Conservation OnLine--Nuts, Bolts, Hooks, Lines, and Sinkers
It has always been my intention to lay out some of the background of the server, how it came to be, why it is the way it is and why it isn't better but will be someday. Unfortunately, that's the sort of project that tends to get shunted aside as more pressing needs are dealt with. Rather than drop the idea altogether, I've decided to dump some rather ill-organized and incomplete chunks of text into this document in hope that (a) someone may find something of interest here and (b) maybe I'll slowly add to it until it starts to cohere into something worth reading. If not, all we've lost are a few moments and some mental confusion :-)
Anyone preparing pages for CoOL should read the guidelines for authors.
People interested in the hostname can see Why palimpest?
|Summer 1987||Conservation DistList begins operation
A flier was posted on the (non-electronic) bulletin board at the 1987 AIC Annual Meeting, inviting people to participate in the nascent DistList [I am not certain about this, but I think it is accurate]. Over the summer a very few people responded and discussions began. The message traffic from the first few months was not saved. Originally the list ran on forsythe, a mainframe at Stanford (an IBM 3090 running MVS, for those who care). It started out as a manual-implementation-reflector. That is, people would send messages to me personally, and I'd send them out to a list (which was implemented as very crude macro-expansion). Sometime during the first year, the few dozen participants agreed that a digest would be preferable.
The first message in the DistList archives 28 Oct 87, from Robert Espinosa is not actually the first DistList message, simply the first one retained. The "instances" of the first year, as they appear in the archives, are reconstructions. That is, they do not reflect actual digests as they were mailed out, especially the first one (the later ones during that year may, in fact, be "real").
Since the first year, the DistList's "emission cycle" (ok, "volume year") has begun around the time of the AIC Annual Meeting.
At the time of its first messages, there were no museum- or archive-oriented lists on the Internet and there was only one library-oriented list, Notis-L, (a list devoted to Notis, an Integrated Library Package), hence my claim that the DistList was the first library, museum, and archive-oriented list on the Net. Very shortly later (within months) PACS-L appeared and very rapidly grew to be a major list with a huge subscribership).
|Sep 1988||Cons FileList announced
The Cons FileList was a small-scale document distribution service. It was always a strictly manual operation; people would send me email requesting a document and I'd email it to them. My initial note about this could be considered the hint of the future development of Conservation OnLine:
|Summer 1990||I mention to Eleanore Stewart that I hoped that the DistList participant list would grow to 100 people by the end of the yearly cycle (by June 1991)|
|May 1991||DistList participation list grows to 202 people.|
|May 1992||Ellen McCrady contributes "List of Permanent Papers, Standards Met, and Main Use" to the Cons FileList. I believe this is the first Abbey Publications presence in CoOL|
|Feb 1993||CoOL WAIS Servers publically announced.
The following databases were part of the initial roll-out. All were publically registered with the global WAIS Directory-of-Servers. For much of its history, CoOL's WAIS servers constituted 1-2% of the registered WAIS servers.
|Feb 1993||Pat Battin gave permission for SUL to mount
Commission on Preservation and Access documents.
Later that February we discovered that none of CPA's documents existed in machine-readable form, and a long process of scanning/OCR began. A substantial body of material was converted and mounted by the time CoOL's gopher facet was announced (Apr 1994)
|Jul 1993||WAAC Newsletter added to CoOL
Volumes 9-18 were OCR'd, and mounted as plain text. The database was backfilled with earlier and later volumes over time.
|Nov 1993||PhotoHst archives added|
|Apr 1994||CoOL Gopher added
Gopher service ran in tandem with WAIS service.
|May 1994||First AIC documents added to CoOL.
AIC Ethics and Standards Committee supplements on propose revisions to the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice and all of the committee's columns in the AIC Newsletter for 1993-94 were added. I believe this was the first AIC presence in CoOL.
|Jun 1994||CoOL Web server announced
At this point CoOL operated as a triad WAIS, Gopher, and Web servers running simultaneously. The three "facets" covered distinct, but overlapping, portions of the document space. Among the first "web-only" documents was an electronic hypertext edition of Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: A Descriptive Terminology, by Matt Roberts and Don Etherington, an out-of-print Library of Congress publication. This document is still onel of the most popular items in CoOL.
Simultaneously with the rollout of the web server, operation of the Cons FileList was terminated.
|Oct 21, 1994||CoOL listed in Scout Report|
|Jan 1996||Gopher and WAIS facets phased out
NB:In January 1996, the Gopher and WAIS facets, having become largely redundant, were phased out, leaving only the WWW facet, with WAIS (and other search engines) used as back-end tools (i.e. WAIS is still used behind the scenes but the databases will be removed from the central server-of-servers and it will no longer be possible to access them directly with a WAIS client; it will be necessary to use CoOL's various search pages). The change was announced in the DistList with the following note:
|Apr 1996||CoOL becomes first North American Mirror site for the International
Council of Museums (ICOM)
|Jun 26, 1996||The Gopher facet of CoOL ceased operation completely|
|Jan 20, 1997||CoOL selected as a NetGuide Gold Site. "NetGuide has screened over 100,000 URLs and reviewed more than 50,000 sites and our Gold Award goes to only 15,000 of the Web's best sites.|
|Jan 21 1997||CoOL awarded LookSmart's Editor's Choice Award. "This award conveys the highest standard for providing a useful and high quality website.... LookSmart, unlike other directories that simply index the web and include anybody that asks, has editorial standards for inclusion in the LookSmart Directory. We have viewed literally over a million websites to select the 110,000+ chosen to meet our standards."|
|Oct 1 1997||Washington Conservation Guild (WCG) added. (Announced in Cons DistList on Nov, 1997)|
|Nov 1997||Internationale Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Archiv-, Bibliotheks- und
Graphikrestauratoren (IADA) (International Association of Conservators
of Archival Material, Books and Graphic Art on Paper) added.
From inception, this area contained both English and German text.
|Dec 1997||United Kingdom Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (UKIC) mirror added|
|Mar 1998||Institute of Paper Conservation (IPC) added|
|Sep 1998||Chicago Area Conservation Group (CACG) added
|Oct 11 1998||Anthro TECH and The WWW Virtual Library: Anthropology choose CoOL as one of their Sites of the Week|
|Jan 1999||DistList participation list grows to 3500 people.|
|Feb 1999||Conservation Framer's Mailing List archives added|
|Apr 1999||AV Media Matters mailing list added|
|Dec 1999||gbwlist added|
|Feb 2000||Topic page on "Preservation Resources for the General Public" added|
|Apr 2000||Conservation DistList registration reaches 4000|
|May 2000||AMIA-L added|
|Jun 2000||Recognizing that, as a Stanford library resource, some complete bibliographic entities (monographs and complete serial runs) ought to be accessible from the <http://www-sul.stanford.edu/search/socii/> SUL/AIR library catalog, our cataloging department adds records for two serial runs (WAAC Newsletter and JCMS. At the same time, it makes links from existing catalog records for two monographs (which the library holds in print form): Matt T. Roberts and Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of books: A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, and James. R. Clifton, Stone Consolidating Materials: A Status Report. Additional title of complete monograph and serial run will be added as they are added to CoOL.|
|Sep 2000||PhotoHist archives in CoOL terminated
CoOL's PhotoHst archives were in operation between November 1993 and September 2000, with coverage from Sep 1, 1992 (beginning of PhotoHst) through Dec, 1999. In early 2000, ASU.edu began hosting PhotoHst archives at http://lists.asu.edu/archives/photohst.html and offered better service to PhotoHst readers than CoOL had provided—subscription maintanence in addition to searching and browsing. With the availability of the ASU services, CoOL's archives no longer seemed necessary, and there were some substantive issues that positively motivated the cessation of our service. By agreement between Richard Pearce-Moses and Walter Henry, the archives in CoOL were terminated. See below for further discussion of the reasons for this decision.
History: Conservation OnLine provided access these archives first via WAIS, then via Gopher, and finally via WWW. In both cases, access was search-only, and used WAIS as the search engine. From references in the text it appears that CoOL began offering access to PhotoHst (via WAIS database cool-photohst at aldus.stanford.edu, port 210) Nov 1993. In Jan 1994, the address changed from aldus to palimpsest.stanford.edu. The switch from Gopher to Web happened in April, 1996 and the initial URL was http://sul2.stanford.edu/byform/mailing-lists/photohstsearch.html (later <http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byform/mailing-lists/photohst/>.
The cessation of the PhotoHst archives is covered in the following email message (the message from Walter Henry initiated the discussion, is quoted in full by RPM. It was dated Thu Aug 17 12:26:43 2000)
From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Aug 17 13:32:36 2000 Message-ID: <399C4E0E3D848C5E@primenet.com>> Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2000 13:41:51 -0700 From: R Pearce-Moses <email@example.com>> Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org To: homo obsolescensis <whenry #x40; indy.stanford.edu>> Subject: Re: List Archive(s) References: <200008171926.MAA02030@lindy.stanford.edu>> Executive reply: Yes. This is really your call. If you link to the archives at ASU, I think it's important to let people know that they can subscribe for free and immediately set themselves to NoMail so they are bombarded with the list. Thanks for your kind words about the list. [personal remarks deleted here —wh] RPM homo obsolescensis wrote: > Executive Summary: Do you think it's time we removed the PhotoHst > archive from Conservation OnLine? > >The really nice archives for PhotoHst are at > > http://lists.asu.edu/archives/photohst.html > > http://lists.asu.edu/archives/photohst.html > Finally found a moment to look at it and discover it's password > protected, limiting access to subscribers. Now this is fine, in and of > itself but it raises a serious question for the archives in CoOL. Doing > this, IMHO gives the subscribers the reasonable expectation that their > posts are *not* made unrestrictedly public (while having to subscribe > to the photohst isn't much of a bar to access, it does, I think, rob us > of any claim that posting to the list implies tacit approval of making > the message public on the web. I notice that ListServ@lists.asu.edu > doesn't have an INFO file for PhotoHst (I thought it did in the past, > but may be mistaken), so there's nothing a subscriber gets at signon > time to indicate to them that their messages are going to end up > exposed to the non-subscribing public. > This is quite an important point. If you look, for example, at the INFO > file for ExLibris you'll find a note indicating clearly that messages > are available in publically accessible archives (explicitly referencing > not only the ListServ database, but the archives in CoOL. No poster > could claim convincingly that they had any reasonable expectation of > privacy. But with PhotoHst this no longer obtains, and I'm not at all > comfortable continuing to make the archives available here unprotected > while the official archive is protected. In fact, aside from the > legal/ethical matters, doing so would seem to going against your > wishes (or you wouldn't have password protected the asu archives). > Am I reading this all fairly clearly, or is there something I've > missed? > All that out of the way, there are other new factors: > 1. The new archives at asu are terrific, and much better than what I'm > able to offer here, even if I put in some time and work to enhance the > photohst archive here (something I've meant to do for ages, but never > quite found time for); their software is way better than what I have. > As I've told you many times, PhotoHst is a wonderful resource, one of > the best lists I know (despite any ripples from some subscribers), and > I never want it given second class treatment. > 2. In the past year or so the monthly log files I get from ListServ > are increasingly difficult to process (mainly because of the > increasing use of attachments and html mail, both of which wreak havoc > on the indexing software (old WAIS stuff), so I'm having to spend > several hours a month prepping the log files (and that's *after* > preprocessing them with programs I've written for the purpose). > 3. The recent change from monthly to weekly logs makes additional > work (small, but it's the small things that add up) > Given the legal/ethical question, the additional work at this end, and > the obvious redundancy, I think this a good time to consider cutting > off the service here and simply pointing from CoOL to your archive > site. > Let me know what you think, > onward, > walter
|Dec 2000||Conservation DistList registration reaches 4800|
|California Preservation Clearinghouse (CPC) added. This site was created by the California Preservation Task Force and hosted at cpc.stanford.edu until 2005.|
|Jan 2001||CoOL added to ISI's Current
Web Contents a new section of Current Contents
Albumen Photographs: History, Science and Preservation added to
CoOL. For more information on the project, see
About the site.
Although intended from conception to be an integral component of CoOL, Albumen, like the California Preservation Clearinghouse, has its own web server and domain name. This pattern is likely to become more common as CoOL evolves. I am working on methods to integrate metadata from remote 'participant' sites into a kind of union catalog in CoOL, and at the same time am experimenting with a search engine that will allow us to do full-text indexing on resources housed at remote sites. Consider this the first small steps in the evolution of CoOL from a central repository to a union catalog/portal to a set of content-related but physically distributed resources
|Mar 2001||Conservation DistList registration reaches 5000|
|Apr 2001||CoOL added to the Library Spot
|May 2001||Albumen selected as an editor's choice for Popular Science, June 2001 issue<|
|Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (JAIC) added to AIC web space.|
|At the AIC Annual Meeting (Dallas), Jean D. Portell discusses CoOL and the DistList in her talk on Conservation Cyberspace Communications and the Way We Work|
|Aug 2001||CoOL added to UNESCO Archives Portal|
|Dec 2001||Added Preservation/Conservation Presentations and Training Tools|
|Hannah Frost becomes Contributing Editor for the Audio page|
|Dec 2001||Conservation DistList registration reaches 5400|
|CoOL's Conservation/Preservation Information for the General Public selected as Family Tree Magazine Site of the Day, for Dec. 10, 2001|
|Feb 2002||ARSCLIST archives added|
|Mar 2002||CoOL cited as one of Infography's Six Superlative Resources about preservation of materials|
|Conservation DistList registration reaches 5600|
|Apr 2002||SOLINET mirror site terminated.
Because of technical changes at the SOLINET site (it is now database-driven), it is no longer possible to offer a mirror site here in CoOL. The SOLINET logo has been removed from the main page and all accesses will be redirected to SOLINET site.
|Hannah Frost becomes Contributing Editor for new Video Preservation page|
|Oct 2002||Conservation DistList registration reaches 5900|
|Nov 2002||Conservation DistList registration reaches 6000|
|Dec 2002||icom-cc-woodandfurniturewg archives added (ICOM Committee on Conservation Wood and Furniture Working Group)|
|Feb 2003||Hannah Frost becomes Contributing Editor for Motion Pictures page|
|The Infrared Reflectography DistList and its archives in CoOL established.|
|May 2003||Albumen is "[t]he featured collection this month" in D-Lib Magazine, May 2003, Volume 9 Number 5.|
|Jul 2003||Conservation DistList registration reaches 6200|
|Feb 2004||CoOL listed again in The Scout Report
|Mar 2004||American Institute for Conservation (AIC) site http://aic.stanford.edu/ undergoes redesign.|
|Jun 2004||At its annual meeting on June 12, 2004 in Portland, Oregon, The American Institute for Conservation of Historical and Artistic Works (AIC) presented Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources its Distinguished Award for Advancement of the Field of Conservation.|
|Nov 2004||ECCO area removed from CoOL. They moved their site to http://www.ecco-eu.info/. They had ceased to maintain their area in CoOL for some time.|
|Mar 2005||Conservation DistList registration reaches 7200|
|May 2005||CoOL named one of "101 best undiscovered family history Web sites" in the August 2005 issue of Family Tree Magazine|
|Oct 2005||The California Preservation Clearinghouse (CPC) moves to its own site and is renamed California Preservation Program. The site was originally developed by by the California Preservation Task Force and hosted from its inception at cpc.stanford.edu|
|Conservation DistList registration reaches 7400|
|Feb 2006||UKIC merged with Icon, which launched October, 2005, and at the request of the UKIC's webmaster, the UKIC mirror in removed was removed.|
|Oct 2006||Chicago Area Conservation Group (CACG) site ceases operation|
|Aug 2007||The Video Preservation Web Site added to CoOL|
|Apr 2008||Conservation DistList registration reaches 9000|
|Apr 28, 2009||AIC moves to new host http://conservation-us.org
Major bodies of content, however, remain in CoOL. The announcement on CoOL's main page read:
|May 2009||Conservation DistList registration reaches 9682 people from at least 91 countries|
|June 2009||Conservation DistList registration reaches 9696 people from at least 91 countries. Conservation OnLine contains, at a very rough guess, 120,000 documents, possibly quite a few more. (possibly as much as 250,000)|
|On Jun 11, 2009 (Cons DistList instance 23:6), Cath Tierney
reports the end of Stanford's support for CoOL and the DistList
Because of extraordinarily severe budget cuts resulting from the current economic situation's effect on Stanford's endowment, Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources must eliminate many programs in order to continue to support the teaching and research mission of the University. Among these programs are Conservation OnLine (CoOL) and the Conservation DistList. A final instance of the ConsDir contained entries for 9696 people from at least 91 countries.
Walter Henry adds
Some responses to announcement
Eight days after the announcement from Stanford, on June 19 2009 (Cons DistList instance
23:6), the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation (FAIC)
assumes responsibility for CoOL and the DistList:
Walter Henry continues working on both projects.
|Sept 2009||The Conservation DistList returns to service at cool.conservation-us.org, with the mailing of Instance: 23:8 Friday, September 18, 2009. During the rest of 2009, 15 instances are produced.|
|May 2010||Conservation DistList registration reaches 10,004 people from at least 92 countries|
|July 2010||AIC conducts large-scale survey concerning CoOL 2258 respondants in Mar 2009 and releases a Summary Report June 2010|
|December 2011||Nancie Ravenel posts appeal for support|
|September 2012||Bay Area Art Conservation Guild (BAACG) moves to a new home at baacg.org|
|October 2012||Hermitage Photograph Conservation Initiative|
|January 2013||Washington Conservation Guild (WCG) moves to a new home
|January 2013||Olivia Primanis posts appeal for support|
|September 2013||Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation (ANAGPIC) added to CoOL. Includes Student Conference papers and posters|
|CoOL's main pages redesigned (by Bonnie Naugle, FAIC)|
|December 2013||Richard McCoy appeal for support|
|August 2014||ACTS Facts added to CoOL|
|Dec 2014||Fletcher Durant 2014 appeal for support|
|Jan 2015||Stash: (Storage Techniques for Art, Science and Historyadded to CoOL|
|August 2016||Conservation DistList registration reaches 15,188 people from at
least 102 countried. Geographical breakdown:
|Conservation DistList goes on a hiatus for a few week as responsibility for operating it passes from Walter Henry to Matt Morgan.|
If you are the sort of person that enjoys outlines, here are some "slides" for an informal talk about CoOL given in house talk about CoOL, in May 1994. See also the text for an AIC talk that I gave in June, 1994, which touches at least a bit on CoOL, the DistList, and it's place in the information environment of the conservation professional
The Conservation DistList, which was the core material for CoOL when it began, still serves as the heart of the server. The following text was written in answer to a question about the archival policies of the list, but provides a bit of an overview of the server as well. Other bits of information about the DistList policies, etc., are contained in the welcome material that people receive when they sign onto the Cons DistList
Yes there is an archives—Conservation OnLine (CoOL)—where depending on the access method you use (WWW, a superset of the others, being optimal), you can retrieve the DistList traffic in several ways.
(This list is cumulative; each method has all the capabilities of the other), and all the authority controls remain the same:
WAIS: Full text searching for individual messages (i.e. Analytics). Messages are returned in order of (as far as WAIS can manage) relevance to your query. The messages are rigged to favour Authors name, Subject, and Date. Note that all are subject to some simple authority control. I maintain a name authority list (not perfect, but pretty good), and a more casual subject authority list (it's based on the subject that I assigned to similar messages in the past, with occasional recourse to the Art and Architecture Thesaurus). Dates are also forced into a consistent format.
Gopher: Analytics are searchable as above, plus:
Complete digests are browsable, arranged by date. (in this form you get exactly the same thing you get when you receive the DistList as a subscriber/participant).
World Wide Web: provides access to the gopher (hence all of the above) plus:
HTML representations of individual messages are browsable, organized by Author, Subject, and Date. (I may add wais indexing (or some other fulltext indexing/retrieval) at this level, but haven't decided yet).
Every individual message is available (with the exception of messages from the first few months of 1987 when this was just starting and we hadn't started taking it seriously). In the early days, the format was quite different (at the start it wasnt a moderated digest). If I recall, I created a fake 'Volume 1' to hold all the early messages but it doesnt represent the actual form in which the messages went out at the time.
As a moderated (heck, it's edited really) digest, the DistList (and it's archives) are subject to some very un-archival manipulations. For example, sometimes I'll retrospectively normalize the spelling of an important term (or normalize a subject field) to enhance the searcher's chances for finding what s/he wants. In this sense, this isn't an archive, but a database (I call it an archive only in the degraded 'nerdish' sense of the term.)
As for retention, I have a personal commitment to retain the messages (albeit with the interventions described above), permanently (whatever "permanent" means). There are two reasons for this. First, conservators and conservation scientists often need to know what was thought about/done to objects in the past, so knowing about a treatment common in 1990 that is obsolete in 2020, can have a real impact on conservation decisions. Second, and this doesn't apply just to the DistList but to mailing lists, Usenet etc, I believe that resources like this one will provide future historians (esp cultural historians) important evidence about what is beginning to look like an important historical period. Knowing how we talked to eachother (Usenet is a particularly revealing artifact in this regard), what conventions of discourse, what kinds of information we chose to convey and how casually or formally—and how quickly—we chose to write it, should make for interesting study in a hundred years or so.
Though it's not widely known, the DistList is actually an SGML application. It's all marked up to a very simple DTD, which I believe will give it some chance of surviving through the next few revolutions of the network wheel. I also have a notion to try but haven't broached the subject with the archives folks yet, to get our Dept of Special Collections and Archives to accept a permanent-paper version (yes, despite my own interest in preservation of electronic materials, I maintain considerable skepticism about the ability of a resource to survive repeated cycles of human decisions about migration, having seen too many things abandoned casually when migration costs or current priorities aren't in synch with the long-term preservation mission). At Stanford, we are just beginning to formulate a collections development policy for electronic materials, and I will, naturally, suggest the DistList and CoOL be officially 'acquired' for the collections.
The earliest set of CoOL logos were designed by conservator Erich Jacobs. There are a number of versions and a different one is selected randomly everytime you (re)load the main page. I've added a few of my own, including the principle blue square
Use statistics were at one time available, (though I can't imagine why anyone but me would have been interested in them). Note that they are often out of date, as I don't run the stats often, so pay attention to the dates and if you see improbable stats, (e.g. very low number of hits) try again in a week or two. After CoOL left Stanford such statistics were no longer gathered.
Since AIC took on responsibility for CoOL, the server has been running on a Slackware Linux system, x86_64 Intel(R) Xeon(TM) CPU 3.40GHz
At Stanford CoOL ran on an IBM RS6000 under AIX. Originally the server software was NCSA's httpd. In 1995 this was replaced with Netscape Communication Server 1.0 and in July 1997 this was replaced with Netscape Enterprise Server 2.01.