The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 11, Number 7
Oct 1987


Three-Year Program In Bookbinding And Conservation

An advanced three-year program directed by Chris Clarkson, and entitled "Bookbinding and the Care of Books," began in Septenber at West Dean College, Sussex, England. This full-tine residential program, mainly for postgraduate students with an interest in bibliographical studies, will concern itself with books and bookbinding, their history, preservation and conservation. It is structured around workshops, carrying out commissions and doing research on materials and techniques pertaining to library and archive materials in general, and books and manuscripts in particular. It is based upon an apprenticeship type system and strengthened with formal classes and lectures covering various aspects of bookbinding and bibliographical studies. There will also be short workshops given by visiting specialists in allied subjects, such as taming, papermaking, parchment manufacture, tawing, and printing. These will be practical workshops rather than theoretical, so that the student acquires some understanding of the nature of a material or technique and its subtleties of character.

Correction: Permalife Not the Same as Perma/Dur

In the August issue, in the front-page article on calcium carbonate content of archival papers, one paper was mistakenly referred to as "Howard Perma-Dur" and identified with Permalife. It should have been referred to as "University Products Perma/Dur" and it should not have been identified with Permalife. David Magoon, President of University Products, writes that "Perma/Dur® is the registered trademark of University Products (and has been since 1972)... Perma/Dur® (a contraction for Permanent and Durable) denotes a high standard of Archival Quality for several papers made by several different paper mills, including Howard Paper ....... Howard makes at least 3 different grades for University Products to our specifications which may differ from their standard mill brands, yet are identified as Perma/Dur®... Perma/Dur® is available only from University Products or its authorized distributors."

All this points up a basic distinction that should be borne in mind by anyone trying to understand how paper is distributed and sold in this country. Mill brands like Permalife are made by the paper mill to its own specs, carry the name of the mill or the paper company that owns the mill, and (with few exceptions) are sold only through distributors. Private brands like Perma/Dur, on the other hand, are made to the distributor's specifications (and not always by the same mill), carry the trade names given them by the distributor, and are sold directly to the consumer. In both cases, the paper is available only through a distributor, not directly from the mill. The paper mill stands behind the quality of its own mill brands, and the distributor (e.g., University Products) stands behind the quality of its own private brands.

James Billington is New Librarian of Congress

Dr. James H. Billington, a widely respected scholar and administrator, was sworn in as the 13th Librarian of Congress on September 14.

Professional Historian Nominated to be U.S. Archivist

President Reagan nominated Dun W. Wilson, director of the Ford Library, as Archivist of the United States, on Sept. 10. Dr. Wilson is one of a number of professionals recommended by historians' organizations for the post after John Agresto failed to be confirmed last year. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee staff anticipate being able to announce soon the date for the confirmation hearing.

Ever since the Archives became independent two and a half years ago, the position of Archivist has been vacant, and administrative functions have been carried out by the Acting Archivist.

Paper Conservation Internships At NEDCC

The Getty Grant Program of the J. Paul Getty Trust has given $117,000 to the Northeast Document Conservation Center to support three internships in paper conservation, each two years in length, to be phased in over a three-year period. The internships will be made available to paper conservators who have completed graduate training, but who require additional hands-on experience to be fully qualified for middle-level or advanced positions. The objectives of the program are to help develop bench skills in a supervised situation, as well as to develop flexibility, confidence, and judgement in determining appropriate treatment for a range of materials. In addition the interns will have opportunities for travel and research.

NIC Reduces Operations Drastically

As a result of the disbanding of the National Museum Act (NMA) as a funding agency, the National Institute for Conservation has been faced with severe financial problems. Despite a concerted effort by the Board and staff, the funds needed were not forthcoming. Quoting from the August 5, 1987 memorandum from David A. Shute to Designees and Alternates to the NIC Council, the "Board has considered all possible options. The only viable choice at this time, though not one accepted with any enthusiasm, is based on a serious reduction in organizational staff lug and a retrenchment to a more volunteer-based operating structure.

"The reorganization will, at a minimum, guarantee NIC s continuance for the next 13 months; and, it will reduce the basic operational costs by approximately two-thirds from current levels. This 13 months will provide the Board and Council with the time needed to further the national strategy and to take advantage of potential new sources of funding that are anticipated during that period." [From the WAAC Newsletter]

Five States Report Progress In Preserving Government Records

Alabama, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and New York reported encouraging developments in the Summer 1987

issue of the NAGARA Clearinghouse. (nagara=National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators.)

Preservationists from across the state recently met in Montgomery to form the Alabama Preservation Alliance, the first statewide private, non-profit preservationist alliance in Alabama. This group will promote preservation of historic properties and documents throughout the state and will develop a legislative agenda to seek the support of state legislators for worthwhile programs and activities. Funding will be provided through membership dues. The State Records Commission recently approved a Micrographic Laboratory Certification Program to set minimum standards for archival film and recognize the labs that meet these standards.

The Connecticut General Assembly in May approved a resolution calling upon appropriate state agencies to take steps to preserve Connecticut's historical records and endorsing the forthcoming statewide task force on preservation to be formed by the Connecticut State Librarian in 1987.

The Louisiana State Archives moved into a new $1.5 million building in Baton Rouge, which has exhibition cases designed to preserve the material exhibited; a climate control system; alarms and sprinklers; a security surveillance system; a 2,000-square-foot conservation lab with fumigator, deacidification room, and facilities for encapsulation and lamination; and an archives processing and microfilming section.

The New Hampshire operational budget provides $24,000 in each of the next two years for paper conservation.

The New York State Archives has an NEH preservation grant to microfilm over 600 cubic feet of selected archival records, 1760-1860, must of which are now inaccessible because of their fragile condition.

Italy Gets Another Conservation Association

L'Associazione Italiana per la Conservazione e il Restauro (Italian Association for Conservation and Restoration) has recently been founded, with headquarters at Corso di Porta Ticinese 12, 20123 Milan MI, Italy. The aim of the association is to spread and develop scientific and technical knowledge concerned with the conservation and restoration of paper and membraneous supports (parchment), sensitive materials and textiles. It plans to promote studies, research and cultural exchange, to collect, produce and distribute information, and to cooperate with other representative organizations: Italian, foreign and international. The first workshop, including a seminar and discussion of future activities, was held in June.

Alan Howell Hits The Ground Running

British paper conservator Man Howell was called to direct a salvage job only days after he arrived in Sydney, Australia, to serve as the preservation manager for the New South Wales State Library. A fire, probably set by an arsonist, had destroyed the home that housed a valuable collection of musical instruments, records, manuscripts and books on music, belonging to the Palm Court Orchestra. Of the 20,000 manuscripts damaged by fire and water, 8O% can probably be saved because of the prompt drying of damp manuscripts by organized volunteers, and freezing of wet manuscripts.

Although he was not called until 60 hours after the fire, he was able to use the State Library's disaster plan and disaster stores to "seed" the recovery. Most of the materials used in the recovery were donated by the Sydney business committee including paper towels, boxes, polyethylene bags, a freezer container and its transport, and a personal computer and software for sorting. Mr. Howell has high praise for the State Library's disaster plan, initiated in 1975 after a visit by Sally Buchanan. As a result of this experience, they have decided to add to their kits whistles (to round up people when you want to speak to then all, if communications are down) and chalk (to mark out areas on the ground quickly), among other things.

Leather Conservation News Moves To South Carolina

Paul Storch, editor of LCN, has accepted the position of Chief Conservator for the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, and the publication will move with him. Publication of the Fall issue will be delayed, probably until December.

Back issues are being handled by the Texas Memorial Museum as announced in the August issue, p. 97, of this Newsletter. Requests for current subscriptions should be sent to Paul Storch, Conservation Department, South Carolina State Museum, 301 Gervais St., P0 Box 100107, Columbia, SC 29202-3107.

International Conservation Research Index

This index, whose purpose is to produce a directory of researchers who are active in the field of conservation, was conceived during a 1985 meeting of research lab directors at ICCROM (the Rome Center).

During 1986, over 1,200 forms were distributed, both by mail and during congresses and symposia. A 45% response rate was obtained. ICCROM is now busy sorting out the forms by subject and preparing to computerize the index.

Hands-Off Condition Monitoring For The Charters

If you had to know whether some very important documents were deteriorating, or had deteriorated at all since the last time you checked; and if the monitoring method had to be absolutely nondestructive; and if you couldn't even touch the documents because they were sealed in a glass case; then you would be pretty well limited to optical methods. The National Archives was in this position with the Charters of Freedom (the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights), so it asked the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to design a very sensitive optical monitoring system. The JPL worked for five years and did indeed cone up with a very sensitive system, which it had built by Perkin-Elmer. It was installed last spring and tested this fall; baseline imaging has thus far been completed on five of the seven sheets of parchment comprising the Charters of Freedom. The picture elements (pixels)--1,000 to an inch--are interpreted in digital code and analyzed by computer. Each pixel can record 1,000 variations in reflectance (compare this with the eight levels of reflectance currently used in a computer program to enhance the faint text of the Codex Syrus-Sinaiticus, a palimpsest). The equipment takes up two entire rooms at the National Archives, if you count the darkroom, and includes a three-ton optics table, on which the documents are placed. The table is supported by granite risers on either end, and four legs filled with nitrogen to isolate the surface of the table from vibrations of the earth (which are considerable, because of heavy traffic on the streets surrounding the building).

Lightweight Coated Paper On Alkaline Base Introduced

In the report of the National Library of Medicine hearing on permanent paper (AN, Mar. 1987, front page), the impression was given that Warren Paper Company was already producing an alkaline paper suitable for medical journals, but in fact it was not introduced until a few months ago: 45 lb. Somerset Gloss, "the first super lightweight, groundwood-free 45 lb. #4 Gloss coated paper." The medical journal publishers were demanding very lightweight paper because it saved so much on postage: 38 to 45 lb. So this should make then happy--or start to make them happy.

Training Bottleneck Broken By Internship Grants

Preservation is a complex activity, or set of activities, that calls for a level of administrative ability and technical knowledge unusual among librarians or other professionals in the collection-holding institution. The need for trained preservation administrators has been partly filled by the program at Columbia University, but employing institutions have also been pleased by candidates that have served internships instead of, or in addition to, going to the University. (Before the Columbia programs were under way, people with book arts backgrounds were sometimes hired for preservation administration jobs, because they were the most likely candidates; at least they had a knowledge of materials.)

As a way of estimating the size of the potential demand for preservation administrators, consider that the Association of Research Libraries alone has 118 member libraries, and each of them should eventually have a preservation program with one or mare preservation librarians. Other libraries need them too, as well as archives, historical societies and other organizations.

The Columbia Programs have only produced 15 preservation administrators since they were founded in 1981, though they expect to graduate an average of 12 a year over the next three years. Graduates are being produced at an increasing rate, but the need for them is growing faster. The availability of preservation administrators to head all the microfilming programs that need to be established was an issue in the March Congressional hearings on brittle books (AN, June 87, p. 51).

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has supported a good number of internships to meet this demand. It made grants in 1983 to five institutions for internships in preservation administration: Columbia, Stanford, Yale, the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress. These grants had a three-year term; within that period, a varying number of interns might be trained, since the training period was set by the institution and varied between six months and a full year. Earlier this year, the Mellon Foundation renewed its support to three of the original institutions: Stanford, Yale, and the New York Public Library. Others may be named later on; there is no intent to limit 1987 grants to these three.

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