Summit of Research Scientists in Preservation (SORS)
Date: July 24-25, 2008
Background and History: The human record has entered a new phase. At a time when many questions remain about the best strategies to preserve traditional media, a steadily growing volume of cultural documentation is stored in media and found in audiovisual and digital collections, whose preservation challenges we have barely begun to understand. Without rapid, focused, and cross-disciplinary materials research, cultural institutions risk losing access to an expanding body of knowledge and history.
To support the preservation of increasingly diverse traditional and new media, the Library of Congress has recently committed significant new resources to its Preservation Research and Testing Division. This commitment includes expanding instrumental capabilities, laboratory infrastructure, and increases in personnel dedicated to scientific research. Such commitment underscores the essential partnership of materials science with library and computer sciences for preservation of library, archive, and museum collections in the digital age.
The Library recognizes that progress in preservation science in the United States requires an agreed-upon national research strategy for coordinated effort. A national research strategy will maximize efforts by clearly identifying areas where collaborative research is most needed, reducing duplicate efforts, encouraging fiscal responsibility, and fostering financial support from grant and other funding organizations.
Goal and Program Description: In order to address the goal of a consensus-based national research strategy, the Library of Congress convened a collaborative scientific working group, or summit, on July 24-25, 2008, in Washington, DC. Recognizing that communication promotes both scientific understanding and creativity, thirty senior conservation scientists were invited to attend a two-day meeting to: 1) share the intellectual and “purpose driven” objectives of scientific research in which they are currently engaged, and 2) identify essential lines of research needed to meet today’s preservation challenges.
Participants: Selection criteria required that participants have a proven record of long-term research, publication, and other contributions in some discipline of preservation science. They were also required to work for facilities that will enable collaboration with others to advance knowledge in the field of document preservation. Representative participants came from the Getty Conservation Institute, the Museum Conservation Institute, the Canadian Conservation Institute, the National Archives, the Image Permanence Institute, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Freer Gallery, British Library, the Lawrence Berkley National Labs, Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon University, Pepperdine University, Arizona State Museum and University of Arizona, the University of Delaware, the University of Texas (Austin), the Centre de Rescherche sur la Conservation des Documents Graphiques, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, and the National and University of Slovenia, among other places.
Outcomes: The program developed a consensus-based research strategy that supports conservation and preservation across collection types and scientific specialties. The strategy, aided by international participation, has international impact. Meeting results included the dissemination of research priorities that: 1) contribute to immediate progress through communication among a network of scientist, and 2) evolve over the longer term through collaborative opportunities as goals are achieved and new challenges developed.
In addition, participants were introduced to the concept of a charter of principles for preservation strategies of research scientists, outlining assumptions and guiding principles to enhance mutual assistance in order to better connect scientists to collection research needs.
Support: Initial support for this summit was provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC). Co-Sponsors included the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) and members of the International Federation of Library Associations Preservation and Conservation North American Network (IFLA PAC NAN), including the Preservation Directorate of the Library of Congress; Yale University and Pepperdine University Libraries; the Kilgarlin Center for the Preservation of the Cultural Record, University of Texas at Austin School of Information; and Preservation Programs, National Archives and Records Administration.
Symposium: Scientific Collaboration Key to Preserving the Human Record provides a summary of the meeting.
Summit of Research Scientists (SORS) in Preservation provides a summary of the presentations at the meeting with a spreadsheet showing current research projects by SORS partners.