The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 26, Number 3
Nov 2002


Lean Times for Conservation

An academic library on the East Coast has cut its preservation budget, prompting the preservation librarian to inquire on the Conservation DistList what other libraries are doing about budget cuts. She said her library had stopped binding, and is looking for ways to maintain materials in-house and extend the life of all materials in the long term.

Anne Kenney of Cornell replied to her on the List, saying that they were completing a joint study funded by IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) on the state of preservation programs in American college and research libraries. The report of this study will be published by CLIR late this year, she said.

A response came in from Stanford, where they had talked about deferred binding but decided against it, and are planning to try out book stiffening instead. [This is a procedure introduced by John Dean before he went to Cornell. I use it myself because I have so many heavy soft cover books. —Editor]

Australia. In September, Australians learned that the only heritage conservation training program in the country would close. The decision was made by the University of Canberra, where it is located. AICCM President Marcelle Scott said they were shocked by the decision. "The vast majority of people charged with preserving our precious national heritage graduated from this course," she said.

The training program was created as a result of the 1977 Piggott Report, which found that Australia's cultural heritage collections were in grave danger and needed a long-term heritage preservation investment.

The University of Canberra has indicated it will not enroll new students in the Conservation of Cultural Materials and the Cultural Heritage Management programs or fill the head of department position recently vacated by the respected Professor Colin Pearson.

A summit is being arranged to discuss the future of conservation training with the aim of developing a national conservation training strategy. Marcelle Scott can be contacted at +61 3-8344-7989, +61 419-712-812.

Argentina. Last February, Susana Meden (Program Director of Fundación Patrimonio Histórico) posted on the DistList a summary of the dreadful situation in Argentina, which has political causes. Her summary is reproduced below, with minimal editing for clarity:

"You have surely heard about the financial, social, and political crisis in Argentina, but you probably cannot imagine how much it affects cultural heritage. Maybe I should describe what the situation was before: I must mention ignorance, bureaucratic procedures and lack of public resources devoted to preservation programs. With no resources and only a tiny group of professionals involved in preservation, it has not been easy for archives, libraries and museums to improve preservation policies.
"Still, a great deal has been achieved during the last decade with the assistance of the social sector. Fundación Patrimonio Histórico and other non-profit organizations helped to compensate for lack of public funds, supporting preservation education programs and training staff in institutions. Most of the human and financial resources involved in each project were raised among its own members or provided by local partners: individuals, companies and institutions.
"Unfortunately, local sponsorship is not possible any more because, in the current crisis, individuals, companies and institutions are unable to support even themselves. The entire society has been pushed to an extremely painful restriction in the use of their own money. Of course there are no more private funds available for preservation programs!
"It is evident that from now on most institutions will have nothing to spend in preservation. Despite that, collections in libraries, archives and museums are still there, in desperate need of care. Stopping preservation activities means that many collections will not survive.
"Fundación Patrimonio Histórico has made it clear that cultural heritage in Argentina is in serious danger. We are looking for financial assistance to continue running the current projects. If you can help, please consider making a contribution. Even a tiny contribution makes a big difference.
"If you wish to know more about us, please click www.patrimoniohistorico.org.ar. If you wish to make a contribution, please e-mail to <fundacion@patrimoniohistorico.org.ar>."
[Note: Susana Medem has studied and taught paper conservation in many countries.]

International Preservation News. This is the newsletter of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Core Programme on Preservation and Conservation (PAC). The IFLA-PAC Director is Marie-Thérèse Varlamoff. In Issue No. 24, May 2001, she took on a serious tone in her editorial, starting with the title: "Preservation, a 'Neglected Priority'?" Here are some excerpts:

"...The advent of the digital era has changed the environment, and traditional collections do not seem as important now as they were before....
"IFLA and the PAC Core Programme in particular have struggled to safeguard our documentary heritage for many years now. But the PAC Programme is, because of lack of adequate support, on the verge of turning into a 'neglected' priority. Of course there are still things that can be done to improve the care of our collections that do not require money but only common sense, willingness and commitment. Nevertheless, the implementation of important projects, especially concerning the developing countries, requires a minimum of support.
"On the eve of publishing this newsletter we are sad to say that, unless a solution quickly comes up to improve our finances, we won't be in a situation to publish IPN any longer. The financial contribution traditionally allocated each year by IFLA has been considerably decreased in 2001. Despite the steady and outstanding efforts of the Bibliothèque nationale de France which has been hosting the programme for nine years now, we shall probably have to cut down many of our activities, unless those institutions who have long appreciated our work and commitment join the Bibliothèque nationale de France in its efforts to financially sustain the programme."

In the next issue (No. 25, Aug. 2001), there were two letters from readers on the editorial page. The first was from Nina Jethwa in Pondicherry:

"We need IPN!
"I was very sorry to read in the May issue of International Preservation News that the publication is at risk of being taken to the gallows due to the 'financial squeeze.' Speaking from a part of the world which I believe is only just beginning to develop an understanding and appreciation of the issues concerning preservation of our world heritage, action groups such as yourselves play a vital role in bringing together and voicing best practice and activities in this field."

The second letter was from John Dean:

"I was very sad to read your editorial on the probable demise of the International Preservation News. I believe the publication not only informs us of what is going on in other countries, but also gives great encouragement to many of the librarians in the poorer libraries of the developing world. They read of projects that develop and succeed, and must surely feel that it is possible for them to succeed as well, with a little help from their friends. The quality of the IPN is now quite high, with good articles that bring fresh insights into our work abroad. I know that I have sometimes felt depressed that our efforts in Southeast Asia fall so far short of what needs to be done, but have been inspired to try harder because of what I have read in IPN."

Two issues later, in No. 27, Aug. 2002 (eight months after No. 26 appeared), the story of how the crisis was handled appeared:

"After a rough and troubled period, it seems that PAC is progressively emerging. Its future, linked to the financial restrictions of the Core Programme's funds, cannot be considered as quite secure yet, although we expect that CLIR's promising support will serve as an example and a trigger to all those who, in the preservation and conservation arena, expect PAC to follow up its mission.
"Thanks to the constant and strong support of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, a new Programme Officer, Corine Koch, has been appointed, which has allowed us to resume the publication of IPN, delayed for a while.
"A new Advisory Board has also been appointed, under the efficient chairmanship of Sissel Nielsen. I am certain that all members, carefully selected in a range of very competent and committed colleagues from all over the world, will support PAC initiatives and will help select the right tracks in a changing professional world.
"Some of our activities which had lagged behind since the departure of Virginie Kremp have now been resumed. By the end of this year, we hope to publish the proceedings of the Symposium 'Managing the Preservation of Newspapers' that PAC had organized at the BnF in Paris in 2000, and we shall start the analysis of the Survey on African Newspapers Collections that we launched last year...."

Austin, Texas. In late August, Sarah McElroy made the following announcement on the DistList:

"After 20 years in operation, the conservation lab at the Huntington Art Gallery/Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin is being shut down by the University. This is the second conservation lab that the University has closed.
"The conservator (that would be me) plans to work on a project for the remaining lab on campus, at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. The conservation graduate program at the Library and Information School is also alive and well."

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