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Subject: Year 2000 problem

Year 2000 problem

From: William Real <realw>
Date: Monday, May 3, 1999
I attended a session at the AAM meeting on the Y2K computer bug. The
panelists were Marilyn Gillette, Information Technology Services,
The Getty Museum; Robert Matthai, Director, the Year 2000 Resource
Center for the Cultural Community <rama1 [at] ix__netcom__com>,
<URL:>; and Thomas McGowan, McGowan & Co. The
highlights of the discussion:

Between the continuum of Y2K predictions, from "no problem" to "the
world ends as we know it", it is most likely that what will happen
will be somewhere in the middle, from minor, brief disruptions to
major, extended ones.

It is probable that there will be at least brief regional and/or
local power outages.

The bug will affect hardware, operating systems, and application
software. 90% of the computer chips in existence are present in
things other than computers. The bug could also affect driver
software and plug-ins associated with peripherals like scanners,
printers, etc.

When a manufacturer says their product is "Y2K compliant" it is not
necessarily so. For example, the hardware might be compliant but the
operating system not compliant, or vice versa. Also, manufacturers
who claimed compliance for some of their products are now retracting
the claim. MS Windows 95 falls into this category, apparently; and
even Windows 98 may have some remaining code that is not compliant.

Even organizations that began the Y2K compliance process some time
ago will probably not be able to address all of their systems. The
strategy recommended is to identify the critical systems of an
organization and focus on them. The Getty discovered that of its
critical systems, the collections management system, the facilities
system, and the security system were not compliant. The collections
management software had to be scrapped altogether and replaced.

The only way to be assured of compliance is to test everything:
hardware, OS, and applications. The tests have to be run on a dummy
system so that if there is in fact a remaining problem, the actual
system is not affected.

Organizations can request replacement chips and/or patches for
non-compliant hardware and software from the manufacturers. These
"fixes" should then be tested, however.

There are very interesting insurance issues involved. Property
Insurance companies will not pay for lost data or information since
it is not a tangible asset. If there are tangible losses to an
insured organization as a result of Y2K problems outside of its
control (e.g. a power outage leading to a sprinkler pipe freezing
and bursting, causing damage to collections), they would pay. There
is an expectation of a lawyer's bonanza in lawsuits when parties
sustaining losses find they will not be reimbursed by their
insurance companies and go after others for restitution. As a
result, liability insurance for boards and CEOs is a hot item these

The Y2K Information Center for the Cultural Community is creating a
workbook for organizations to use to develop contingency plans in
the event of critical systems failures. Essentially the
recommendation is to create failure scenarios, assess the resulting
risks to the organization, and create a contingency plan as needed
to reduce the risk. Examples of internal risks would be accounting,
payroll, donor records, personnel records, security systems,
collections records, and climate control. External risks include
infrastructure, suppliers, financial vendors, legal services, and
national and international partners. It is suggested that the
contingency plan include criteria and procedures for actually
invoking the plan, and for returning to normal operation following
the emergency. There was also the suggestion that the organization
ascertain that lines of communication involved in its contingency
plan will in fact be open, since if there are problems they could be
quite widespread.

Finally, it was suggested that any critical data be copied by Dec
31, 1999.

Here at the Carnegie Museum of Art, we have begun identifying
objects in our collection that would be most vulnerable to a power
outage affecting climate control, which we believe is the most
likely scenario here. It also occurred to us that many objects will
be on loan outside the museum at that time, and that the museum
itself will be hosting many objects on loan for a major exhibition
of contemporary art heralding the new millennium (including a large
number of "installations" involving electronic media of one sort or
another). We hope to work with the artists in advance to build
compliance into these installations so our show can go on without

Do others have any relevant experience or insight to share? I posted
a query on this subject some time ago and had very little response.

William Real
Carnegie Museum of Art

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:84
                   Distributed: Tuesday, May 4, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-12-84-008
Received on Monday, 3 May, 1999

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