The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 19, Number 6
Nov 1992


The CPA Science Workshop

Reprinted from the Commission on Preservation and Access Newsletter for October 1992, where it was headed "Using Scientific Information for Preservation Decisions."

The Science Workshop for Preservation Administrators sponsored last month [September] by the Commission provided opportunities for librarians, archivists and scientists to explore jointly how scientific research can be obtained, interpreted, and applied to solve critical preservation issues. The two-and-a-half day event included lectures on the general theory of scientific research, as well as team exercises in problem-solving and decision-making focused on specific preservation problems. The workshop was the first of a planned series to develop cooperative approaches for setting prioritized research agendas.

An opening session examined in detail the principles of designing a scientific research program around a preservation concern, with emphasis on defining the problem, understanding the experimental approach, analyzing data, interpreting results, and reaching conclusions. A panel session on the process of buying research introduced crucial nonscientific elements such as contracts, principal investigators, obligations of parties, deliverables, costs, ownership of intellectual properties, and contingencies.

The science faculty and preservation managers met in small groups to discuss such questions as "Why can't I get a straight answer from scientific research?" "How can R&D results be used to make decisions?" and "How can risk management be used in these decisions?" A seminar explored how scientific laboratories choose their research projects, and identification of differences between the strategies of large and small institutions. Although labs try to identify projects that address important preservation needs, fiscal realities often affect the timing and nature of their research.

The Commission's decision to sponsor the workshop follows several years of working with preservation managers to develop a research agenda and a systematic collaborative review of scientific research articles. The design and conduct of the workshop, held September 911 at Belmont Conference Center, MD, was supported by the Commission with funds from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, while participants' institutions supported travel expenses. An informal account of the workshop, including possibilities for future action, will be distributed by the Commission.

Invited to the event were: Wes Boomgaarden, Ohio State University; Connie Brooks, Stanford University; Sherry Byrne, University of Chicago; Margaret Byrnes, National Library of Medicine Paul Conway, Yale University; Richard Frieder, Northwestern University; Janet Gertz, Columbia University; Jan Merrill-Oldham, University of Connecticut; Carla Montori, University of Michigan; Carolyn Clark Morrow, Harvard University; Barclay Ogden, University of California, Berkeley; James Stroud, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center; Karen Turko, University of Toronto, and Chris Ward, New York State Archives.

Faculty were James R. Druzik, Getty Conservation Institute; James M. Reilly, Image Permanence Institute; Donald K. Sebera, Library of Congress; and Peter Sparks, Consultant.

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