14.0812 public comment on artifacts in collections?

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Sat Apr 21 2001 - 02:27:33 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 812.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2001 07:22:40 +0100
             From: NINCH-ANNOUNCE <david@ninch.org>
             Subject: CLIR Seeks Public Comment on Report on the Artifact in
    Library Collections

    News on Networking Cultural Heritage Resources
    from across the Community
    April 20, 2001

         Council on Library & Information Resources (CLIR) Seeks Public Comment
              Report of the Task Force on the Artifact in Library Collections


                             Comments Sought by June 10, 2001

    A compelling draft report on the role of the artifact in scholarly research
    and related preservation issues is available on the website of the Council
    on Library and Information Resources.

    The report is especially interesting for this audience as many of the
    issues have been framed by the act of digitizing scholarly resources, which
    has "fundamentally altered the information landscape." Although digital
    preservation was initially considered to be out of scope, it was perhaps
    inevitably the subject of a considerable section of the report. Also, as
    Abby Smith's brief article below states, the report considers "digital
    surrogacy" at some length, "articulating its advantages and disadvantages
    and identifying those parts of the information infrastructure that need to
    be in place to maximize its benefits."

    David Green

      From CLIR Issues May-June 2001

    Task Force on the Role of the Artifact Seeks Public Comment on Draft Report
    by Abby Smith

    FOR 18 MONTHS, a task force of scholars and librarians sponsored by CLIR
    has been investigating the issues surrounding the preservation of and
    access to artifactual collections. Artifacts-that is, information recorded
    on physical media-form the bedrock of evidence upon which scholarship and
    teaching are built. The task force has produced a draft report, The
    Evidence in Hand: Report of the Task Force on the Artifact in Library
    Collections, and is inviting members of the research community to comment
    on the draft and to help shape the recommendations and outcomes of its
    work. The task force is hosting five public-review sessions this spring
    that will engage librarians and scholars in developing recommendations that
    meet the needs of all who share an interest in this issue. The report is
    designed to advise academic officers, funders, library administrators,
    government funding agencies, and scholars on what is at stake as library
    and archival collections age and as demands to build digital services and
    collections threaten to eclipse the continuing need for investment in

    While preparing the draft report, the task force consulted extensively with
    experts from libraries and archives. Task force members confirmed what is
    well-known to many librarians: As the volume of information collected by
    libraries grows, and with it the demand for electronic resources, so do
    scholars' demands for access to original, unreformatted resources.
    Libraries are caught between building digital collections and
    infrastructures and increasing their efforts to preserve many print and
    audiovisual resources in dire condition-caught because their preservation
    budgets are flat and the pressures to "go digital" are great. As long as
    the claim on preservation resources exceeds the available funds, it will be
    necessary to choose carefully which materials get treatment.

    CLIR charged the task force with developing a framework for making or
    evaluating institutional policies for the preservation and retention of
    original materials-from printed materials to photographs and sound
    recordings-and with articulating the value of the artifact for research and
    teaching. The task force gave special consideration to how a library and
    its home institution should make sound intellectual and fiscal decisions
    about what to preserve, when, for whom, and at what price.

    Given the types of collections that research libraries hold-largely printed
    matter-and the extensive use of retrospective resources by humanists and
    social scientists, most task force members were familiar with the problems
    of print on wood-pulp paper. Librarians and preservationists know how to
    treat these materials; the problem is that funds are often insufficient.

    The situation is different for audiovisual materials. There is far less
    awareness of their vulnerability, and fewer treatments are available to
    save them. Many audiovisual resources created during the last 150
    years-prints, photographs, maps, broadsides, posters, films, and sound
    recordings-are reaching the limits of their usable life span. The task
    force identified an urgent need to address this problem. If we do not act
    now, we risk losing a great deal of material. For example, by the time we
    understood the cultural and intellectual value of moving images, we had
    lost more than 80 percent of all silent films and more than half of the
    films made before World War II. We now face a similar crisis in recorded
    sound. At risk is everything from ethnographic records of native languages
    facing extinction to early radio, the "race records" of the pre-World War
    II era, and speeches by Teddy Roosevelt-the list goes on.

    Scholars can play an important role in preventing the future loss of
    valuable resources by articulating clearly the full range of contemporary
    formats and genres that have and will have potential research value. The
    report acknowledges that the availability of digital surrogates is changing
    the way some scholars value access to original, unreformatted materials.
    While there is an increasing number of items that scholars identify as
    valuable to preserve for research, there is also a growing preference among
    scholars for electronic delivery of secondary sources and, in some cases,
    of primary sources as well. The task force report considers the matter of
    digital surrogacy at some length, articulating its advantages and
    disadvantages and identifying those parts of the information infrastructure
    that need to be in place to maximize its benefits.

    The draft report is available on the CLIR Web site at
    www.clir.org/activities/details/artifact-docs.html. CLIR encourages public
    comment on the draft through June 10. The final report will be available in
    print and online in July.
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