The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 9, Number 2
Apr 1985


NEH Opens Office of Preservation

In January the National Endowment for the Humanities started phasing in a new Office of Preservation that will approximately double the amount of money available for preservation. Grant deadlines are June 1 and December 1. Until new guidelines are issued later this spring, the old ones will be used. Policies will be liberal and coverage enlarged. A large number of applications are invited, especially applications for cooperative efforts and for care of valuable collections.

The new program was announced by the acting director of NEH at a national press conference March 27. Harold Cannon, Director of the new Office, was there, with a representative of the Mellon Foundation, and representatives of major collections. Nearly $1 million in grants were announced (to RLG, NEDCC, the U.S. Newspaper Project and five other institutions.) Five million dollars has been requested for the program.

The fact sheet issued by NEH to tell how the new office will work is worth quoting at length. It gives the address and the people to contact:

Harold Cannon, Director
Jeffrey Field, Asst. Director
Steven Mansback, Program Officer

Office of Preservation
National Endowment for the Humanities
Room 802
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20506 (202) 786-0570

The newly formed Office of Preservation offers support for a sustained and coherent attack on the problem of deteriorating humanities resources. Cooperative projects, set in a national framework and supported by both federal and private funds, are particularly encouraged as the most effective way to preserve endangered documentation. Those familiar with the Endowment's support in this area will note that the Office builds upon and expands the cooperative and problem-solving preservation activities funded since 1979 through the Research Resources Program. The first concern of the new Office will be the preservation of America's past; the second concern will be the preservation of the work of American scholars in the humanities. Funding for the new Office (which includes the U. S. Newspaper Program) has been requested at $5 million for FY1986.

Guidelines, including application forms, will be available in later spring. The first deadline is June 1, 1985; a second annual deadline of December 1, 1985, is anticipated.

The following list of activities tentatively eligible for support should guide potential applicants in the early stages of planning. in every instance, applicants should contact the Office for further information on eligibility and the preparation of a proposal.

The Office expects, subject to final approval, to support the following activities.

PROBLEM SOLVING. Grants can be made to task forces, working groups, and others engaged in developing strategies to promote preservation as a national or regional priority. Funding is also available for collaborative efforts to identify humanities material of permanent research value, and to develop strategies for preservation decisions.

HUMANITIES DOCUMENTATION. The Office funds single-institution or cooperative projects on behalf of endangered documentation. Projects involving books, manuscripts, photographic resources, film and sound recordings are supported. In every instance, the applicant should cogently demonstrate the significance of the materials to be preserved, either in a disciplinary context or as part of a national approach to an entire class of documentation. It is important to explain how preservation will make the items more accessible to scholars throughout the country when the project is concluded.

While most projects will involve reformatting in a preservation medium to save documentary content, other treatment is justified in some instances. Support is available for protective enclosures/deacidification, simple repairs and cleaning, preservation binding, and mass deacidification. When those measures are contemplated, it is vital not only to document intellectual significance but also to demonstrate that the treatment is justified in terms of the artifactual value and the way in which the items are used in research. Collections whose preservation requires some preliminary bibliographic control or organization are eligible for support, but it is expected that this activity will form a minor part of the project. Collections needing substantial organization are supportable under Access Projects, Division of Research Programs.

COOPERATIVE EFFORTS. Support is available for projects proposed by national, regional and state organizations whose primary concern is preservation. Cooperative preservation programs launched by multi-purpose organizations such as library networks, archival or library consortia, and professional organizations are also funded. Support is available in the following areas.

a. Sustained programs to train preservation administrators/educators are supported. Applications are accepted from the organizations that mount such programs, rather than from individuals seeking training. Support for training permanent staff of research institutions is addressed below. While some hand-on training is integral to preservation education, programs that focus exclusively on hands-on techniques are not eligible for support.

b. Workshops, both basic and advanced, in preservation administration and techniques for personnel of research institutions and other appropriate individuals are supported. Applications are accepted from the organizations planning and staffing a series of workshops to be offered to a national, regional, or professional audience. It is expected that applicants will take advantage of useful existing curricula as much as possible to avoid costly repetition of effort.

c. Survey/information programs. Organizations offering preservation services to members or constituents may seek Office support for survey programs which analyze the preservation needs of individual collections or institutions and recommend action. Such programs typically also provide preservation information and disaster assistance. Applications for staffing and related expenses are accepted from the organization sponsoring the program.

INFORMATIONAL MATERIALS. Grants are made for the preparation and dissemination of preservation information in various formats, including guides to preservation techniques (via print, videotape, or slide/tape presentations), as well as demonstration kits, bibliographies, and newsletters. Applicants are expected to show that the information and the form in which it is presented does not duplicate other efforts.

INSTITUTIONAL PRESERVATION NEEDS. Single research institutions or geographically contiguous institutions seeking to build a log-term capacity to deal with preservation problems can be supported. Funding in the form of salary support is available for the training of a permanent staff member as a preservation administrator/educator for a single institution or group of institutions. The purchase of equipment for reformatting or mass deacidification is also eligible for support. Applicants are expected to demonstrate that the institution(s) to be served holds significant collections in the humanities, and that federal support will be instrumental in implementing a log-term preservation program. Other Institutional needs such as workshops, planning programs, or collection surveys should be directed to the preservation organizations, networks, consortia, or professional organizations which sponsor such activities.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT. Grants are made for the testing and development of products and processes deemed vital for preservation needs. Federal funding is limited to instances where the development of a needed product or process is not financially attractive to the private sector, or when testing/evaluation or a preservation process demands an objectivity that cannot be achieved by private funding. Appropriate testing sites should be chosen.

"By law, the term humanities includes, but is not limited to, the study of history; philosophy; languages; linguistics; Literature; archaeology; jurisprudence; the history, theory and criticism of the arts; ethics; comparative religion; and those aspects of the social sciences that employ historical or philosophical approaches." --from an October 1984 book of NEH guidelines.

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