The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 10, Number 6
Dec 1986


Regional Disaster Programs: Drat and Damp

Electronic Imaging to Monitor Condition of Documents

The National Archives has contracted with the Jet Propulsion Lab through NASA to design a system for monitoring the Charters of Freedom--the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, all of which are on permanent display at the National Archives, inside airtight glass containers filled with an inert gas. Special attention will be given to changes in readability from ink flaking and fading, offsetting of ink to glass, and changes in document dimensions.

According to an article in the Archives' on the Record v.2 #1 (1986), JPL's conceptual design for the system includes the application of electronic imaging by a charge-couple device (similar to one designed for NASA's space telescope) and computer analysis of image data (similar to the analysis of the space probe data of Jupiter, Saturn, and their moons that was sent back to earth from Voyagers 1 and 2).

JPL subcontracted the engineering design and fabrication of the system to the Perkin-Elmer Corporation of Danbury, Connecticut. The installation and operation of the system will be completed by the bicentenary of the Constitution in 1987.

The original interest in a monitoring system grew out of a report received in 1981 by Rep. Charles Bennett that the documents were deteriorating. The Archivist appointed a committee to investigate their condition. This committee had four members: Norbert Baer, Paul Banks, Leslie Smith and Peter Waters. It consulted with 16 other experts and reported in 1982 that they could find no evidence of recent deterioration. The ink is missing from the Declaration of Independence in places, but this appears to have been caused either by the lifting of the ink during the making of a damp transfer copy in the early days, or by early attempts at restoration involving moisture. George Stout examined it before it was encapsulated in glass and found an unexpected high water solubility for the ink. The parchment does not appear to have been as well prepared for receiving the ink as it should have been, either.

The committee made 13 recommendations of which the use of new technology for monitoring the documents' condition was one.

Joint Research on Effect of Fumigants on Collections

The Getty Conservation Institute Newsletter for Fall 1986 reports that the GCI has joined forces with the Smithsonian, the Canadian Conservation Institute and Dew Chemical Company to study the effects of fumigants on physical and chemical properties on both museum artifacts and conservation materials. They started with sulfuryl fluoride in June, with each lab specializing in its effects on a different kind of material. The CCI, where Helen Burgess is the principal investigator, is studying its effects on cellulose and lignin. Dow Chemical is not investigating any effects; its role is to do the fumigation. Beth new and artificially-aged materials will be used. For more information, contact James Druzik, Associate Scientist, Extramural Research, Getty Conservation Institute, 4503 Glencoe Ave., Marina del Rey, CA 90292.

A "Users' Group" for Bindery Customers

The Heckman Bindery, Inc., of North Manchester, Indiana, held their Customer Council meeting in June 1986. In addition to Heckman personnel, attendees included Carla Montori, Indiana University; Toby Heidtman, University of Cincinnati; Doug Phelps, Vanderbilt University; and Joline Ezzell, Duke University.

Prototype Copier Finds a Home at USC

The face-up copier developed for the American Library Association has not attracted the interest of manufacturers willing to develop and market it, so the prototype is the only one of its kind so far. It is not rusting away in a storeroom anywhere, however: it is seeing good use at the University of Southern California, where it is photocopying title pages of fragile and tightly bound books for the 18th Century Short Title Catalog. Without this copier, the alternative would be to copy them by hand. There are other Sharp copiers there, and technicians who understand then, so it has good maintenance.

The English face-up copier, the "Archivist," is also there, not as a prototype but as a production model.

Political Nominee Does Not Become U.S. Archivist

On October 2, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee decided not to act on the controversial nomination of John Agresto for U. S. Archivist (head of the National Archives) and thus prevented any chance of his confirmation during the 99th Congress. Resubmission of Agresto to the next Congress is unlikely. His strong ties to the Reagan Administration and the manner in which the White House Personnel Office politicized the selection process were judged to be counter to the intent of the law that made the Archives an independent agency.

Congress Funds Granting Agencies; NHPRC Lives

The Higher Education Act, which provides many millions of dollars to libraries, was reauthorized for another five years in September. Title II of this act is the part that is relevant to libraries: "Academic Training and Library Technology Enhancement." It has four parts: Title II-A, College Library Resources (authorized at $10M); II-B, Library Training, Research & Development ($5M); II-C, the part usually used for preservation, Strengthening Library Resources ($10M); and II-D, which concerns computers, College Library Technology & Cooperation Grants ($5M). The ALA lobbied for this reauthorization.

Historians lobbied for adequate funding for NEH and NHPRC, which have been supporting preservation in libraries and archives. The National Endowment for the Humanities got $139M, a small increase over the $132M received in 1986; the NEH Office of Preservation received $4M, which brings it a bit above where it was before the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings cuts last year. The National Historical Publications and Records Commission got $4M, despite the fact that for the last six years the Administration has recommended zero funding for NHPRC grants.

Historians (and others, as for NEH and NHPRC) also lobbied for historic preservation funding and the National Archives budget, both of which received support at about the same level as in the past. the Library of Congress got a $14M increase over 1986, which means it can stay open evenings and weekends, and will not have to cut down on books acquired or cataloged.

Preservation Administration Job Market Studied


Michele Cloonan is just finishing a study called "The Evolution of Preservation Librarianship: a Study of Job Descriptions from 1975 to 1985," as part of the work for her Ph.D. Over this period, 62 positions were announced in 38 different institutions. Most of these positions were announced in Abbey Newsletter or American Libraries, which had 25 announcements each, counting duplicates. Next, with 15 each, came Chronicle of Higher Education and College & Research Libraries News. CAN was next with 11. Forty ads required an MLS but 12 offered alternatives to an MLS. in 1985, the mean minimum salary offered was $22,539 (by comparison, beginning professionals in university libraries got $15,699 in 1984; department heads got $26,896).

Book Dealers' Binding Services

Libraries ordering their books through certain book dealers can have soft cover books bound in hard covers by the dealer, so that they arrive at the library prebound. The cost is around $6.00 a volume, which is not a bargain, and the quality of binding in the samples received at Brigham Young University from two different dealers was inferior. One book in each batch had been trimmed into the print on the fore edge. The work had been done not by a book manufacturer, but by a library binder in each case. This is one of the situations in which librarians can require conformity to the LBI Standards, which not only forbid trimming into the text, but require a minimum trim (p. 15, Feb. issue of this Newsletter).

You Can Trust Paper and Microfilm

The National Research Council's recent book of recommendations to the National Archives, Preservation of Historical Records, considers in turn each of the media on which historical records might be preserved, and concludes that neither magnetic recording media nor optical disks are suitable, despite their wide use and recording density, because of their rapid obsolescence. The media outlive the machines they are played on. Paper and microfilm, on the other hand, may last up to 1000 years, and do not require sophisticated equipment to be read.


The library binding contract for the Library of Congress was awarded as of October 1 to Wert Bookbinding Company in Pennsylvania and Joseph Ruzicka South, Inc., in North .... The AAM is moving December 3 to 1225 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 (202/289-1818).... The Metropolitan Toronto Library's Audubon, worth about $1.6M, will be disbound, restored and matted for display at a cost of about $103,000 Canadian ($74,000 U.S.).

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