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December 2000


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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Wayne Miller <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 16 Dec 2000 03:41:28 GMT
"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
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Dear Tom,
At the risk of driving others off the list by prolonging this discussion, I
will as I think it of great importance. Just a couple of points I'd like to
respond to.

> 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.

Was it that your 5" drives stopped working, or did you upgrade? And your
operating system? I say this by way of raising the spector of how are we
archiving the electronic media of today.

> 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.

True, but this is not an advantage to archives. Quite the opposite. Not
only are we ethically and legally constrained under most circumstances from
liquidating anything in our collections, we now have to compete with my
sister-in-law who is turning print artifacts that previously might have
been offerred to an archive into big profits. With a few well-known and
well-heeled exceptions, most museums, archives, historical collections, and
special collections have EXTREMELY limited acquisitions budgets. The
resources we do have are usually insufficient to process the wonderful
gifts that are forthcoming and upon which we depend.

> 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.

Obviously, papers printed prior to the Civil War, which spurred development
of the Sulfide Process which allowed wood pulp to replace cotton, is rag in
origin and, therefore, low acid. You are right. We have some very nice
papers in our collection reporting on the Battle of Plattsburgh, the last
naval battle between English speaking peoples and the battle which decided
that northern NY and New England remained part of the U.S. These papers
from September, 1814 are in wonderful shape.

> 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.

Each of the last four years I have submitted a proposal (in partnership
with  museums, libraries and historical societies in our area) to LC or
IMLS (the main federal funder) to digitize these papers and other important
documents relating to this very important, but relatively unknown battle
(of Plattsburgh). At the stage of the competition where stuff is sent out
to fellow professionals, our proposals are highly rated. But in the 'money
round' where a panel sitting in Washington decides who will actually get
funded, well... We're not one of the big boys, don't have the resources to
run with the big dogs, and aren't in a position to provide the kind of quid
pro quo needed to be a serious contender. If it sounds like sour grapes, it
is. It's also a recognition that I will have to play a better political
game than I have been.

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.

As a librarian, I am committed to avoiding fee for service whenever
possible. Our heritage is part of our birthright and having to pay for it
means many will lose their history.

I apologize for the length and hard edge of my remarks. Those of us who
work as librarians and archivists aren't in it for the money. And having to
spend so much of our energy pulling together the funds to do an inadequate
job is, quite frankly, depressing. I hope your grandmother left part of her
fortune to an archive.

Wayne Miller