The Alkaline Paper Advocate

Volume 2, Number 1
Apr 1989


TAPPI Paper Preservation Symposium

A condensed version of this report appeared in the Abbey Newsletter 13(l), Feb. 1989, 1-2, 4-5.

Almost 200 people from every field of endeavor relating to paper permanence met in Washington, DC, October 19-2l, for this symposium, the brainchild of Richard D. Smith, inventor of the Wei T'o method of deacidification. It was a packed schedule, with over 50 papers by speakers who are the top people in their fields, including three members of Congress. Several people who came from Europe to sit on panels were allotted only seven minutes on the program, and the average was not over 15 minutes. However, this symposium cannot be judged by ordinary standards. Its purpose was not to present the results of recant research or to describe recent projects at the speakers' own institutions, though both of these were done. It seemed rather to be to introduce the representatives of the various fields to the audience and let them briefly describe the concerns in their own fields.

Many new contacts were made between the various professions and specialties represented at the conference. One contact was the visit that ASTM standards committee members made to the conservation labs of the Library of Congress and the National Archives, on the morning of the 19th, before the Symposium. Most of them were from the Business Copy Products and the Paper Permanence subcommittees.

Pre-existing contacts were interesting to observe too. Bill Cullison, executive director of TAPPI, binds books as a hobby. The chemists who work in cultural institutions (Bill Wilson, Susan Lee-Bechtold, Chandru Shahani, David Erhardt) or who have experience consulting with conservation types (Terry Norris, Phil Luner, Walter Wozniak) are able to speak the languages of both the producers and the preservers of paper. At least two people have degrees or experience in paper or chemistry as well as libraries or conservation (Richard Smith and Helmut Bansa).

Tom Lindström, a prominent paper chemist from Sweden, told how he first came into contact with the conservation world. Here is his narrative, paraphrased from the tapes of the session: "I first met preservation people in Germany many years ago. I met Prof. Koura in Darmstadt, who soaked paper in alkali and neutralized it. This made the paper very pliable. It increased the free volume and cleared the hemiacetyl linkages and then brought them back again. This recovered the structure--but it shrank the paper. He said, "A small book is better than no book."'

The papers were on the following topics: preservation (including deacidification and microfilming), paper deterioration, standards and testing, and the need for permanent paper. Only two papers were on the use or production of permanent paper, though many speakers mentioned it, and the topic was raised again and again in the question periods.

The use of alkaline and permanent papers was covered in an informal two-hour preconference meeting on the first day, organized by the Newsletter Editor and chaired by Larry Reger of the National Institute for Conservation. (This was reported in the December issue of this Newsletter. Edited transcripts are available from the Newsletter office.)

The TAPPI "proceedings" were published before the conference even began. Many speakers abridged or departed from the printed version of their paper, or even gave another paper entirely, so the "proceedings" cannot be relied on as a record of the symposium, especially since some papers were received too late for inclusion. The papers missing from this volume will appear in the "complete proceedings" to be printed later, along with an indeterminate number of papers that were not given at the symposium at all. Everything was taped, including discussion periods and speeches by congressmen, and much of this discussion will appear in the complete proceedings. Tapes are available from Satellite Broadcasting, PO Box 5364, Rockville, MD 20851. But even with all this attention to documentation, an important part of this meeting went unrecorded: the rather intense interaction and conversation between participants, and with speakers, in the all-too-brief unscheduled time.

A Few Highlights from the Speakers' Papers

The papers were about five pages long on the average. (Richard Smith had a total of 23 pages because he spoke so often.) Taken together, these papers make up an incomparable survey of paper deterioration and preservation. They include aspects not often covered in the popular or library preservation literature, e.g. pulping methods. They are accurate, and as simple as the authors could make them, given the subject matter. One of the best was David Erhardt's eight-page paper on paper deterioration. He is attempting to find which accelerated aging conditions speed up all reactions of natural aging by the same factor, and he is approaching this question via identification of the degradation products of natural and accelerated aging. Phil Luner spoke on paper deterioration too. Two of his slides showed clearly how the presence of moisture (0%-81%.) during aging drastically reduced folding endurance.

Jerome Brezner (SUNY College of Environmental Science, Syracuse) gave a paper ("Protecting Books from Living Pests") that was reported in several newspapers afterward. He reviews available methods of controlling insects in libraries (heat treatment, contact insecticides, fumigation, toxic baits and ionizing radiation) and finds none of them without serious drawbacks. The method he recommends is microwave radiation of books, in an ordinary kitchen microwave oven, every time they are returned from circulation, if insects are a recurring problem in the library. Although he builds on previous research and reports his own experimental results, certain questions must be answered before this becomes an accepted technique. Brezner did not get sparking or scorching as a result of moisture or metal objects in the books, but other people have. Staff at the New England Document Conservation Center found that the books were scorched when they tried his method. Microwave disinfestation is used routinely for grain going into storage, but books are much more heterogeneous and would probably have to be evaluated by trained personnel before treatment to avoid damage, a large expense for uncertain results.

Deacidification, also called "alkalization" by paper conservators, was discussed extensively. Several speakers identified it as one of the three main solutions to the acidic paper problem (microfilming for brittle books of the past, deacidification for acidic books that are not yet brittle, and permanent paper for books of the future). Three members of the audience spoke up at different times for a choice of deacidification methods and denied the necessity of choosing one over the rest at this stage. Five mass (batch) deacidification methods suitable for bound books were described: diethyl zinc, Wei T'o (magnesium compounds), Bookkeeper process (submicron magnesium oxide particles), ethanolamine process (polymer formed by interaction of ethylene oxide, ammonia and water) and a small-scale aqueous deacidification/strengthening process used in Vienna (books are freeze-dried after immersion in calcium hydroxide and methyl cellulose). No U.S. library so far is using any of these methods; they are too new, or are not on the market, or require too great an initial investment, or have not been adequately evaluated yet. The American Library Association expects to publish an update this year of their 1987 survey of mass deacidification methods. It will appear as a Library Technology Report, like the last one.

There was some excitement on the morning of the last day when Michael Howe, president of Book Preservation Associates (BPA, one of the newer companies in the deacidification market) objected to the harsh and unwarranted criticism that Richard Smith had given the BPA method (ethanolamine) in his paper. Howe had not been invited to give a paper at the symposium, in which he could have answered the criticism, so he asked for and was granted a few minutes at the podium. One of Smith's tables represents the main chemical deposited in the books, triethanolamine, as being more toxic than cyanide; Howe denied this vigorously, saying that the worst effect of overexposure would be itchy eyes. Amines are used in a wide variety of personal care item available in every grocery store, in harmless concentrations. The product has been sent to a testing lab by Howe and has passed strict toxicity tests. The test results were available as a handout at the meeting.

Helmut Bansa gave a serious but fumy paper on the difficulties of formulating meaningful permanence standards in West Germany. He is on a standards committee that is dominated by the paper industry and has been forbidden to speak or publish anything on its work until it is done. The paper industry prefers a standard involving accelerated aging, while the conservation community, he said, prefers one based on furnish like the ANSI Z39.48 standard in this country.

To show what a huge effect storage environment can have, a duplicate set of old books from the New York Public Library and the Dutch Royal Library in The Hague were exhibited at the meeting, in the hallway. Many of then were on paper with a high content of groundwood, but the copies from The Hague seemed to have scarcely aged, while those from New York were brown and brittle, as one would expect. Henk Porck reported the current results of a research project involving these books and the conditions of their storage. The pH of the New York books ranged from 2.0 to 3.3 at the margin; the Dutch books were 3.4 to 4.5. In the middle of the page, however, the New York books had a higher pH than at the margin, while it was just the reverse with the Dutch books.

Facts and Ideas from Formal and Informal Discussions

Surveys of book paper in libraries have been done in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia. All found a smaller proportion of brittle books than in American libraries.

All but 5%. of the journals received by NTIS are on acidic paper.

A national preservation program is being put together in the Netherlands which will involve a deacidification and strengthening pilot plant.

Steve Walkden said that alkaline paper must make up 20-25% of all sized paper by now. It will be in the 40-45%. region, he said, by the end of 1989. (He is the Product Manager for Alkaline Size at Hercules, which introduced the first neutral size in the 1950s.) William Kindler of James River gave a similar estimate of current alkaline production.

After Bruce Humphrey had described the process of paper strengthening with Parylene, Phil Luner questioned him about the coating, and concluded that it was hydrophobic. "Yes," said Humphrey. "I've had some paper under water since 1983."

The price of alkaline paper came up several times. The National Library of Medicine urges publishers of medical journals to use alkaline paper; some of them have said they couldn't because it was too expensive; then they found out they had been using it all along. At another session, someone volunteered that high-volume grades may have equal prices for alkaline and acid, but there could be a multitude of grades in which alkaline is more expensive, and in the past, it was more expensive. Later on, Sylvia Subt, chemist at the Government Printing Office, said that if the GPO asks for paper with the usual minimum pH of 4.5, the price of the paper is the same, whether it is alkaline or acid; but if they ask for an alkaline sheet, there is a slight increase, probably because of the extra requirement. (The GPO does not usually buy its paper by brand name, but on bid.) Bruce Lyne of International Paper said that alkaline paper has been priced the same as acid paper from the beginning. (He was probably referring to prices at the mill.)

Bruce Lyne also suggested buffering of acid paper in the size press, a form of in-plant deacidification, so to speak. [In fact, this is done. It involves adding calcium carbonate to the size press solution. The alkaline surface size penetrates the paper completely.]

Howard Rapson gave a clear, technical and important paper on stability of various pulps after natural and laboratory aging. It deserves study and follow-up by anyone interested in paper permanence. Brightness rather than folding endurance (for obvious reasons) was used as the index of stability. Brightness is correlated with stability, yellowing with deterioration. The bleaching process has a strong effect on stability: the best bleaching processes use chlorine dioxide and a variety of oxidizing equivalents in sequence, and are followed by sodium borohydride treatment. Gamma radiation has a strong yellowing effect even m cotton linters, which means that we can probably start blaming natural radiation from outer space, along with everything else, for the deterioration of paper.

Tan Lindström said that oxidized cellulose had a hydrolysis rate about two orders of magnitude faster than unoxidized cellulose; the two main types of deterioration, hydrolysis and oxidation, facilitate each other in a vicious cycle.

Phil Luner said that we should start to think about incorporating some type of impurity into our temperature-humidity testing. At RIT they are now incorporating a peroxide in the water used for aging of film, because of the importance of oxidation in the degradation of film.

David Erhardt asked about the compounds formed when deacidification agents (alkaline reserve) react with pollutants and degradation products. Hygroscopic salts are formed. What is their effect? (He apparently first asked this question in 1981 at an IIC-Canadian Group meeting, in a paper co-authored by Tim Padfield and Walter Hopwood, "The Image of St. Joan." In the eight years since, no one has published a reply or comment an it.)

ASTM standards now in the works are 1) a specification for artists' papers, 2) a guide for selection of paper to be used in books, and 3) a test method for quantitative determination of calcium carbonate in paper (the method described in George Kelly's article in this issue).

Challenges and Needs

A few of the needs mentioned were education, technical assistance, and a way to tell the alkaline from the acid papers. Senator Hatfield, in his address, said that preservation and acid-free paper are no good if Americans are illiterate and won't read the books. Will nonreaders vote the money, he asked, to preserve books and archives? The present challenge is not caring. We must mobilize and form a strategy for the campaign through a national preservation effort, he said. If the public cares about it, Congress will respond.

Backlash and Opposition

The arguments against change were voiced mainly by Samuel Scaggs, who is in charge of procurement at the GPO. He said that the older permanent papers were not alkaline. Actually, they varied in pH, but before 1600 the average paper had a pH above 7.0, according to the Barrow Research Lab's 1974 booklet, "Physical and Chemical Properties of Book Papers, 1507-1949," p. 16.

Mr. Scaggs also said at two different times that the archival nature of alkaline paper had not yet been established. The second time he said this, the audience murmured rebelliously. Jan Merrill-Oldham spoke up during the question period to say that alkaline paper does in fact have a longer shelf life than acidic paper, other things being equal, and that most people present did realize that deterioration was affected by a variety of factors.

Paper decays because of storage conditions, Scaggs said, reflecting a view popular before 1960. Storage conditions do indeed influence the longevity of paper, but they are not the only factors. Fred S. Hanson's example of a book with good white and weak brown paper in it demonstrates the importance of paper quality: the good paper had at least 2% calcium carbonate in it, and a pH of 7.5; the weak paper had a pH of about 4.9. Storage conditions since the book was printed in 1576 have obviously been identical for both kinds of paper ("Resistance of Paper to Natural Aging." Paper Ind. 20 #11 (Feb. 1939) P. 1157-1163).

Until the smaller printers stock alkaline paper, it would be unrealistic of the GPO to require it, Scaggs said, and it would be impossible to ask them to stock both kinds of paper. He could not explain why they and the GPO could not singly stock alkaline paper instead of acidic paper.

Don Gilmore, Manager of Technical Services at TAPPI, said in his windup talk on the last day that there was very little need for paper that lasts for centuries; nearly all our papers last much too long already. He was concerned about the shortage of landfill space and the solid waste problem. But s else said that biodeterioration took place just as quickly with alkaline paper as with acidic paper. A specialist in microbiodeterioration states in a publication that appeared after the Symposium, that biodeterioration takes place even more quickly with alkaline paper: "Some [chemicals used in conservation treatments] have fungicidal properties, but others, such as calcium carbonates, actively encourage microbiological growth in paper." ("Alternative Approaches to the Treatment of Mould Biodeterioration--An International Problem," by Roger Craig, in The Paper Conservator 10 (1986, published 1989), p. 27-30.)

Congressman, Major Owens, in his address on the first evening, exemplified the backlash against preservation. He is not exactly against preservation, but he would like to see it take a different direction from the one it is taking now. He is afraid too little attention is being given to posterity and scholarship. He would like to see what he calls "preservation for use," or maximizing access (e.g., more microfilm readers); he wants the people who use a particular library to choose what will be Preserved; and he is afraid that "without action, the best will be saved and shut way from use." He wanted assurance that the literature and records of minorities will be saved. He said the Library of Congress had been a failure in offering leadership for preservation, and implied that all it had ever done was to give pamphlets to people. (Richard De Gennaro of the New York Public Library later defended LC, saying he had been pleased with the leadership role it had played in preservation.)

[Editor's comment. It is hard to believe that Major Owens has been following the library preservation movement and understands what it is all about, but it would probably be wise to give attention to his beliefs and attitudes, because he may need to be answered one day. Selection for preservation, for instance, cannot be done on a local basis without wasting a great deal of money an duplicative efforts. How could the local people know, without checking a central list, whether the book they are about to discard is the last copy of that title in the world, or whether the book they are preparing to put onto microfilm has already been microfilmed twice by other libraries? Every library that uses a regional or national network facility to order, catalog and search its books is now part of a national collection, like it or not, and its users are scattered all around the United States. How are the people who make use of interlibrary loan going to help choose which titles to save in all the libraries they borrow from?

[The Library of Congress has offered leadership in all aspects of preservation and conservation for more than 15 years, by means of research, publication, short-term and long-term training, organizing preservation conferences, bringing libraries together in networks, originating new methods, evaluating materials, problem-solving, standards-setting, giving assistance in disasters, dissemination of information and referral to other experts. This list is long but is not complete. The National Preservation Program Office, which is part of the Preservation Office at LC, can advise on any or all of these problems, or call upon others at LC to advise on them. It does this both formally and informally, whether the caller is a librarian or an ordinary citizen with one book. The telephone number is 202-7071840. Before the National Preservation Program Office was set up a couple of years ago, this work was handled by the Preservation Office. Congressional funding has always been inadequate, but perhaps one day Congress will acknowledge the value of the leadership LC is offering, instead of denying its existence, as Major Owens does. As for the danger that "the best will be saved and shut away from use," this is a contrived charge. The purpose of preservation is to increase access, not to decrease it. Without preservation, fragile and unique materials must have their use restricted in order to prevent their destruction. (Even this does not that they have been made inaccessible.) After preservation, when the book has been strengthened or copied somehow, accessibility has been increased, and something the reader can buy his own microfilm copy from the holder of the master.]

Opportunities, Directions to Take

Don Gilmore, in his paper, said that TAPPI provided a neutral forum, expertise, and a conduit for problem-solving. He advised those interested to start an ad hoc committee, set goals, devise an action plan, and consider which division might best host a permanence committee. Members need not belong to TAPPI. TAPPI does not fund research, but committees and even subcommittees can solicit funds outside TAPPI for their own research.

There used to be a five-member TAPPI Committee on Permanence and Durability of Paper, which was born before its time, that is, before the main causes of paper deterioration had been identified. It lasted from 1929 to 1937, and is remembered for little but its advocacy of rag furnish and its skepticism about the usefulness of accelerated aging. Its history is described and documented on p. 34-35 of Verner Clapp's "History of Permanent/Durable Book-Paper, 1115-1970" (Restaurator, Suppl. #2, 1972).

Gerald Hodgson, chair of ASTM's D6 (paper standards) committee, urged those present to join in with D6 in standard making.

Jim Turner, a staff member with the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, described governmental expertise that could be tapped for preservation. He mentioned the building technology research related to controlled environments, in NIST, HUD and elsewhere. He invited participants to call or write him to contact technical experts, or to suggest topics for hearings, especially topics that are understandable and appealing to members' constituencies, like preservation. Legislation often follows hearings, he said. He gave his telephone number: 212/225-8128.

There are certain trends in the paper industry that bear watching, Phil Luner said, because they may affect permanence. them are the use of bleached mechanical

pulp, high levels (20-25%) of filler, the use of increasing amounts of starch, and continually new additives for printing paper and inks.

Commentary

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