The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 21, Number 2
Jul 1997


Queen's University offers Mid-Career Degree

Conservators with a minimum of five years' experience and an undergraduate degree including studio courses and a chemistry component are invited to apply for admission to the Master's of Art Conservation (Research) degree program. This degree path is suitable for busy professionals with limited time for further studies. Students are expected to complete coursework and research during an initial eight-month on-campus residency period. Degree requirements may be completed after students return to their place of employment.

For more information, contact: Coordinator of Graduate Studies, Art Conservation Program, Queen's University, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada (ph: 613/545-2156; fax: 613/545-6889).

Parylene is not so Stable After All

The Canadian Conservation Institute's annual report for 1995-96 has a section for "Conservation Research," in which we read:

Recent studies of parylene's aging properties indicate that parylene is less stable than claimed in the commercial literature, an observation that has significant impact on parylene's use in treating fragile objects.

New Addresses

Central Research Lab Merges with Cultural Institute

Last April the Central Research Laboratory for Objects of Art and Science in Amsterdam, whose research has often been reported in this newsletter, merged with two other organizations into a new national institution, the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (Instituut Collectie Nederland). The other organizations are the State Training School for Conservators, and the Netherlands Office of Fine Arts.

The Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage will be a support institute at the service of anybody who has a responsibility for the preservation of collections in museums, archives, libraries and historic monuments. It will continue to investigate problems in the preventive conservation of a great variety of collection materials. Attention will also be given to the conclusion of the CRL's work on iron gall ink corrosion, and to aspects of conservation management in Dutch collections.

As before, the institute firmly believes in the value of international interdisciplinary collaboration.

Film Preservation School Opens

America's first full-fledged film restoration school was launched with the establishment last September of the George Eastman House School of Preservation. Enrollment was full for the 1996-97 year, and applications for the 1997-98 academic year were being accepted almost a year ago.

The four-quarter program provides students with a comprehensive knowledge of the theory, methods, and practice of archival work, ranging from documentation and cataloging to the physical treatment of moving image artifacts, their conservation, restoration, and public access. The individual hands-on approach to film archival work is a crucial component of the school.

To cover the broad variety of topics in the course, archivists, technicians, and curators from several institutions in the US and abroad have been invited for lectures, seminars, workshops, and training courses of the GEH Film Preservation program. The roster of instructors and lecturers includes over 30 specialists in the field.

State Library of NSW gives Lectures, Workshops for Public

The State Library of New South Wales, in Australia, gives a series of Conservation Access workshops and seminars which provide advice and training to the general public in preservation strategies as well as conservation treatment for items made from paper. Professional staff provide a total service in the conservation of individual items or entire collections.

Conservation Access is a commercial service of the library. Workshops give opportunities to hear talks by the experts, learn practical techniques and gain advice in preserving collections. People can bring along their items for assessment, advice and evaluation. All materials and tools are supplied and items can be taken home for use in preserving personal collections. The seven workshops and three refresher courses are:

Life of a photograph; Painted paper; Bound to last; Battered books made better; Defending documents; Enduring images; De-dramatizing disasters; Disasters revisited; Rerunning repairs; and Paper Repair plus.

For more information, contact Tamara Lavrencic, Preservation Consultant, State Library of NSW, Sydney NSW 2000 (ph: 61-2-9273 1676; fax: 61-2-9233 3192; e-mail

Family Scrapbooks Increase Preservation Awareness

For some reason, the public has become very enthusiastic in recent years about compiling family scrapbooks, and passing them on to the next generation or further. As a result, people are learning about acid-free paper, pH testing pens, compatibility of stored materials (especially with color photos), and other preservation concerns. Clubs, conferences, stores, mail-order suppliers and publications have sprung up to support these activities.

The July/August issue of one of the scrapbook magazines, Creating Keepsakes, announces three or four conferences and carries ads from a host of suppliers. A question-and-answer column has the following question: "What do 'lignin free' and 'buffered' mean? I've discovered many types of scrapbook-quality paper, but why is a combination of acid-free, lignin free and buffered more expensive than just acid-free? Is the combination better for my scrapbooks?" The column editor gives a fairly good answer to these questions, quoting representatives of International Paper and Light Impressions.

The next two questions had to do with whether stickers (sold for use in scrapbooks) were acid-free. The column editor did not realize that the permanence of plastic films depends on factors other than pH (at least not on the results of spot tests), or that pressure-sensitive adhesives are not archival because they will spread through the substrate in time and can't be removed easily.

Gaylord Collections Conservation Award

Clara Keyes of Morehead State University, Kentucky, received a $1000 grant for conservation training and an all-expense paid trip to the 1997 AIC conference. Applications are judged by Gaylord's Preservation Advisory Committee, an independent group of conservators, preservation administrators and preservation educators.

Criteria include the quality of the proposal, qualifications of the applicant and the potential impact of the proposal on the collections in the applicant's care.

Feather Fibers Could be used to Make Diapers

Last October, the New York Times ran an article about the possibility of making paper from chicken feathers. This was the suggestion of Dr. Walter F. Schmidt, a scientist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland, who says he has found a way to do it. He was preparing feathers for analysis when he noticed that the ground feathers felt similar to cellulose; so he tried making paper out of them. It worked. Although feathers are not made of cellulose, but of keratin, a fibrous protein found in wool, hair and fingernails, they are still soft and absorbent when they are reduced to single fibers.

The research that Dr. Schmidt performed was partly financed by Perdue Farms, the poultry producer, which generates many tons of feathers as a byproduct. Perdue Farms will not license the process, however, so the Agriculture Department is looking for companies to license it. Paper made from feather fiber should be very good for industrial filters, or for any use requiring extreme absorbency. (From the Alkaline Paper Advocate.)

Name Change: CLR -> LIR

On July 1, the Council on Library Resources (CLR) changed its name to the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

Fires in Document Storage Vaults

Last March, one of the Iron Mountain Records Storage facilities in South Brunswick, New Jersey, was damaged by fire. Another nearby Iron Mountain warehouse had had fires two and nine days earlier. An arson investigation is underway.

Iron Mountain Inc. stores government and corporate records at 117 sites around the country.

The owners have offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist. (From Disaster Recovery Journal, Spring 1997, p. 9.)

Standard Needs-Assessment Method to be Developed in UK

A research project has been initiated by the National Preservation Office (NPO) in Britain, in collaboration with the British Library Research and Innovation Centre (BLRIC), in connection with development of a national preservation policy. £51,136 (about $100,000) has been awarded to Graham Matthews and Paul Eden, in the Department of Information and Library Studies at Loughborough University, and Nancy Bell, Senior Conservator, Oxford Conservation Consortium, to develop a standard method for surveying collections.

For more information, or to share your own surveying experiences, contact Naomi Dungworth, Res. Asst., Dept. of Information and Library Studies, Loughborough University (tel: 44-1509-223074; fax: 44-1509-223053).

NY State Archives May be Funded to Assess its Collections

The NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission) funds documentary editing and records access projects, and a few preservation projects. In June, it was able to recommend one preservation project, subject to availability of funds: A contingent grant of up to $65,203, to the New York State Education Dept., to allow the State Archives and Records Administration to carry out a comprehensive collection assessment.

(For an account of the groundwork that has preceded this project, see Maria Holden's "Customized Tools for Assessing Preservation and Access Needs," on p. 95 in the 1996 volume of this newsletter.)

Funding for Library-Related Government Programs

The Administration's budget requests for 1997 for 16 library-related programs, and the amounts they actually received, are provided in a table in the February ARL (newsletter of the Association of Research Libraries). Seven programs (e.g., HEA Title III and Title IV-C) received significantly more than was requested; three (Library of Congress, NEA and NEH) received significantly less than was requested; and the rest received about the same amount. In every case, the budget request for FY 98 is at least as large as it was for FY 97.

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