The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 12, Number 1
Jan 1988


Newspaper Preservation Around the World

At the International Symposium on Newspaper Preservation and Access last August in London, one of the big issues was retention of originals after microfilming. By and large, most countries keep or even restore at least one copy of each filmed newspaper, while the United States discards the original. Here are some extracts from Susan G. Swartzburg's 28-page report, on this and other issues.

The symposium was sponsored by the Working Group on Newspapers, International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) Section on Serial Publications. The Working Group, established in 1980, is engaged in a survey of preservation policies of newspaper collections worldwide. The American member of this eight-member Group is Robert Harriman, who is also the Chair.

Speakers stressed the importance of newspapers to historical research, and the lack of bibliographic control. Dr. Willi Hoefig, Newspaper Librarian, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, West Berlin, discussed the inter-library lending of original newspapers, which is generously done in West Germany, to the concern of many of those gathered.

Mme. Else Delaunay, Chief of the Periodicals Department, Bibliothèque Nationale, said the Bibliothèque holds nearly 80% of French papers produced, and has spent 10 million francs since 1980 to begin to deacidify and encapsulate their collection of 40 million embrittled newspapers. Some restoration is done before filming and some afterward, and the papers are bound when possible.

Johann Mannerheim, Royal Library, Sweden, does not believe that microforms replace originals and maintains that originals should be preserved for safety. Further, color and black-and-white photographic images pose problems in reproduction. He recommended that ISO standards be followed.

T. K. Ilbury described the microfilming program of the British Library in detail. They use Photogard to curtail scratching. John Baker, New York Public Library, noted that NYPL will switch to the use of diazo film now.

Dr. Gerhard Banik, Director of Conservation, Austrian National Library, described three ways to treat acidic or embrittled newspapers: 1) pure deacidification, which Banik feels is not sufficient; 2) the deacidification and strengthening processes developed by Prof. Waechter, former Director of Conservation at the Austrian National Library, and at the British Library, both of which are still in the experimental stage; 3) the technique of paper splitting with a new carrier introduced to strengthen the sheet, which has been developed in East Germany. There is little technical data available on these techniques; they cost a great deal and are not very flexible. The major difficulty, he said, is a lack of communication between chemical engineers, scientists and librarians, resulting in problems in engineering and management.

It was suggested that the Working Group see what is being done in each member country. There was concern expressed by a number of participants that U.S. institutions discard very brittle newspapers after filming. The consensus was that one copy of every newspaper published should be preserved in the original, by somebody, somewhere, somehow, and should be accessible; but who will pay for it?

The final day of the symposium began with a description of what preservation and microfilming is being done in the countries of several of the participants: Brazil, Canada, West Germany, India, New Zealand, Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Yugoslavia, China, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, and South Africa.

India has serious problems with its climate and with its government. They can deal with the climate but not the government. Parliament has to grant money for preservation. No one is doing current microfilming, although there is some retrospective filming done.

New Zealand. The library collects all New Zealand newspapers, films them and distributes filmed copies through inter-library loan. All New Zealand newspapers have been examined and there is a Union List. The library is now completing a vault for the permanent storage of originals. Their effort began as a political issue because people were upset that newspapers were guillotined and discarded.

Great Britain. More effort is put into the microfilming for preservation than into bibliographical control; there is no national bibliography or location list. The library will retain an original deposit copy, wrapped in acid-free paper and stored flat.

United States. Jeffrey Field of NEH said that there is a commitment to maintain the bibliographical data base and to continue the filming after the U.S. Newspaper Project is finished. It should be completed in 1995; the goal is never to have to do it again.

Yugoslavia has six states and eight national libraries. They are attempting to get microfilm of material in Austria, Hungary and Italy: much of their heritage was lost in World War II. The project moves ahead slowly, depending upon the commitment and resources of each state.

Hungary. The archival masters are stored in air conditioned facilities. Original newspapers are preserved but only made available in special cases. Papers are repaired before filming when necessary; they are deacidified and strengthened. The National Library is investigating methods for mass treatment and is working with a Hungarian paper mill to develop an alkaline paper for preservation copies of copyright newspapers.

Japan. Each publisher sends the library an edition printed on special paper, on one side only, for quality of microfilm image.

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