The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 23, Number 4



Preservation Management: Between policy and practice. Abstracts of papers given at a European conference sponsored by ECPA, IFLA-PAC and the National Library of the Netherlands, 19-21 April 1999, The Hague.

There are 18 abstracts, in addition to talks describing the three sponsoring bodies. Each speaker described one or more administrative aspects of preservation in a major organization or collection in their country. A majority of speakers (12) represented national libraries or archives. Only two countries-Germany and the U.S.-were represented by more than one speaker. (Ken Harris described mass deacidification at the Library of Congress, and Jan Merrill-Oldham described the programs at the Harvard University Library Preservation Center.)

This conference is significant because it was organized for managers, and the speakers themselves were managers who were involved in preservation one way or another; a good number of them were (are) totally immersed in preservation.

What a contrast to the situation in the 1970s! Then, hand bookbinders might be hired to mend books, but most were totally ignored when they suggested other conservation measures. There seemed to be no way to get through to anyone at the decision-making level. In time, however, barriers have fallen. Trained professionals grew in number; major issues like disasters, deacidification and microfilming of brittle books received public attention; and people knowledgeable about conservation (including some former conservators and current preservation librarians) were promoted to administrative positions.

Some of the most interesting abstracts were:

"Ensure preservation and improve access: Aspects of the DFG preservation funding program," by Ewald Brahms. The DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) is the main funding body for basic research in Germany, and it also supports scientific libraries "to improve the information infrastructure necessary for innovative research."

Maria Luisa Cabral's paper described the administrative challenge of setting up a preventive conservation strategy in the National Library of Portugal, where the whole institutional philosophy and approach had endorsed restoring of individual books.

The trend toward integration of preservation with other programs and policies in libraries showed up in several presentations. Mirjam Foot, speaking from the English experience, said that long-term maintenance of national collections must be approached through coordinated retention and preservation policies; Kenneth Harris described the advantages for planning that the Library of Congress has experienced as a result of the mass screening of collections before deacidification. In Switzerland, Susan Herion noted, the decision-making process relies increasingly on cost-benefit analysis, which is not a form of integration, but it does put preservation on a par with other functions for which this rational step is taken. (1G)


"The Dilemma of the Dialogue: Joint Decision-making by Curators and Conservators," by Sue Murphy. Modern Works, Modern Problems? Conference Papers, Institute of Paper Conservation 1994. Pp. 128-132.

Curators and conservators "too often have a history of building walls instead of bridges in their daily decision-making," the author says. "Disagreement often comes from misunderstanding and poor interpersonal communication skills in two professions which historically have focused on perfecting skills relating to objects rather than people." But she also attributes some of this disagreement to a code of ethics that demands the conservator's unswerving respect for the integrity of the object. Conflict tends to arise especially when loans or exhibits are considered and when curatorial and administrative interests, though legitimate, appear to conflict with those of the conservator.

Since Sue Murphy has worked both as a paper conservator and as a curator, she has seen both sides of the picture. Her paper is rational and constructive, though it does not offer a magic solution. She does say that conservators must be emotionally prepared to accept the situation when their recommendation is overridden; that the conservator should continue to consult with the curator to advise on such activities as proper installation and packaging for transport; and that a productive dialog will be encouraged if the ethics and roles of both professions can be better understood, and if policies and procedures at a local level are clearly delineated. (1G4)


Audiotapes of five sessions on preservation from the Society of American Archivists August 1999 meeting in Pittsburgh are available from Convention Recordings, Inc., 6983 Sunset Drive South, St. Petersburg, FL 33707 (tel. 727/345-8288, e-mail, fax orders 727/345-8494. They cost $10 per tape plus shipping, but it is not clear what the cost per session is. One informant at the company said there was one tape per session, and another said there were over seven tapes/session, on the average.

The "breakout sessions" and their session numbers are:

9. Appraisal and the long-term preservation of AV archival documents: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?

11. Selling security to management, staff, and researchers

17. To put out a fire: Fire suppression options for the millennium

23. New research in photographic preservation and digitization

40. Long-term preservation of electronic records: The InterPARES Project (2)


"Special Challenges-Fire and Fire Suppression," by Tom Goonan. (Subtitle: "Warnings regarding the use of space not originally designed for the storage of archival and library materials.") Paper delivered at the 14th National Archives Preservation Conference, March 25, 1999, "Alternative Archival Facilities." Papers from this conference can be found at

Parts of this paper were very technical and even the nontechnical parts were not easy to hear and understand. However, it is a very important paper. Until March 1999, the author was Chairman of the National Fire Protection Record Protection Committee, which is responsible for NFPA 232, Protection of Records and NFPA 232A, Fire Protection for Record Centers and Archives. His firm consults on fire-related matters.

Here are some of the things he said, from personal notes taken at the time:

"Sky-high records centers are hard to protect. The last place to store archives would be in a 50-foot stack."

"Mobile storage systems [compact shelving] 14 feet high scare me. Records in boxes would not be protected by sprinklers, but would smolder 30-45 minutes. Smoke detectors should be used with them, though they are not usually used in compact shelving."

"High-expansion foam [for fire suppression] is recommended in underground storage, as a backup. Sprinklers fail in most buildings because the water fails. But foam systems can fail too. Gas systems can fail from a variety of causes."

"Frangible [easily broken] wall and roof design is desirable [so the firefighters can let out the heat and smoke, and get directly at the fire with their hoses]."

"Basements are ... hard to ventilate and inaccessible to firefighters.... At the Chicago Records Storage Fire in 1996 there were nine fire trucks; it took ten hours to control the fire. There was a total loss of thousands of boxes of records. Three million dollars' worth of boxes and racks were lost. Total: $50 million. The wall was finally breached about six p.m., and they were able to save the building. Firewalls helped. The cause is still being investigated...."

The paper on the NARA website says serious fires occurred in four other records storage facilities soon after this one; three of them were determined to be the result of arson.

It has a page on what he calls "cavern storage"-underground vaults, which at first seem to be ideal storage places, until one considers the fire risk. The fire department's hands are tied when the underground area fills with smoke and the heat makes it impossible to work there. Access and water supplies are often limited. There is no way to vent the smoke and heat, and no natural drainage for water from hoses and sprinklers.

All this gives the impression that it is impossible to protect stored records against fire, which is not true. Goonan's paper points out effective as well as ineffective ways to protect buildings, underground storage facilities and their contents from fire. (2F7)


Management of Library Security. Association of Research Libraries SPEC Kit 247, July 1999. 101 pp. Price: $25 ARL members; $40 non-members, + $6 each for shipping & handling.

Only 40% of the 45 respondents actually had a security plan; nearly 2/3 have a designated security officer. The scope of the security policies varies. Manuals and procedures assembled in the book are sometimes well thought out and detailed, sometimes not. They include general policy or purpose statements, rules of conduct, personnel roles and responsibilities, emergency manuals and procedures, incident report forms and training aids. There is a nine-item bibliography which includes two items by experts from the preservation field. (2G)


ICOM Committee for Conservation Preprints, 12th Triennial Meeting, Lyon, 29 Aug. to 3 Sept. 1999. 2 v., 920 pp. Edited by Janet Bridgland. North American customers are advised to contact American Book Centre Inc., Brooklyn Navy Yard, Bldg. #3, Brooklyn, NY (tel. 800-556-9419; fax 718-935-9647; e-mail In England, Archetype Books sells the two volumes for £95 (about $152) + postage, so the price from American Book Centre is probably close to that. It is not possible to buy only one volume, though it would be nice if we could, because Vol. 2 includes Graphic Documents, Photographic Records, and Leather and Related Materials. (3.3)


"Bradel Binding," by Jim Dorsey. Binders' Guild Newsletter, vol. XXI #6, p. 5-12. This is one of Jim Dorsey's typically detailed, comprehensive and well-illustrated articles. It describes a type of binding that everyone seems to define differently-sometimes very differently. (3A3.1)


"The Development of Micro-Analytical Methodologies for the Characterisation of the Condition of Paper," by José Luiz Pedersoli Júnior. Paper given at the 9th IADA Conference, Aug. 15-21, 1999, Copenhagen. 10 pages. Pedersoli works at the Instituut Collectie Nederland in Amsterdam, and his e-mail address is

Analysis of old or valuable paper by standard methods developed for the paper industry requires large amounts of the paper and uses destructive techniques. ICN (the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage) is beginning a research project to develop microanalytical methods suitable for use with paper of artifactual value. The relevant properties have been identified, with special emphasis on permanence. Chromatographic, spectroscopic, thermal and microscopic techniques have been chosen to investigate. They intend to do a thorough job, working with samples no larger than 5 mg and using standard reference materials, comparison with standard methods, and interlaboratory testing. The author explains how and why they came to the decisions and choices they have made so far. There is a 58-item bibliography.

This is a very good paper, well written, on an important topic. (3B1)


"Aging and Stabilization of Alkaline Paper," by Jana Kolar, M. Strlic, G. Novak, and B. Pihlar. Journal of Pulp and Paper Science 24, 3 (1998), pp. 89-93. Reprinted in International Preservation News (IFLA) No. 19, July 1999, pp. 32-36, with six line graphs and a photograph of the first author. There are 40 bibliographic footnotes, citing work done in Canada, Slovenia, the U.S., Sweden, Russia, Germany, and France.

An earlier version of this paper was given at the 1998 meeting of the ICOM-CC Working Groups on Graphic Documents and Photographic Documents, the abstract for which appeared on p.51 of v.22 #3 of this newsletter. Before that, a paper on this same line of research, coauthored by Gabriela Novak, was presented at the 1997 conference on book and paper conservation in Ljubljana, Slovenia. So this work is getting the attention it deserves.

Even if this paper were nothing more than a well-written review showing the starting point and purpose of the research reported, it would deserve attention, because papers that bring together what is known about stability of alkaline paper are scarce and badly needed. Because research attention has been focussed on the instability of acidic paper for so long, it has been easy to overlook the problems of alkaline paper, which is vulnerable to oxidation and, under some conditions, to autooxidation.

Although questions have been raised about the effect of very high pH on paper stability, nothing has been settled yet. This research may change that picture.

The authors' purpose was to look at the key factors which could promote deterioration of alkaline cellulose during aging, and evaluate treatments and additives to lessen their effects. The three key factors they wanted to control were: high pH, transition metal ions (especially iron and copper), and groups, such as aldehydes and carbonyls, that are capable of initiating radical reactions. [A "group" in this sense is two or more closely associated elements which tend to remain together in reactions, usually behaving chemically as if they were individual entities rather than parts of larger molecules. Examples: OH (hydroxyl), COOH (carboxyl), CO3 (carbonate) and CO (carbonyl). When a group acquires an electric charge it is called a radical. - Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary]

Treatment with sodium borohydride didn't work. It did minimize the amount of carbonyls produced, but it took about eight hours to do the job, and the effect wore off during aging, possibly as a result of the high pH of the papers, which was between 9.0 and 9.6.

Sample papers were treated with reducing agents (including sugar), the chelating agents EDTA, DTPA and sodium phytate (to tie up or remove the metals), potassium iodide, and BHT. Sugar didn't work any better than the borohydride. In a month of aging at 80°C and 65% RH, the viscosity of the sugar-treated cellulose declined by 50-75%.

The iodide did not work by itself, but it did a super job if the paper had received a reduction treatment before deacidification. Sodium phytate did not work at all well (possibly because it is an alkaline compound, or because of the sodium; they think Mg or Ca may work better), and EDTA and DTPA had a limited effect. BHT worked, but was not as effective as potassium iodide. Future research will focus on antioxidants, including the reported antioxidant effect of lignin in bleached paper. (3B1.27)


"Sugar-Cellulose Composites III: The Incorporation of Sucrose into Paper as a Cellulose Substitute," by G. Graham Allan, Angel P. Stoyanov, Masahiro Ueda, and Amar Yahiaoui. Tappi Journal v. 82 #5, p. 165-171.

Sucrose (food-grade table sugar) added to the pulp slurry is hydrogen-bonded to the cellulose and distributed evenly throughout the paper. If the paper is beaten enough, the addition of as much as 10% sugar increases tear index values and tensile and surface strength.

(The authors do not say whether the paper tastes sweet or whether it is more attractive to insects, but it probably loses its nutritive qualities when it is well bonded to cellulose molecules.) (3B1.8)


"Restoring Paper Biblioliths," by L. Shmeleva and V. Simoutina (Research Centre for the Conservation of Documents, Russian State Library, Moscow). International Preservation News No. 19, July 1999, p. 28-30.

"Biblioliths" is a neologism for blocked books, whose pages are fused together after drying in a closed position. Perhaps the best known example of blocked paper was described in the jointly sponsored SA/IPC conference in Cambridge in 1980: "Prints off the Ice: The Conservation and Restoration of the Nova Zembla Prints," by W.P. van Oort and P.M. Oldervaart. These were packs of pictorial prints, left behind on an island in the far north in 1597. They were separated one at a time in Amsterdam between 1975 and the early 1980s, with the aid of enzymes in water and alcohol.

The Russian State Library's Research Center for Conservation developed another method of separating blocked pages using an electric field to separate the pages of books and sheets of paper dug up before 1876, which are described as fused by "cellulose macromolecule segments and/or polymer (protein or polysaccharide)" and by interfiber [hydrogen] bonding, not to mention mold. Instead of enzymes , they used the heat produced by sending an alternating current through the damp books and papers, while they were under pressure. Supposedly, the heat is generated not directly by the passage of electricity, but by the "oscillation of water dipoles in an electromagnetic field" at 50 Hz and 220 V. The pages or sheets were removed either singly or in groups; it is hard to tell, because the translation is awkward. It says, "...The sheets are gradually separated into thinner fragments. However, these fragments should not be split up into separate leaves until all the stiff sections have been taken out."

As the pages are separated, they are saturated with a gelatin solution in water and alcohol to strengthen them without gluing the leaves together. Only a third of the gelatin dissolves; the fraction that does not precipitate is further diluted with water and alcohol, and the block is impregnated with the resulting solution several times. It is described as a simple process that works even with papers that have been cemented together by mold. (3B2.17)


"Cyclododecane: Technical Note on Some Uses in Paper and Objects Conservation," by Irene Brückle, Jonathan Thornton, Kimberly Nichols, and Gerri Strickler. Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, Summer 1999, v. 38 #2, p. 162-175.

Conservators of paper and other materials sometimes have to use an aqueous treatment on something with a signature or other feature that is water-soluble. Existing solutions include the use of a vacuum table, fixative, or mask. After treatment, the fixative or mask may be either removed or left in place; both options involve risks. Cyclododecane, a recently introduced masking material, solves that problem: it removes itself by subliming (evaporating from the solid state) after the job is done.

This new material has a formula that's easy to remember: C12H24. It has waxlike properties, which allow it to be used for making casts of porous materials without leaving any permanent bits in the pores of the material after the form is removed. It can be melted for application to fragile objects or to flaking paint on art objects uncovered at a dig, to protect them while they are transported back to the museum. Somehow it can protect the oil paints in a painting from the solvents used to remove the varnish.

It is not perfect, however. The authors of this article explored its suitability for two purposes, one of which was a paper conservation application, masking of water-soluble areas prior to four different aqueous treatments. Samples used were images from a red office stamp and three inscriptions in iron gall ink. Protection was not perfect, but it was comparable to that provided by B-72, which is often used.

They formed the film of cyclododecane by melting it rather than applying it in an organic solvent, because the molten film provided a better barrier to the water. Protection was better on sized than on unsized paper, and on paper that did not expand a great deal when wet. To treat the signature, a wax melting pen was adapted to give out a thin line of molten cyclododecane, but the ink still bled when it was float washed. A chromolithograph and a chalk drawing were also tested, both successfully.

Further research is suggested, and sources are given for cyclododecane and three other materials that have similar characteristics. Another article on the same topic, but in German, was published about the same time as this one: "Cyclododecan in der Papierrestaurierung: Fixierung von wasserlöslichen Farben vor der Naßbehandlung," by Cornelia Bandow, Restauro 5/99, p. 326-329. The author warns that the method is very time-consuming and so should be used selectively. (3B2.33)


"Guidelines for the Conservation of Leather and Parchment Bookbindings," a translation from the 1995 Dutch publication, "Richtlijnen voor de Conservering van Leren en Perkamenten Boekbanden," can be downloaded from, the website of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Parts 2-6 alone take up 19 pages of fine print when they are printed out.

  1. Overview of leather and parchment manufacture
  2. Concise survey of conservation reatments
  3. Causes and phenomena of leather and parchment decay
  4. Damage categories and treatment
  5. Procedures and formulas for the conservation of leather bookbindings and the treatment of specific kinds of damaage
  6. Procedures and formulas for the conservation of parchment bookbindings
  7. Analytical tests
  8. Documentation
  9. Storage and handling
  10. List of formulas
  11. Concise bibliography (3D4)


Authentic Electronic Records: Strategies for Long-Term Access, by Charles M. Dollar. $75 from Cohasset Associates, Inc., 3806 Lake Point Tower, 505 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60611 (800/200-7667; fax 800/FAX-7667). (Year of publication not known.)

The publisher's blurb says,

"Authentic Electronic Records gives you the tools to create a long-term access strategy that is appropriate to your distinct organizational situation. [It also has:]

  • A Technology Primer for archivists and records managers [which covers] data representation, structure, storage, and records portability.
  • Cost data from the United States and Canada to help organizations plan a realistic budget within specific financial constraints." (3G)


Books on mold, to accompany the article on p.45:

Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control. Janet Macher, ed. Harriet A. Ammann, Harriet A. Burge, Donald K. Milton and Philip R. Morey, asst. eds. ACGIH, 1330 Kemper Meadow Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45240-1634 1999. $102 from ACGIH. ISBN 882417-29-1. 26 chapters, individually authored.

Biological Contaminants in Indoor Environments. Morey, Feeley, & Otten, ed. 1990. STP 1071. ISBN 0-8031-1290-4. ASTM, 100 Barr Harbor Dr., W. Conshohocken, PA 19428-2959. 610/832-9500.

Fungi and Bacteria in Indoor Air Environments: Health Effects, Detection and Remediation. (Proceedings of the International Conference, Saratoga Springs, New York, Oct. 6-7, 1994.) Eckardt Johanning and Chin S. Yang, editors. 228 pp. ISBN 0-9647307-0-7. Eastern New York Occupational Health Program, 1 CHP Plaza, Lathan, NY 12110. 1995. To place an order, call 1-800-877-2693.

Gravesen, S., J. Frisvad and R. Samson. Microfungi. Munksgaard, Copenhagen, 1994.

International Code of Botanical Nomenclature Adopted by the International Botanical Congress. Utrecht, 1950-

Kendrick, Bryce. The Fifth Kingdom. Mycologue Publications. 2nd ed. 1992. (Out of print)

[Proceedings, Third International Conference on Bioaerosols, Fungi and Mycotoxins: Health Effects, Assessment, Prevention and Control, Sept. 23-25, 1998, Saratoga Springs, NY] In press Nov. 1999. Over 90 peer-reviewed papers. To receive the announcement when the book is available, fax your name and address to 518/436-9110 or e-mail it to See website:

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