The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 19, Number 1
Apr 1995

What RLG has been Doing Lately in Preservation

Instead of the committees through which the Research Libraries Group (RLG) carried out its work in the 1980s, RLG now has task groups, programs and activities. The preservation function is carried out by the staff and participants of PRESERV, an elective activity or program that had 62 institutions working toward collaborative solutions to shared preservation problems, as of last September.

Nowadays, however, those collaborative solutions are more likely to involve digital imaging than microfilming. RLG's four-page description of FY94 PRESERV activities says: "The closure of four out of five projects in FY94 in many ways marks the end of an era dominated by microfilm. Building on the early filming programs at member institutions Yale, Columbia, and New York Public, the cooperative filming projects gained strength and momentum over a decade and served to expand the number of players on the national scene from a handful to dozens. Although preservation microfilming will not disappear entirely from the PRESERV agenda, we do expect the next few years to be weighted predominantly toward helping one another make sensible choices about the use of digital technologies for preservation and improved access."

In March 1994, a Digital Preservation Symposium was offered at Cornell. Speakers discussed critical issues in managing digital imaging projects, and vendors of preservation-related digital services were selected to demonstrate their equipment and talk to attendees about their needs. Proceedings were published: Digital Imaging Technology for Preservation, edited by Nancy E. Elkington. RLG, December 1994. 139 pp., $20 + $8.00 shipping & handling. Instead of papers, there were addresses (by M. Stuart Lynn, Anne Kenney, Paul Conway and Don Waters), tutorials (by Pamela R. Mason of NAL, Peter S. Graham of Rutgers, Don Williams of Kodak, Shari Weaver of Yale and Peter Hirtle of NARA) and one demonstration (by Geri Gay of Cornell).

Digital activities will also be prominent in RLG's "Whole Discipline Preservation Project," which will focus first on architectural history, without limiting itself to any particular format or treatment. One of its three key objectives is "To explore access issues specifically related to making architectural materials available in digital format." A research and development proposal, asking for funding for microfilming and/or digitizing of such materials in 11 collections, was submitted to NEH in November. If it is funded, the three-year project will begin in October, 1995.

The Preservation Advisory Council began work on a digital preservation agenda, soliciting input and commentary on ideas, and last June made six recommendations to staff, including the following:

In 1992, the RLG Task Force on Photo Preservation was formed, to explore ways institutions could collaborate to preserve their large photographic collections. Electronic technologies such as scanners and CD-ROMs for reformatting large endangered collections were considered from the start. This work has been carried on in two projects: 1) the Digital Image Access Project, in which nine institutions have digitized 9,000 images (pictures) and developed software that lets images and bibliographic information be blended; it is described by Richard Frieder in the April 1994 issue (v.24 #8) of The Lantern's Core, the staff association newsletter of Northwestern University Library; and 2) the Digital Image Technical Project, in which various options for digitizing images were assessed, was described at the Fall SAA meeting in Indianapolis by Bernard F. Reilly, Debbie Hess Norris, Jim Reilly and Jackie Dooley. A final report of the second project is expected this spring.

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