The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 13, Number 8
Dec 1989


From the NARA Annual Report

During fiscal year 1988, the Office of the National Archives continued an aggressive preservation policy, spending $6.07 million on conservation records on all media.

Holdings Maintenance

Holdings maintenance, a major element of the 20-Year Preservation Plan of the National Archives, continued to serve as the focal point for preservation initiatives. Holdings maintenance actions, which are designed to improve the storage environment of archival records and retard or eliminate the need for conservation treatment, include placing records in acid-free folders and boxes, removing damaging fasteners, and enclosing fragile records in polyester sleeves. Over the past year, 121,700 cubic feet of records received holdings maintenance attention. Conservators provided formal training for staff carrying out this work and also evaluated completed holdings maintenance to help ensure uniform ad high-quality performance. The Research and Testing Laboratory of the Document Conservation Branch continued to monitor the quality of boxes and folders to ensure that all storage materials coming into contact with archival records meet National Archives specifications. Productivity standards for holdings maintenance work have been developed and implemented; these standards will be evaluated and revised as appropriate in the coming year to reflect work of varying complexity.

[At the April 1988 NARA Preservation Conference on "Microenvironmental Research and New Directions in the Care of Collections," Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler said in her presentation that 225 technicians had received training for this work, five hours each. Thirty were working full time then, in teams of five to seven. The annual goal is to do 90,000 cubic feet a year, which enables them to keep up with new materials and make a dent in the backlog. I

[In another major division of the Archives, the Archival Research and Evaluation Staff is responsible for the charters Monitoring System, the Preservation Conferences, the ongoing microenvironment study, and the Twenty-Year Plan.]

Revision of 20-Year Preservation Plan

With the assistance of the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, MA, the National Archives Preservation Officer is revising the National Archives 20-Year Preservation Plan, originally formulated in 1984. The first goal of this revision is to estimate usage rates for paper documents in the holdings of the National Archives and to characterize the usage of the documents. This effort follows a principal recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences to identify more clearly the reference usage before establishing preservation priorities.

DOT statisticians began their study by sampling reference service slips and reproduction service orders in an effort to determine usage patterns among specific series of records. The survey is based on shelf location of records used, with the ultimate objective of mapping the most active records in the National Archives' holdings. The usage information will then be tied to a general survey of condition and value of holdings.

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