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    2008 Speaker Abstracts

Presentations at the 36th Annual Meeting of the AIC
April 21-24, 2008
Denver Hyatt Regency at the Colorado Convention Center
Denver, Colorado

Wednesday, April 23
Metadata for Conservators Liz Bishoff
University of Colorado, Boulder

Metadata is quickly becoming indispensable for anyone who creates and manages digital information. Conservators create digital images and text files for treatment documentation, and they are also often involved in preservation/access projects in which digital files are created in large numbers. Although the purpose of metadata is to make digital files more manageable and easier to access, it is often a source of confusion to non-specialists. While there are some standards under developments, the lack of standards for conservation metadata as well as the lack of user-friendly metadata tools only contributes to these difficulties. This talk is a broad introduction to metadata, particularly as conservators may encounter it in the course of their work, and is intended to lay a framework and contribute to a fuller understanding of the metadata related aspects of the EMG/BPG joint session talks. [back to schedule]

Hierarchical Recording of Binding Structures    Dr. Athanasios Velios
University of the Arts, London

The Ligatus research unit of the University of the Arts, London has undertaken the recording of the binding structures and materials of the manuscripts and early printed books from the library of the Saint Catherine Monastery in Sinai, Egypt. Conservators from many different countries have been engaged in both the examination of the books and the formation of a recording methodology for binding structures. About 4500 books have been examined one by one. The detail with which the recording was done resulted in a large amount of information about each book’s individual components. Organizing this information has been a challenging task and a variety of data structuring models were assessed for storing the collected data. Our assessment showed that hierarchical data structuring is an efficient way to record binding information. In this paper, a recording methodology with XML hierarchies is presented, based on the experience from the Saint Catherine’s collection.

The root of the hierarchy represents the concept of the specific book being recorded and the rest of the binding components are mapped as developing branches from the root. The hierarchy offers an “infinite” number of developing branches allowing space for every piece of information about the material or structure of the book. The hierarchy acts both as a storage system for the observations and as a consistency checking mechanism which ensures that the recorded information is complete and, to a certain extent, correct. XML is a good tool for implementing hierarchies with many additional benefits. These include the long-term preservation of the recorded data, the great potential for multilingual implementations and the good support by almost all major programming languages. The proposed methodology has successfully been tested at the Saint Catherine’s library collection, and it is proved ready to be tested on other collections. [back to schedule]

What Lies Beneath: Treatment of 19th Century Canvas-backed Pennsylvania Coal Mining Maps Amy Baker and Jean Ann Croft, University of Pittsburgh
Joseph Taranto and James Welsh, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

The University of Pittsburgh received support from the United States Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection California District Office to establish an ongoing preservation program for selected maps from the CONSOL Energy Mining Map Collection.  The project aims to stabilize damaged maps for digitization and provide access to information about underground mine workings that impact safety, land reclamation and new development.  

The project focuses on 600 “hardback” maps from the CONSOL Energy Mining Map Collection. The hardback maps are constructed of heavyweight paper backed with canvas and were used and stored inside underground mines.  The majority of the hardbacks were drafted by hand between 1880 and 1940 and measure 6 feet in height and up to 30 feet long.

The goals of this project were to re-configure the conservation laboratory to accommodate the conservation of hardback maps and establish a workflow and treatment strategy that includes cleaning, tape removal, humidification & flattening, mending, and storage for 100 maps during the first year of this project.  The conservation work will prepare the hardbacks for digitization so that the scanned images of the mine workings can be geo-referenced.  Ongoing discussions between the mining representatives and the Pitt project team are essential in refining treatment priorities, objectives and benchmarks.

In many cases the hardbacks contain the most complete, if not only, existing diagram of older mine workings, providing key schematics in issues of mine subsidence, water runoff and mine-related emergencies.  For instance, the hardbacks were consulted in 2002 by personnel involved in the rescue of trapped miners at Quecreek, Pennsylvania. [back to schedule]

Balancing Preservation and Access with Commercial Interests Jess Ahmon and Caroline Kimbell
The National Archives, United Kingdom

The National Archives (UK) is collaborating with several commercial partners on major projects to digitise documents and release them online. The Preservation section has an essential role to play in supporting these projects through advice, guidance and training. Since the launch of the digitisation programme Preservation staff have been working closely with both the contractors and with the Business Development Department who manages these projects. While Preservation strives to maintain the integrity of the document as far as possible, this must be balanced by Business Development’s need for these projects to be commercially viable. Decision-making often takes place against a backdrop of competing interests and must balance long-term preservation with the short-term requirements of the digitisation projects. The format and condition of documents will determine fundamental issues such as choice of equipment and scanning procedures (which in turn influences cost) therefore input from Preservation is required from the initial proposal stage when documents are briefly assessed for their suitability for these projects. Subsequently a condition survey is carried out by Collection Care staff. This provides the basis for scanning recommendations which are disseminated to potential contractors via a series of presentations. Preservation’s involvement continues right through the implementation phase. Once the contract has been awarded, all scanning takes place on-site using the contractor’s staff and equipment. During the operation both sides must be ready to respond to the challenges of scanning historic documents, such as the preparation of badly damaged documents. Problems must be swiftly resolved so that the impact on production schedules is minimised. This paper will outline the commercial model which TNA is using to digitise its records, and will look at the work of the Preservation section as it collaborates with internal and external partners. [back to schedule]


Thursday, April 24
See No Evil, Hear No Evil: Audiovisual Evidence, Forensics, and Preservation in Law Enforcement    Snowden Becker
University of Texas, Austin

A growing inclination among state governments to mandate comprehensive audio- and videorecording of law enforcement activities such as traffic stops and suspect interrogations is generating a massive body of recorded material—a good portion of which must remain both secure and accessible indefinitely. The rapid proliferation of consumer-grade audiovisual technologies also means that more and more criminal evidence is created in proprietary--and quickly outdated—digital video formats. Clearly, law enforcement agencies are engaging with audiovisual preservation and management issues of a scope, scale, and urgency that far exceed those encountered in most traditional audiovisual archives. This paper examines aspects of police work with recorded evidence and its implications for the preservation community; it also explores the relevance of archival theory and practice to police evidence handling, and suggests ways in which our professional communities may work to mutual advantage. [back to schedule]

Development of the Audio-Visual Self-Assessment Program    Jennifer Hain Teper and Jimi Jones
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In order to provide many institutions with a starting point with which to begin addressing the needs of their collections, the UIUC Library is developing a program that will aid cultural resource managers in identifying their materials based on physical appearance and age, and guide them through a series of questions at on a repository-, collection- and item-level based on format, condition, use, value, potential copyright infringements, provenance and storage. Based on the answers to these questions, the Audio-Visual Self Assessment Program (AVSAP) will provide assessors with basic guidelines on reformatting and rehousing needs, long-term storage and the potential ability for the reformatted media to be mounted on the Internet. The production of this information via a downloadable, open-source interactive computer program shortens the amount of time necessary to address the identification, preservation, and future access needs of these often-irreplaceable materials by placing a large quantity of information in one location as well as providing researched suggestions based on a limited and focused number of details. The AVSAP will help collection managers to learn about audiovisual preservation and related issues such as procuring obsolete equipment, cataloging, and copyright/ownership issues by providing “information kiosks” throughout the process of assessment. Due to the fact that many cultural resource managers may not follow a methodology that practices item-level description, the AVSAP will be functional on a collection or item level and may be adapted for use with a random sample of a repository or collection. The philosophy behind the AVSAP is that “anything one can do is better than nothing” with regards to audiovisual storage and preservation. Therefore the program will recommend storage/reformatting options and tactics for any budget. [back to schedule]

Digital Photographic Documentation Task Force Practicum: Image Capture    Dan Kushel
Buffalo State College

In recent years, many conservation labs have begun using digital photography for treatment documentation, and others are contemplating the transition in the near future. Despite its similarities to and many advantages over traditional photography, digital photography also requires adapting to a new technology and its special requirements. To aid in this transition, the Digital Photographic Documentation Task Force was formed to write The AIC Guide to Digital Documentation for Conservators. This practicum will demonstrate the process of image capture from camera setup and basic settings, to the setup and use of capture software, and finally image capture and initial image processing. The details of this process are provided in the Guide, but it is hoped that a demonstration will help to demystify the process and make conservators more comfortable in their transition to digital photographic documentation. [back to schedule]

Digital Photographic Documentation Task Force Practicum: Image File Management    Dawn Heller, Winterthur/University of Delaware
and Conservator in Private Practice

This talk is the second in a series of two Digital Documentation Task Force Practicums. It picks up where Dan Kushel’s Image Capture demonstration leaves off. Now that we have a digital file, what do we do with it? Image file management is an important aspect of digital photographic treatment documentation; A hard drive full of unorganized digital image files can be even more confusing than a box of unlabelled 35mm slides. There are many different software programs and workflows that can be adopted for the purpose of image file management. This Practicum will outline the some of options available for image management and archiving digital image files and provide practical suggestions for conservators without IT support in their studio or institution. [back to schedule]