The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 13, Number 3
Jun 1989

Italy Gears Up

The Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica dl Roma, of the Miistero per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali, part of the Italian government, mailed out a long letter and questionnaire to leading conservation labs in February. One copy, 15 pages in all, was forwarded to the Newsletter office from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It is all in English, whIch is unusual, because conservation publications from Italy, even the major professional journals, have always been in Italian. They are concerned about the poor quality of paper available in Italy for art work, books and documents. They realize that the problem is not limited to Italy, so they are gathering ideas and surveying opinion in preparation for doing something about it.

They seem to be unaware of the ongoing work of the ISO in setting international permanence standards, though they do refer to one existing standard (for board) in Italy, and proposed standards in the U.S., Austria and Germany. In any case, they want more than voluntary compliance to standards:

In spite of these initiatives the type of cardboard forecasted by the Italian norm is not commercially available till now [i.e., yet] in all the necessary varieties; the most important libraries in the United States, but also in other Countries, are still obliged to program [plan] operations of deacidification also on new book's acquisitions. Evidently, the problem is not solvable by the promulgation of standards alone. Something else is necessary: the publishers and paper-mills must bring out their difficulties; they must propose their solutions.

Cultural institutions, they say, should "declare the necessity to forecast or not for precise, binding norms at the national or international level, which are more than mere advice." They do not mention any state or national law requiring the use of permanent paper identified with a watermark or approved by the government, like those in Finland (APA, Dec. 1988, p. 47) or Arizona (Abbey Newsletter, Dec. 1985, p. 109).

The questionnaire has about 60 questions, relating to four topics:

1. Classification of cultural works on paper by their importance. The most important ones are assumed to need cotton fiber paper.

2. Permanence standards. The questions involve degree of polymerization (dp) decline after dry aging at 105°C, whether pH measurements or calcium carbonate filler are necessary, and whether it is necessary to limit the maximum concentration of iron, copper, zinc oxide [sic] and other presumably harmful substances.

3. Certification of paper quality by mills and publishers, either by a watermark or a "dry-stamp." No mention is made of NISO' a infinity symbol and statement of compliance by publishers using paper that meets the ANSI standard.

4. The advisability of formulating international standards and laws, and national laws.

When the results are all in, they will be discussed at an international meeting toward the end of 1989. Copies of the letter and questionnaire can be had from the Newsletter off ice (send SASE with 45 postage) or from the following address: Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, Laboratorio Chimico, via della Lungara no. 230, 00165 Roma, Italy.

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