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Subject: Smithsonian press release

Smithsonian press release

From: Dennis Piechota <piechota>
Date: Saturday, October 1, 1994
In my humble opinion:

The statement by CAL regarding relaxed guidelines for relative humidity
control is a bold political statement. As presented at IIC in Ottawa the
CAL's scientific research is largely confirming research with new
conclusions. Its presentation as a press release is driven by new social
and political realities.

For decades our leading institutions had maintained a philosophy of
'preservation at all costs'. In the domain of environmental parameters
this led to a kind of intramural competition among those institutions.
Competing definitions for the 'most-ideal ideal' in relative humidity
control were generated by dueling laboratories. Ultimately very
difficult or impossible to maintain standards were developed. Then came
the crush of reduced funding.

The new guidelines represent a political escape from seeking the
'most-ideal ideal'. They put new clothes on a philosophy that most
medium and small institutions had been forced to follow all along. This
philosophy may be described as 'conserve cost effectively through
balanced compromise'.

With its new research showing that the guidelines can be relaxed from
absurd standards, the CAL scientists and their institutions are able to
maintain a position of leadership within the field while backing away
from the conundrum of the ideal.

But in many cases medium and small museums and libraries have been able
to maintain, through balanced compromise, better conditions than those
extremes now postulated as acceptable by CAL scientists. I would call
for reticence in adopting some of this new tolerance. It should be taken
as a document repudiating the concept of the 'most ideal ideal'. It
should not be used to undermine the controls achieved by those who
'conserve cost effectively through balanced compromise'.

Dennis Piechota
Object and Textile Conservation
Arlington, Massachusetts

                  Conservation DistList Instance 8:24
                  Distributed: Sunday, October 2, 1994
                        Message Id: cdl-8-24-001
Received on Saturday, 1 October, 1994

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