Laboratory Upgrades: The Preservation Directorate is now positioned to provide increased leadership to libraries, strengthened by Library Service’s (LS) new strategic plan to develop a National Preservation Strategy that identifies LC’s responsibilities, including LC’s role in disaster response and recovery efforts, as well as by a one-time investment of $2 million to upgrade 25 year old equipment in the Preservation Research and Testing Division (PRTD). PRTD’s 5-year equipment plan has been accelerated into one year, enabling the lab to be the research leader for the 21st century for traditional, audio-visual and digital collections, by increasing its capabilities to identify new materials, develop new techniques and set new standards. For example, PRTD will be able to:
- Create unique and complete spectral “finger prints” of top treasures, including the Waldseemüller Map, using a full spectrum of light (ultraviolet, visible and infrared), in order to monitor changes in condition faster and more accurately.
- Identify quickly and precisely materials and decomposition mechanisms of magnetic media, in order to diagnose relative states of decay and develop selection criteria critical to decisions determining what must be reformatted before all is lost.
- Evaluate failure mechanisms of new digital storage systems, such as spinning disks or holographs, by identifying metal-catalyzed deterioration at the nuclear level rather than at a macro level.
- Evaluate new production prototypes for scanning vulnerable sound recordings, such as warped or dirty phonographs or cylinders, which previously had to be played with a stylus that could damage the recordings further.
- Mimic degradation caused by temperature and relative humidity on collection material at a microscopic level in an environmental scanning electron microscope, enabling, for instance, the establishment of precise, international guidelines for cold storage (which are currently not uniform) in order to improve environmental control standards.
- Analyze collections non-destructively, and in real time, without taking samples from items, distinguishing, for instance, between acetate and nitrate film in 3 seconds rather than 30 minutes, since sample preparation won’t be required.
- Examine collections in situ using X-ray fluorescence equipment portable enough to carry into storage areas, thereby reducing the risk of transferring collections or making them temporarily unavailable for use.
- Reduce the time needed for accelerated aging from 30 days to 3 days, thus gaining a 10-fold increase in efficiency for longevity and durability testing.
- Take and analyze air samples, in order to identify pollutants or other contaminants instantly.
- Attract leading scientists from many disciplines to join the Library in developing, testing, publishing and advocating innovative solutions to collections care, stabilization, storage and other emerging challenges for all stewards of cultural heritage, by providing space and equipment needed to accommodate such scientists.
IFLA PAC Center Initiatives: The Directorate worked with the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), and the IFLA Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Section to develop a special symposium on "The 3-D's of Preservation: Disasters, Displays, Digitization" and presented a paper on exhibition preservation policy and practice. The symposium noted that recent disasters around the world have highlighted the need for better planning and preparation to ensure survival of library collections and cultural materials; increasing numbers of exhibitions of library and archival materials point to the need for standards and best practices to make certain displayed items are not damaged; and digitization of materials is increasing around the world, yet the status of preservation of digitized files remains unknown.
In its role as the Regional Center for Preservation and Conservation for IFLA in North America, the Directorate also hosted IFLA PAC members representing a dozen major libraries and archives in the United States and Canada at LC at a two-day program on, first, "Capturing Katrina: Collections-Recovery Experiences: Oral Histories," of first "preservers," and, second, “Future Directions in Safeguarding Document Collections," in collaboration with FLICC and the American Folklife Center. The first event featured the recording of oral histories of 8 conservators who were "on the ground" following 2005 hurricanes. The second event was attended by 30 individuals representing major government agencies, funders (NEH, IMLS), and organizations including AIC, SAA, AASLH, and CLIR (ALA was not able to send a representative). This program discussed models for future preparedness program, education and on-site response; potential partner groups; research needs; funding opportunities; and next steps. These included developing guidelines for grant applications to NEH in conjunction with recognizing SAA’s May Day initiative for emergency preparedness, hosting a follow-up meeting at the Library in December to mark the 30th anniversary of the initiation of LC’s original National Preservation Program Office, and targeting 2008 for focus by funders on collection salvage
Following the advent of Hurricane Katrina, the Directorate held 6 salvage workshops at LC and trained 44 librarians from LC and 30 from 19 outside agencies (e.g. Senate, Treasury, Census, Navy, Army, Mint, DOS, NASA, NAL, NIH/NLM, NIST, IRS, and NOAA) in the basics of collections recovery free of charge. At an offsite workshop in Alabama, 12 participants representing Auburn University and 7 public libraries were trained. LC staff in 12 divisions (AFC, AMED, ASIAN, European, G&M, LAW, MSS, MUS, P&P, SER, CALM, Hispanic, and CRS) have been trained in salvage, and 14 staff in 4 divisions (AMED, ASIAN, G&M, and MSS) have been trained in relocation of collections inhouse in the event of an emergency incident. Working with Federal Library and Information Center Committee (FLICC) and other initiatives, the Directorate has provided outreach and on-site workshops, information and supplies for entities in the Gulf States of Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and elsewhere. The goal is to develop in-house, metropolitan, regional, and national networks of people trained in salvage of library collections, who can be called upon by the Library of Congress in the event of local or regional emergencies. To this end, the Directorate is creating a national email list and phone tree for 350 institutions receiving mailings of the IFLA Preservation Newsletter to establish a more effective and instant communications network nationally.
Finally, the Directorate initiated or participated in several other major emergency-related activities, including:
- Taking part in weekly conference calls with FEMA and Heritage Preservation Foundation, as well as with representatives of the IFLA PAC North America Network coalition. A website with links for emergency mitigation was enhanced and posted on the LC IFLA PAC webpage.
- Co-Chairing and participating on Heritage Preservation Emergency Management Team Task Forces, charged to determine a) basic package of information resources that institutions/sites need after disasters, b) supplies, equipment, and services most urgently required in a disaster’s aftermath, c) how supplies can be collected, pre-positioned and delivered effectively, d) types of workshops or training most useful to institutions in areas affected by disasters, and e) dissemination of response and salvage information to members of the public.
Mellon Photograph Survey Progress: The Directorate, supported by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, completed its 15-month program to adapt a photograph survey performed at Harvard University in 2003, to the Library. While the number of items in both institutions is similar, the marked difference between the centralized organization of the Library of Congress and the decentralized organization of Harvard University posed significant conceptual challenges in adapting the survey, especially in surveying a collection of over 14 million items. While the Harvard and Library of Congress surveys involve photographs, there is potential application to other types of cultural property such as audio-visual materials, works of art on paper, and books, and to smaller collections. Findings indicate that in-depth risk and condition assessments are needed to improve storage and increase treatment for the collections. A workshop will be organized for fiscal 2007.
Topics in Preservation Science: During the first half of fiscal 2006, eight TOPS lectures were presented for librarian, scientists and conservators, covering the preservation of digital, magnetic tape, photographic and other audio-visual media; low oxygen storage systems; solid-phase microextration techniques; and the work of former LC’s Restoration Director, Peter Waters, as a designer bookbinder before the Florence Flood disaster of 1966 lead in his coming to LC in 1971.
Digitizing Sound Initiative: DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) developed and delivered a prototype 2-D scanner to the Library for evaluation, in compliance with the "Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc." (IRENE) project. (See Figs. 1 and 2 for Carl Haber demonstrating the machine and software to Drs. Billington and Marcum.) The prototype, which is now being tested for fidelity, will minimize scan time to image lateral (side-to-side) groove disc media using high-resolution digital microphotography in two dimensions (2-D) to provide quality reproduction. By quickly producing an audio file, the prototype addresses the mass digitization needs of major collections. Since it cannot measure the third dimension, a research project has been designed to develop the ability for 3-D scanning that can preserve audio on vertically cut cylinders, media with poorly defined groove geometry such as dictation belts, and the full groove profile of discs, which could lead to higher fidelity audio reproduction. Of the lateral groove discs targeted by IRENE, approximately 10% were judged to have such severe wear as to not be suitable for 2-D imaging. Many were older, acoustically recorded discs. These would still be good candidates for 3-D scans. Due to rate limitations of 3-D scanning technology, the system proposed would not offer the low scan time, access-oriented capability of IRENE. The new device will instead be designed primarily for preservation to extract maximum information from grooved mechanical sound carriers. A key goal will be to quantitatively evaluate the optical measurements of media against audio preservation standards. The breadth of materials requiring full 3-D profiling represents a diverse range of formats and compositions, including some of the oldest and most physically compromised items held in collections across the nation, such as:
- The entire catalog of commercial Edison molded cylinders and "Diamond Disc" records.
- All unique directly recorded soft-wax cylinders covering dictation, performance, spoken word, ethnographic, linguistic, and other fieldwork. A few examples include Edison’s experimental recordings held at the Edison Historical Site, the Ishi and other Native American recordings of A. Kroeber at the University of California, Berkeley, the Hawaiian folk music recordings of Helen H. Roberts, and the correspondence dictations of Jack London.
- Plastic dictation belts including White House phone conversations, interviews, testimony, and working copies or notes of authors, playwrights, and screenwriters.
Microfilm Roundtable: The Library of Congress and the British Library have collaborated to address problems associated with cellulose acetate microfilm collections. Three international round-tables on preservation microfilm have been convened with other leading institutions to develop a united approach to common problems. The final meeting was held at Princeton and lead to launching the Cellulose Acetate Microfilm Forum (CAMF) website, which covers Guidelines for surveying cellulose acetate collections.
Media Outreach: Directorate staff were filmed and interviewed on two occasions. The first interview was by the TV show History Detectives, and involved discussing UV, IR and stereomicroscopic examination of a map purportedly of the Civil War era. The second was an interview touching on paper conservation in the US, filmed by a Japanese group for Japanese television.
Fellows and Interns Training Program: The Directorate hosted 9 fellows and interns, including 2 CIRLA Fellows, 2 HACU Interns, and 4 otherwise funded Fellows. The HACU Fellows both worked on characterizing a micro-spectrometer used to measure fading while working toward their BS in Chemistry, were Michelle Ann Sanchez (Regis University) and Trojovon Talley Howard University). The other funded fellows included Harper-Inglis Paper Conservation Fellow Sophie Lewincamp from the University of Canberra, Australia, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Science majoring in Conservation of Cultural Materials; Cecil and Michael Pulitzer Book Conservation Fellow James Thurn, University of Texas at Austin and a candidate for Master of Science in Information Studies, Specialization in Conservation of Library and Archive Materials (he also has a MS in Environmental Engineering Science from Syracuse University as well as a BS in Paper Science and Engineering from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry); Insurance of North America Fund (INA) Fellow Mei-Cheun Chen from Tainan National University of the Arts, with a Master’s Degree in the Graduate Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Relics, Chinese Cultural University; and Nielson-Brainbridge Fellow Cindy Connelly Ryan.
The Fellows and Interns were trained in a wide variety of preservation and treatment techniques from examination, emergency treatments, exhibition treatments, moving preparations, and research projects. Specific techniques employed include board reattachments, surface cleaning, re-sizing, re-sewing, protective treatments, humidification, flattening, mending and filling of losses, mold removals, leafcasting, pigment analysis, washing, lining, in-painting, mending, and rehousing.