Academic journal article Notes

Preservation

Academic journal article Notes

Preservation

Article excerpt

It has been a century of destruction unparalleled in human history, but the twentieth has been the preservation century for libraries. Awareness of the problem of the acidity of mass-produced paper became widespread only by the 1950s, even though the roots of the problem were in the mid-nineteenth century; concerted national efforts to deal with the problem had to wait until the 1980s. While the problem with the medium of paper (the principal means--other than performance--of disseminating music until sound recording became viable in the 1930s) had its origins in production methods using wood pulp developed around 1840, new media created during the twentieth century--various kinds of film, tape, and discs produced from natural and synthetic materials--also began to exhibit preservation problems in succession as they aged, and much more quickly than had wood-pulp paper. It is a testament to the determination and ingenuity of humankind that the twentieth century has also witnessed the development of technologi cal solutions to the problem of preserving documents on paper and the implementation of these remedies on a vast international scale. Analysis of the chemical composition of brittle paper ultimately led to the development of permanent paper, which, after the patient insistence of librarians, came to be used by book publishers and, ultimately, music publishers. Development of techniques for neutralizing the acid in individual leaves of paper in aqueous solutions led to technologies in which entire collections of bound volumes could be deacidified using vapor in a sealed chamber. Realization of the extent of the problem of brittle paper (25 percent of all volumes in U.S. research libraries in 1988, with more becoming brittle each year) led to nationally funded preservation reformatting programs that created microfilm masters for tens of thousands of titles printed between 1840 and 1950, while the existence of these masters was recorded in international bibliographic utilities to discourage costly duplication of preservation efforts.

Of course, music librarians have often had to demand exceptional treatment for the manuscript and printed repertoires under their care. Microfilm is an adequate, if somewhat less convenient, medium for text, but musical scores need to be portable--carried to the music stand or the sound archive--for full advantage to be taken of them. Some institutional preservation programs have accommodated the need for hardcopy of music editions by spending the additional funds necessary to produce copyflow at the end of the microfilming process. Even in this instance, however, vigilance by music librarians is essential at every step of preparation of the hardcopy for return to the shelf: commercial binders have been known to place the spine of a newly bound copyflow piano-vocal score in the upper margin so that the end result could not be used by an accompanist. [1] This problem associated with copyflow, along with the impracticability of producing printouts of microfilm frames on both sides of a sheet, motivated the dev elopment in the 1980s of a method for making acid-free preservation photocopies which commercial firms (such as the late, lamented Booklab) could supply to libraries lettered and properly bound (i.e., to lie open on the music stand). While the preservation photocopy process lacked microfilming's byproduct-the preservation master negative-the durable scores produced thereby have served most of the needs of conservatory and research library music collections.

Music librarians have not only had to demand that preservation programs be adapted to serve the specific needs of music, but they have also called attention to preservation problems nearly unique to music. Standard library shelving units can accommodate volumes the height and width of standard sheet music editions, but with the development of the orchestra since the middle of the nineteenth century, many scores have been issued in editions which fall into the extreme oversize category. …

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