The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 9, Number 6
Nov 1985


Special Libraries Association Moves From New York to D.C.

The SLA, whose Picture Division from time to time issues the important publication Picturescope, has relocated in Washington, DC so that it can take a more active role in legislation and policy formulation at the national level. Its new address is 1700 18th St., NW, Washington, DC 20009 (202/ 234-4700).

CCI Mobile Lab to Make Last Run in 1986

The Mobile Conservation Laboratory Programme was established in 1980 to provide conservation assistance and advice on the care of collections to museums and galleries across Canada and to provide a unique training opportunity for recent graduates of conservation programs at the university and community level. The program will be discontinued after its 1986 season.

The Canadian Conservation Institute, which issued this announcement, gave no reason for the discontinuance. Until November 30, it is accepting applications for the mobile lab's services in its last year. These include treatment, consultation on preventive conservation and conservation surveys for Canadian collections. Visits may be two days to three weeks.

Photocopier Cuts Time for Rehousing Photographs

The people at the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress have found a way to feed new archival negative sleeves into a Minolta photocopier to print the information from the old negative jackets on them. They are putting the same information onto new shelf list cards by feeding them into the machine the same way. a team of three can rehouse 230 negatives and make 230 shelflist cards an hour, which is about ten times as fast as they could do it by hand. The key to the process is use of the Minolta, which will accept heavy card stock if it is fed by hand.

Only Permanent Papers Stocked By This Commercial Printer

Thomson-Shore (7300 W. Joy Road, P.O. Box 305, Dexter, Ml 48130-0305, 313/426-3939), a printing house with its own bindery that specializes in short runs, recently began putting out a newsletter called Printer's Ink. From the Summer 1985 issue we learn that their stock printing papers all meet the new ANSI standard for permanence. (That standard, ANSI 239.48-1984, specifies a minimum pH of 7.5; 30 double folds at 1 kg; tear resistance of 50 g for 60 lb paper and less for lighter weights; 2% buffering; and no groundwood pulp.) They stock the following papers in 50 and 60 lb. weight:

Glatfelter Offset, B-31 shade (natural)
Glatfelter Spring Forge smooth white
Warren Olde Style

This printer is unusual in several other respects. They specialize in very short runs as well as moderately short runs, which is unusual for plants relying on machines rather than hand skills. Their package of printing and binding equipment for this purpose is designed for runs of 35-400 copies of soft cover books and 35-150 for case bound books. It allows publishers, who are now taxed on their inventories, to keep slow-selling titles in print, among other advantages.

Their books win awards at book shows. They manufactured five of the 35 books selected for the 1985 book show of the American Association of University Presses, and took more prizes in all categories than any other contestant, as they did in the Chicago Book Clinic Show.

They have an enlightened management style. Since 1980 they have had a participative management system: profit sharing, no tine clock, company-wide committees, monthly meetings and so on.

And last but not least, they are an old neighbor of the Academy Book Bindery, after which this Newsletter was named (ABBey). In the early seventies, the Editor was owner and operator of this bindery, and once took her staff on a tour of Thomson-Shore, which was then a customer: T-S would send over to ABB the books that were to be reprinted from borrowed copies, so that they could be carefully taken apart by experts. This permitted later rebinding in the original cover, by hand.

Computer Update

Conservators in Private Practice Get Organized

The American Institute for Conservation (AIC) has, like most conservation organizations, been dominated by its institutional members, if for no other reason than that they were able to get to more meetings, because the institution paid their way. Now that is changing. A new subgroup within AIC called Conservators in Private Practice has been meeting, forming committees and setting goals. Book conservator Bill Minter co-chairs its Fairness in Business Committee, which is concerned with competition between nonprofit organizations and the private sector; paper conservator Marilyn Weidner chairs the Research and Education Committee. Other committees concern themselves with ethics and management services. the CIPP group is beaded by photo conservator Jose Orraca, and has its own page in the AIC Newsletter.

The Research and Education Committee published a statement in the September issue, which reads in part:

Many of the most experienced, well-trained, innovative, and creative conservators are in private practice. If the field of conservation is to progress, the talents of these conservators must be utilized as fully as those that are in nonprofit conservation laboratories. Therefore, initially, the purpose of the Research and Education Committee will be to research government and private funding sources for projects initiated by conservators in private practice, or projects that will benefit private conservators.

Suggested projects include apprentice and intern training in private conservation laboratories, seminars on developing more efficient business practices, scholarships for continuing education and cooperative labs where expensive equipment can be shared.

Some Sources of Mailing Lists

The American Library Association sells its membership lists (for the ALA as a whole and most of its divisions and sections) on nailing labels for $48 per thousand. The ALA is at 50 E. Huron St., Chicago IL 60611.

CMG, the data base division of College Marketing Group (50 Cross St., Winchester, MA 01890, 617/729-7865), sells mailing lists of university and college people, broken down by subject area, zip, home address, type of computer they use, or you name it. If you wanted to reach all 119 professors who teach 20th century English drama, CMG can send you their addresses. Most lists are $60 per thousand.

PCS Mailing List Company (125 Main St., Peabody, MA 01960, 617/532-1600--call collect) charges only $35 per thousand. It specializes in types of businesses, arranged in the main list by the Standard Industrial Code and indexed alphabetically. There is a short international section, with higher prices.

Major Conservation Library Opened to Interested Professionals

The British Museum Conservation Division has one of the largest collections in Britain on conservation of organic materials, including paper: over 3,000 books and over 40 periodical subscriptions, among other materials. The Division plans to open it to conservators and those in related fields, during business hours, by appointment. Appointments are necessary because there is no permanent full-time staff, and the room is sometimes used for meetings.

Items in the collection are accessible by author and title but not subject--yet. Literature searches by keyword, using the 17,000-item database of the BM Research Laboratory may be possible before long; send requests to Peter Wiser, Conservation Division, British Museum, London WC1B 3DG. This database contains all AATA references since 1973 and a large number of other references. Like the library, it is strong in archaeology because the BM is primarily an archaeological museum.

Arrangements to use the library should be made through the Conservation Division's Executive Officer, Miss Angela Berry, at 28 Little Russell St. (tel. (01) 636-1555 ext. 678).

Classes and Courses in Book Arts

Indoor Air Quality Gets Attention

The National Institute of Building Sciences (Suite 700, 1015 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20005, has formed a Committee on Indoor Air Quality, which will be chiefly concerned with human health, but which will be doing work fundamental enough to be potentially useful to library and archive preservation.

The Committee will study risks to health from indoor air pollutants and the contributions of various energy conservation measures, new building materials and new consumer products. It will provide technical information and guidance, including cost-effective mitigation measures, to state and local governments, the private sector and the general public. Its progress will probably be reported in the Institute's periodical Building Sciences.

New Air Purifiers


The Starr Foundation gave a million dollars to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to endow a program of training in Far East paintings conservation.... The Professional Picture Framers Association has a 3-member Board of Certification, which will administer its first certification test in January at the annual meeting.... Wohlenberg, one of the world's major manufacturers of guillotines and three-knife trimmers, has acquired Ehlermann, producer of adhesive binding and other bindery equipment.... 1985 is the 2,500th anniversary of the birthday of the poet-scientist who invented punctuation, Kohman Pehriad of Macedonia, according to an article in Print-in News (March 30, 1985).... In July 1985, the Ecusta Paper & Film Group of Olin Corp. became an independent company. It is now simply Ecusta Corp. (prom. e coos' ta).... The Library Binding Institute's telephone number at its new address (150 Allens Creek Road, Rochester, NY 14618) is 716/461-4380.... The paper money salvaged last year from the wreck of the Andrea Doria (AN April 1985, p. 40) and undergoing restoration at the Northeast Document Conservation Center is being shipped in small batches, after restoration, to the people who organized the salvage venture, who plan to frame them and sell them to collectors.

The B&PG Ethics Discussion

The Book and Paper Specialty Group met for a luncheon discussion at the annual meeting of the American Institute for Conservation last May to discuss the AIC Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice as it applies to their work. All of the specialty groups have been urged to do this, in preparation for a revision that will take all suggestions into consideration. A panel of five conservators kicked off the discussion by defining the problems in the Code and Standards, as presently formulated.

On the panel were Marian Dirda, representing conservators of large paper collections, such as those at the Library of Congress; Norvell Jones, representing conservators of paper collections in archives; Denise Thomas, representing conservators of art-on-paper collections in museums; Don Etherington, representing book conservators; and Pam Young Randolph, representing private conservators and those working in regional centers.

The panelists often stated their agreement with each other, and none challenged the principle of having a Code of Ethics and Standard of Practice, bet all panelists wanted changes in wording, content, interpretation or use. In the interest of condensing and summarizing the discussion, individual comments will be grouped anonymously under a transcription of each section of the Code under discussion, starting with the one on the single standard.

Single Standard. With every historic or artistic work he undertakes to conserve, regardless of his opinion of its value or quality, the conservator should adhere to the highest and most exacting standard of treatment. Although circumstances may limit the extent of treatment, the quality of the treatment should never be governed by the quality or value of the object. While special techniques may be required during treatment of large groups of objects, such as archival and natural history material, these procedures should be consistent with the conservator' s respect for the integrity of the objects.

Comment. A single standard is not appropriate for library and archival materials whose value may be informational, evidential or a consequence of its inclusion in a larger collection. To apply the single standard would not be the best stewardship of scarce conservation resources. Elaborate treatments or extensive documentation are not always called for; time and funding are problems sometimes. It is a general practice among responsible conservators, working with curators and librarians, to decide which to treat first, which to expose to the dangers of travel, and so on; these decisions are based on the importance of the items to the collection and their scholarly, monetary and sentimental value, among other considerations.

Principle of Reversibility. The conservator is guided by and endeavors to apply the "principle of reversibility" in his treatments. He should avoid the use of materials which may become so intractable that their future removal could endanger the physical safety of the object. He also should avoid the use of techniques, the results of which cannot be undone if that should become desirable.

Comments. Sometimes irreversible treatments are deliberately given, such as deacidification or fixing of friable media. It is difficult or impossible to avoid the use of irreversible techniques; the benefits of the treatment may outweigh the effects of the changes it makes in the object. The code is too lofty; it should be more general and realistic. Conservators should be encouraged to use common sense and restraint.


Report of Examination. Before performing any treatment on an object, the conservator should first make an adequate examination and record of condition. [Referral is made here to two pages of instructions in the Standards of Practice for doing this.] the conservator is obliged to report his findings and recommendations to the owner or custodian or their delegate and await instructions before proceeding.

Record of Treatment. A record of treatment should also be made by the conservator. [The Standard of Practice is referred to again here. ] He has the obligation to record and report in detail to the owner or custodian the materials and methods of procedure employed in treating the object.

Comments. Full scale documentation with all details is not necessary for items of multiple parts or for routine work. The same arguments apply here as were given for the single standard. The Code should acknowledge the fact that some treatments are minimal and should have minimal documentation. The wording is inflexible.

Proper Course of Treatment. Inasmuch as an owner is rarely competent to judge the conservation requirements of his historical and artistic possessions, the conservator should honestly and sincerely advise what he considers the proper course of treatment.

Comment. The conservator should outline alternative treatments too, if any, and work with the custodian to choose the most appropriate one.

Advertising. It is an accepted principle that the foundation of effective advertising is the establishment of a well merited reputation for professional ability and integrity. Thus is recommended that conservators limit all forms of notices and communications which may be construed as advertising to the following: [A list follows which says, in summary: one or more discrete signs; letterhead that carries only certain factual items such as address, fellowship and specialty; announcements of opening, moving or restriction of practice; and ads in newspapers, magazines and telephone directories that are dignified and do not compare ability and cost. A section on Solicitation of Clients follows which discourages use of direct mailings and the indiscriminate distribution of reprints and communications.]

Comments. These sections are too restrictive and not responsive to the realities of those in private practice.

Protection Against Accidental Damage [from the "Safety" section of the Standards. Text omitted here. ]

Comments. This section does not mention storage requirements for paper objects.

In addition to these specific comments, there were several general comments: Applicants for certification or Professional Associate status are required to subscribe to the principles and methods of the Code and Standard, although not all parts apply to the kind of work they do. Risk, though unavoidable in this work, is not acknowledged in the Code; a clause should be inserted that says this matter should be discussed with the client or custodian and carefully stated in treatment proposals. A problem in the everyday work of conservators employed by institutions is that the employer may not be operating with the same set of ethical guidelines: they may be asked to conceal damage to facilitate resale, perform unwise treatments, and so on.

(There were some very good comments from the floor afterward, but no record seems to have been made of them.)

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