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December 2000


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"Thomas W. Perrin" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 11 Dec 2000 12:00:36 -0500
text/plain (126 lines)
Wayne Miller wrote:
> Dear Tom,
> While I, in large part, agree with you, you seem to ignore the existence of
> CD's as a cheap, relatively stable storage medium.

I don't ignore it at all. My CD burner has a place of honor on my desk.
However, in
my trash bin are 5 1/4" floppies. I no longer have a computer that will
read them. Yet, five years or so ago, 5 1/4" drives were common.  Now
you have to consult a specialist to read them.  Documents created in CPM
(an operating system that preceded DOS, circa 1982) may not be readable
at all.  What is your guarantee that the CD's we create now will be
usable, readable, a few years from now. What if the master CD gets
scratched, tossed in the trash by a neo-luddite librarian or
administrator? What if it gets infected by a virus or worm and the data
thereon is destroyed?

And while you are right
> about the time/labor intensive nature of digitization, you should not
> neglect the VERY intensive nature of conservation/preservation of
> originals.

Stipulated.  Personally, I accord conservation among the most honorable
of professions, one that should be offered in every school that teaches
Lest I be accused of fantasy bordering on lunacy, you might want to look
at the prices of original materials on the open market over the last
ten, five, and one years vs current prices in such forums as flea
markets, antique stores, used book dealers and of course eBay.  Interest
in original documentation has skyrocketed, as have prices, over the last
24 months as the internet has increased the ability to market to a wider
I suspect that interest in conservation will increase.  If wider
dissemination were given to the terrible crimes perpetrated by libraries
in tossing originals on the trashpile, perhaps more interest will be

And when we are talking about highly acidic newsprint, the 'slow
> fires' are continuing to oxidize originals as we debate.

This may come as a shock to some, but not all newspapers are printed on
highly acidic material. Most 19th century papers were printed on very
nice rag content paper.

And there are ways to arrest, stabilize or slow down the acidification
process that are not terribly expensive.

 Storage conditions
> are, of course, extremely important. But the sad truth is that funders find
> digitization sexy and archival environmental controls like kissing your
> grandmother.

My grandmother was a rich old lady, and people lined up to kiss her.
Same thing
with these old documents. In their original form, they are extremely
valuable on
the open market (Check out the dealer prices for individual old
newspapers, magazines and other ephemera.)  Just to take matters to an
extreme, I recently sold an original 1971 New York Times clipping on
eBay for $141.00  (in order to preserve the integrity of the few hard
copy collections that are left, I won't mention bibliographical

Sexy, very sexy indeed.

As is digitization, a process that I applaud, welcome and perform.
Digitization is a huge, and extremely profitable business. Just take a
look at the huge numbers of databases and books digitized and archived
in the genealogy field.
see: http://www.ancestry.com  http://www.heritagequest.com

Then, you might want to take a look at the grants being administered
through the Library of Congress (privately funded from private industry)
for digitization of important collections. The terms of the grants state
that recipients can recapture the amount original grant by charging a
fee for access or reproduction, so that the process can continue.

However, I think my previous posts provided a rational and well thought
out basis for not discarding the originals once discarded, and there is
no need to repeat what I have written.

Tom Perrin

> Wayne Miller
> Thomas W. Perrin writes:
> >  My comments on Digital photography being performed by low end cameras
> > were based
> >  upon an examination of the machines and their specifications at the
> > Canon booth
> >  at the American Library Association meeting in New Orleans a year and a
> > half ago.
> >
> >  While it is true that I can put together a superb (color, high
> > resolution, depth of field) digital photography setup in my home for
> > less than $5000, including computer, the fact remains that the
> > processing of material is slow. (as it should be).
> >
> >  I suggest that the machines being purchased by institutions are more
> > likely to fall into the expensive ($15,000 and up) low resolution (300
> > dpi), black and white, high speed, high volume cameras.
> >
> >  There is a significant technical limitation with regards to image
> > quality: the higher the quality, the more memory is required and the
> > processing time between images is correspondingly increased, thus
> > slowing the whole process down. The progression of the limitation is
> > geometric rather than arithmetic. A small increase in resolution
> > mandates a disproportionately greater increase in memory and speed
> > requirements.
> >
> >  I can purchase a large format digital Leica camera for $24,000 that
> > will exceed any specification that film has to offer. But it's
> > impractical with regards to memory storage and speed for the kind of
> > volume processing that we are talking about.
> >
> >  On the other hand, IF the originals are preserved, then within decades
> > we may be able to revisit them with more efficient technology.
> >
> >  Tom Perrin