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Subject: Preservation of clippings

Preservation of clippings

From: Hilary A. Kaplan <hkaplan>
Date: Wednesday, December 9, 1998
I had offered my perspective to Linda Most via telephone when she
had first posted her query, but as I see that her query has now been
extended to cover a number of preservation issues, I'd like to
summarize my thoughts for the list.

The first area of consideration is whether Ms. Most is preserving
items for their informational or artifactual value.  In most
instances, items such as contemporary newspaper clippings can be
reformatted.  Factors contributing to this decision include
prevalence, fragile condition, space requirements, and recognized
informational value.  The preservation of "textual information" as
opposed to "artifactual" information is an area routinely addressed
by archives preservation.  This approach may understandable be a bit
foreign to museum collections, where objects are generally
considered of artifactual value because of artistic content,
associative value, rarity, or other notable significance.

If the primary interest of these materials (i.e., newsclippings) is
"informational," any proven, reliable format for conveying text is
appropriate. Such formats would include microfilm, microfiche, and
preservation photocopying.  Paper onto which these images would be
copied will meet the ANSI standard Z39.48-199s for permanence. Staff
will also want to ascertain that the image is properly fused to the
paper. (I here refer you to the US National Archives "peel test" as
described in Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler's excellent text, Preserving
Archives, page 127, footnote 7, available from the Society of
American Archivists 312-922-0140).

In addition to preserving the informational content of the files,
filming or photocopying captures the order, layout, and context in
which the clippings have been selected.  While with some effort, one
could likely reconstruct newspaper clippings from other sources,
what might actually be of greatest significance is the order or
placement of selected items by the compiler.

For institutions concerned with destroying all knowledge of what an
original page may have looked like, it may also be useful to
preserve a sampling of the original--depending on quantity, perhaps
a page from each volume, or a page from every 10 volumes.

This approach is routinely carried out with a recognition that space
is expensive. Microfilming is such an attractive option because it
greatly reduces space, is of proven stability, is not dependent on
ever changing technology. Once items have been microfilmed to ensure
the long term preservation of information, scanning of film can
occur for enhanced access.

The digitization of text at this time can most responsibly be
regarded as an access tool.  While digitization can reduce wear and
tear on originals (and may therefore have preservation
implications), it has some serious long term economic implications
for preservation.  Unless an institution has very deep pockets, most
repositories cannot rely on the wherewithal to either refresh
electronic data or continually migrate to the next highest level of
technology. Because technology is in rapid flux, and issues of
machine and format obsolescence abound, digitizing textual
information for preservation purposes appears at this time to be an
expensive and potentially short-sighted alternative.

Hilary A. Kaplan
Georgia Department of Archives and History
330 Capitol Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30334
Fax: 404-651-8471

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:51
                Distributed: Tuesday, December 15, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-12-51-012
Received on Wednesday, 9 December, 1998

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