The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 18, Number 1
Apr 1994


Environmental Specs for the National Archives

There are five sets of specifications for temperature and relative humidity in the storage areas of Archives II, NARA's new building in College Park, Maryland. They range from normal office conditions (70°, 45%) to below freezing and quite dry (25°, 30%). Only one of the specifications allows RH above 35%. In all cases, the temperature is allowed to vary 2° above or below the value. All but the first RH spec permit a variance of 3%; the first allows a 5% variance. [Numbers have been assigned to the conditions by the editor, not by the National Archives.]







Textual & cartographic stacks




B/W picture film, audio tapes & sound recordings; Nixon presidential records




Glass negatives, b/w photographs, slides, negatives & posters; electronic records




Color photography film, slides & photos




Color motion picture film & color serial film

LC & Park Service Debate Custody and Display of Document

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and the conditions under which it should be exhibited, and for how long, are the subject of a debate that is taking place between the Library of Congress and the National Park Service. It will ultimately be settled by two congressional committees, according to an editorial and news story in American Libraries for April 1994 (p. 292 and 296).

There are five copies of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln's handwriting, two of which belong to the Library of Congress. For 13 years, LC has lent them alternately to the Park Service for exhibition at the park on the battlefield site, but in 1992, out of concern for the condition of the documents and the wishes of the donor, LC decided not to lend them for exhibition any more. The New York Times ran an editorial in favor of the Park Service; Librarian of Congress James Billington replied in a letter published March 3, explaining the decision and offering a high quality facsimile instead. Both sides took their case to the General Accounting Office, which sent a report to Congress that is said to be "totally biased" for the Park Service. Now Congress has to decide.

The editorial in American Libraries urges readers to write to Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Vic Fazio, chairs of the Subcommittees on the Legislative Branch of the Committees on Appropriations in the Senate and House, respectively. It says, "Tell them the risks are real, and that LC is faithfully doing what libraries do."

Moving NARA, Step by Step & Year by Year

Having long outgrown its downtown quarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, the National Archives has begun a massive move of a significant part of its holdings and services to a new state-of-the-art building, the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. The move itself is an extraordinary undertaking. It will take an estimated 1,133 tractor-trailer truckloads and approximately three years to move 765,934 cubic feet of records into the new building. It will also require special measures to transport old and fragile materials to their new home.

The new facility, known informally as Archives II, was completed on time and under budget. It will provide improved accommodations, services and a technological infrastructure to researchers in addition to providing the world's most advanced archival preservation facility. The move is necessary to accommodate and preserve the ever-growing volume of historically significant Federal records. A dedication ceremony for Archives II is scheduled for May 1994.

Now open at Archives II are the Nixon Presidential Materials Project, the Cartographic and Architectural Branch, the John F. Kennedy Assassination Collection, and the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch. The Still Picture Branch is scheduled to move May 2.

Each of these collections or branches has its own telephone number, starting with 301/713-. Their extensions are, respectively, 6950, 7030, 6620 and 7060. The new address is National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.

Disaster Service Expands Coverage of Artifacts

BMS Catastrophe, Inc. (BMS CAT) has announced its new Fine Arts and Conservation Division, under the auspices of Stoneledge, Inc. Fine Arts Conservation, and its Director, Gordon Lewis. Stoneledge brings to BMS CAT its expertise in restoration of art objects, documents, archival and library material, and rare books and manuscripts. Their practice is the largest private conservation practice in the United States, with experts on their staff from the Museum of Modern Art, Freer Gallery, Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg and the Australian National Collection. The BMS CAT/Stoneledge collaboration is joined by consultant and speaker Susan Swartzburg, author and Professor of Library Collections Management at Rutgers. For information, contact Pat Moore, Director of Disaster Recovery Division, BMS CAT (800/433-2940 or 817/332-2770).

Five-Month Fire in Underground Storage Complex

The report in the Jan./March Disaster Recovery Journal raises almost as many questions as it answers. "Disaster Recovery Service Saves Almost 20,000 Rolls of Film," by Robert Salmon (a public relations representative for Eastman Kodak) gingerly describes how Ameritas Life Insurance Corporation's backup microfilm records were damaged by heat and humidity ("beginning to stick together") but saved by Kodak's disaster recovery service, which shrink-wrapped each roll to keep it moist until it reached a recovery lab. (Does this mean 20,000 little shrink-wrapped packages?) There the film was washed, cleaned and inspected "to determine what other treatments could be taken"--but the author does not say whether any damage was found or what other treatments were "taken."

Among the questions raised: What was the name of the underground storage complex in Kansas City, Missouri? And was it really within city limits? The fire, which was so intense that it melted a bulldozer (supposedly), burned for five months; how long did it burn undetected, and/or why did it take so long to put it out? How do you put out a fire in an underground storage complex? Are other underground complexes susceptible to such fires? What did the fire feed on? Was there any gas or coal in the ground?

After burning for five months, the fire took three months to cool down. The microfilm had been stored in the same complex as the melted bulldozer, but how far away was it, and how do you restore microfilm that has been subjected to heat and moisture for eight months, unless you copy it? Wasn't the image affected at all? The fire started in mid-December 1991 in the food storage area of the 70-acre complex, Salmon says, but what was food doing in an underground storage complex? What else was damaged in that underground fire? Didn't the storage company have a disaster plan? Does any underground storage company have a disaster plan?

Conservation Science Projects in Australia

The Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM), like the AIC, has a Conservation Science Group. The Coordinator is David R. Tilbrooke, who lists 28 research projects of the past, present and future, at two member museums, in the December AICCM National Newsletter . Some of them are:

Past projects:

Current projects:

Future projects:

NISO Standards Work in Progress

Five subcommittees in Committee Z39.48 of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), and one in Committee Z39.26, are working on topics that relate to preservation:

Subcommittee (SC) R - Environmental conditions
SC MM - Exhibitions
SC QQ - Theses and dissertations
SC SS - Information in catalogs and advertisements
SC ZZ - Library binding
Z39.26 - Advertising of micropublications

Forthcoming & Proposed ISO Standards

The draft standard for "Archival Papers" (ISO/CD 11108) has had most of the work done on it, so it may be out soon. It is primarily "for documents and publications intended to be kept for use permanently because of their high historical, legal or other significant values." It is based on ISO 9706, the permanent paper standard described in the July issue of this Newsletter, but in addition it specifies a certain fold endurance and a fiber composition of cotton, cotton linters, hemp, flax or ramie. The full text of the draft ran in the Conservation DistList on April 11; comments are invited. (Instructions for getting onto the Cons DistList are in the August 1992 Abbey Newsletter.) Send comments to Chair Rolf Dahlø in Norway, tel. 47-22-43-08-80, fax 47-22-56-09-81, or email <>.

Technical Committee 46, Subcommittee 10 (TC 46/SC 10), which drafted the above document, is also working on a standard for edition bindings, WD (Working Document) 11800. It covers binding materials and manufacturing methods for hard cover and soft cover books, at three levels of permanence, each of which has its own maximum kappa number for the paper of the pages, and other differences. Since it is still under discussion, nothing is cast in concrete yet.

Permanence of board is being considered as a new work item in TC 46/SC 10, and may be discussed at the May meeting in Stockholm. Rolf Dahl´┐Ż is the chair of this group and Ivar Hoel is the secretary. Formal input from the U.S. is channeled through ANSI and the U.S. representative, Margaret Byrnes; but informal comments can be given any time.

Permanent Paper Notice can Influence Book Purchases

In the Library Journal's Book Reviews section, quite a few of the short reviews of reference works include the note "permanent paper" as part of the citation. It also appears in reviews of about a third of the literary works, and almost none of the books on fine arts. Probably some of the books that do not bear this notice are also on permanent paper, but the publisher did not realize it.

IIC-CG Preliminary Program

The IIC-Canadian Group meets May 24-29 in Toronto. The preliminary program includes the following papers:

Preservation Strategies at the National Library: So Much to do, so Little Time, Money, Staff... - Jennifer Hudson

Better Binding Management: An In-House Database/Software Interface - Johanna Wellheiser

Reassessment of Relative Humidity Norms - Stefan Michalski

Re-evaluation of the Traditional Environmental Guidelines for Museums - Charlie Costain

The Penetration of "Acids" into Books and Paper: Modelling of Three Commonly Observed Patterns, and the Implication for Cost-effective Storage Systems - Stefan Michalski

In addition, there will be papers on the ultrasonic mister, an environmental chamber, disaster planning, Internet and Express software, and enzymes.

Motter Bookbinding Shuts Down

On January 10, the assets of Motter Bookbinding of Muskogee, Oklahoma, were sold to ICI (Information Conservation, Inc.), which formed Southwest Library Bindery (800/543-5794).

CBIX, a Conservation Business Info Exchange

Conservators in Private Practice is a special interest group within AIC. Last October the CIPP board approved development of a new electronic information exchange, accessible via the Internet, called CBIX. It was tested during the winter and spring. For more information, send email to, or call John Scott.

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