Council of Archives and other partners, the project will also commission original publications in Portuguese, including a manual for identifying rare books and other publications about issues in collections cataloging and international standards for archival description.