The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 5, Number 2
Apr 1981


Paper for Book Longevity

The blue-ribbon group that met in New York in May 1979 to consider the problem of book deterioration (ANL, Sept. 1979) appointed Herbert S. Bailey at that meeting to head a comminute to set goals, devise ways to reach then, and to extend recognition and understanding of the problem. That committee now has a name (the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity) and operates as part of the Council on Library Resources. (The original group has apparently been dissolved, at least temporarily.)

The committee net on February 26, 1981, at the Library of Congress, with people from the book and business worlds, to review the fourth draft of the committee's report on the use of acid-free paper for books. The full revised report will be published in the LC Information Bulletin and elsewhere. Binding will be covered in a future committee report.

The committee has drawn up a table of information about the availability of acid-free paper, and developed technical guidelines for its production. There was general agreement at the meeting that the cost of acid-free paper is not substantially higher than that of acidic paper, but high conversion costs from conventional production methods were acknowledged.

A fairly detailed record of the discussion is in the LC Information Bulletin for March 27, 1981. The Library of Congress Information Bulletin is issued weekly by the Library of Congress and distributed free of charge to publicly supported libraries and research institutions, academic libraries, learned societies, and allied organizations in the United States. Address: Information Office, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540.

Cuts Affect Federal Granting and Conservation-Related Agencies

The entire grant program of the NHPRC (National Historical Preservation and Records Commission) has been eliminated by the Office of Management and Budget. In the past, this program had been funded at $4 million and was to be funded at $3 million under the Carter budget for 1982. The NHPRC grants supported numerous publication and records preservation projects around the country involving nearly 200 historians, editors, and archivists. The elimination of the grant program will reduce the NHPRC staff by approximately 50%, returning the commission to its f or- mer status of an advisory body. (From April issue of On the Record)

The 50% cut in the National Endowment for the Humanities has been getting a lot of play in the national press. Fortunately it is not a 50% across-the-board cut in all of the Endowment's programs. Most archival projects are funded through the Research Resources Program in the Division of Research, which in FY 81 had a total of $4.4 million ($3.9 million for organization and improvement projects and $500,000 for conservation projects). Carter had recommended an additional $500,000 for Fl 82 in the conservation line item. Under the Reagan-imposed cuts, the program will be asked to take a 32% cut from the $4.4 million total, leaving approximately $3 million for FY 82.

In the past [NEH has] been able to fund 33 to 40% of the proposals submitted; they expect their funding rate to drop to one-half that much for FY 82. While no one should be completely discouraged by such news, the staff does urge potential grantees to contact then while the proposal is being developed for guidance. The staff will be happy to work with anyone to ensure that the proposal they are drafting meets eligibility guidelines and is sufficiently competitive. The next NEH Research Resources Program deadline is June 1, 1981, for projects beginning March 1, 1982. (From the April Mid-Atlantic Archivist)

The cuts in the Institute for Museum Services are among the most severe. Not only was its $12 million grants budget for next year eliminated entirely, but its funds for this year were also rescinded in toto. It had only one cycle in its program, with a March deadline, so many institutions were in the final stages of preparing their grant proposals when the rescission was announced. No one should count on any further INS funding. (From the April Mid-Atlantic Archivist)

The 2-page report from which the above information on NEH and IMS was taken also mentions the elimination of the Historic Preservation Fund and apparently also the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which was supported partly by it; the Coalition to Save our Documentary Heritage, a coalition of organizations of archivists, librarians, historians, state and local government officials, genealogists and others to urge Congress to reauthorize the NHPRC and limit cuts to $1 million in its total budget; summarizes the latest information on the Archives, Library of Congress and Smithsonian Archives budget cuts (bad, undetermined and minimal in that order); and gives information on contacting congressmen to protest the cuts. Back copies of the Mid-Atlantic Archivist (or mid-atlantic archivist, as they like to write it, maa for short) are $1.25 each from Dr. Donald F. Harrison, Editor, mid-atlantic archivist, National Archives (NNP), Washington, DC 20408 (tel. 202-724-1080).

NEH Preservation Efforts Criticized By Heritage Foundation

National Endowment for the Humanities' support for preservation and conservation efforts by libraries has been threatened by severe criticism from the Heritage Foundation, one of the "think tanks" of the Reagan administration. In its recent report on the Endowment [identified by the Foundation office in Washington as Mandate for Leadership, Charles Weatherly, ed., January 1981; $12.95 paper, $21.95 cloth], the Foundation attacked NEH's support for preservation of manuscripts and documents on the grounds that NEH is not competent to deal in this scientific area. To this criticism, NEH Chairman Joseph Duffy responded:

Contrary to what the Report asserts, the judgment as to what should be saved and by what means is in fact both a scholarly and a technical determination which cannot safely be divided.

I would stoutly maintain that conservation is a matter of extreme importance to the future of scholarship and learning in the humanities. I would agree with the writers of the Report that "efforts in this area should be undertaken by another Federal agency." I do not believe; however, that the Federal Government should try to fund a nationwide program of preservation and conservation. The costs are too high. Much of this activity will have to be undertaken with support from the private sector and at the State and local levels. I would urge that recognition be given to the difficulty of getting any other agency in the Government, under current conditions, to take up these problems. The Endowment, with its gifts and matching programs, is in a unique position to invite private funding to examine the need for support of conservation.

Recent NEH support for preservation and conservation efforts have emphasized the need for cooperation and self- help in this area. .

[This report was condensed slightly from the ARL Newsletter 105.]

Folger Reopens

The remodeled Folger Shakespeare Library opened in April. A special tour of the new conservation department quarters is planned for the future but no date has been set. The Folger is at 201 E. Capitol St., SE, Washington, DC 20003.

Crash Nitrate Film Conversion Completed

(Note: The National Archives' warehouse fire of December 1978, which destroyed 12.6 million feet of newsreel film, was reported by this Newsletter in February and June 1979. The article below is based on interviews with NARS officials and on the April 1980 issue of On the Record, a monthly publication of the GSA for NARS.)

The crash program to convert 6.4 million feet of volatile nitrate film to safety-base polyester has been completed by the National Archives at a cost of $1.4 million. It took a cooperative effort by more than 30 staff members to achieve. Cash incentive awards went to more than a dozen employees.

Nitrate conversion was accelerated tenfold in 1978, following an earlier, smaller fire (August 1977). After the fire of December 1978, it was increased again fivefold with the result that the conversion rate became 50 tines greater than it had been in 1977 and earlier. The monthly conversion rate, averaged for 1979-80, was 400,000 feet per month, as opposed to 8,000 feet per month pre-1978.

Conversion was achieved in several steps. First, the nitrate movies were prepared at Suitland. Then they were transported in small lots to the Archives Building, in downtown Washington, D.C., where they were timed, washed, and duplicated on special quality polyester stock provided by the Kodak Company. The duplicate footage was then inspected and if it passed muster, the nitrate negative or master was destroyed.

Although NARS has now surmounted its nitrate film problem, there remain two other bodies of nitrate material to deal with--two million aerial photographs and 50,000 still pictures. Work on converting then is planned for fiscal year 1980-81. Conversion of still nitrate photographs began in July 1980 and of aerial photographs in January.

Architectural Records Project Report

Records in Architectural Offices: Suggestions for the Proper Organization, Storage, and Conservation of Architectural Office Archives provides solid advice on records management and archival procedures that architectural firms should be encouraged to follow if they are going to retain their own historically valuable materials. The publication comprises a report of a project to survey architectural firms in the Greater Boston area that was undertaken by the Massachusetts Committee for the Preservation of Architectural Records (MASS COPAR). It was written by the project director, Nancy Carlson Schrock. For information write to MASS COPAR, P0 Box 129, Cambridge MA 02142. An initial announcement of this project ran in this Newsletter, September 1979.

British Crafts Council Well Funded for 1981-82

Great Britain's Minister for the Arts has announced a grant of almost $3.5 million for fiscal year 1981-82 to the British Crafts Council, an increase of 17% over the previous year. In addition to supporting the Council's ongoing projects and activities, the grant also includes money for the expansion of the exhibition space at the Crafts Council's London headquarters to establish a national gallery and resource center for the crafts.

(This information is from the March Crafts Report.)

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