The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 25, Number 1
Jun 2001


Conference on National Preservation Policy Planned

The Library of Congress has announced its intention to convene a national Preservation Policy Planning Conference this summer. This conference will draw on ideas developed during the Library of Congress bicentennial symposium, "To Preserve and Protect," held at the Library of Congress last October, as well as on recommendations anticipated in the report of the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Task Force on Retention of the Artifact." The focus of the conference will be on preservation of printed materials in original format.

The April news release from LC says that the challenge of preserving our print heritage—which continues to grow even as digital and audio-visual publications increase—remains a major concern for America's research libraries and archives. Book, serials and newspapers printed on highly acidic paper beginning in the mid-19th century are deteriorating inexorably. Mass deacidification techniques now hold the promise of arresting this deterioration, enabling libraries to retain original copies of works that in earlier decades would have had to be microfilmed and discarded. And many book publishers have begun using acid-free paper for their publications. But most newspaper and serials publishers continue to print on acidic papers, creating problems that will plague libraries for years to come.

To address these concerns, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has called for this national conference to develop an action plan for ensuring the preservation of the nation's printed heritage. For the past century, the Library has been a national leader in the preservation and conservation of materials in all formats. Even as we work to ensure sustained access to our newly created digital and audio-visual heritage, we must not lose sight of our responsibility for preserving those works created on paper. To fulfill this responsibility, the Library will work with appropriate partners, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Association of Research Libraries and others to develop a national plan for ensuring that American creativity will remain available to all future generations.

Bettmann Archive Will Move to Iron Mountain/ National Underground Storage

Corbis, the international digital photography firm, announced in April that it plans to build a state of the art, sub-zero film preservation facility in western Pennsylvania to store and preserve the massive and aging collection of the Bettmann Archive, and other historical images, for centuries to come. For this purpose, it is constructing a 10,000 square foot underground storage facility and film digitization lab that will preserve and make accessible worldwide the millions of photographs in the Corbis collections in their original form. Construction of the facility, and movement of the Bettmann Archive into it, is expected to be completed by winter 2002.

Henry Wilhelm, president of Wilhelm Imaging Research, is one of several outside consultants assisting Corbis in the preservation project.

Even before Corbis bought the Bettmann Archive in 1995, its administrators recognized that significant deterioration had taken place in its 17 million-image collection and in others like it. A preservation team had worked out a plan to care for the photographs where they resided in New York, but when the collection was sold to Corbis, the plan was expanded to include cold storage at Iron Mountain/National Underground Storage. The move will take place over the next eight months.

The facility will be environmentally controlled with specific conditions (-4°F, RH 35%) that are expected to prevent deterioration of the cellulose acetate film base as well as the unstable dye images of color transparencies and negatives found in historical collections.

(Information from a Corbis press release posted on the DistList April 23:

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