Summit of Research/Technology Transfer (SORTT): Exchanges With Cultural Heritage Preservation
Preservation - Future Directions Symposia Series
Date: September 29-30, 2009
Background and History: The need to preserve and sustain our cultural resources parallels the accepted need for conservation of the environment and natural resources. At the Library of Congress, the Preservation Research and Testing Division (PRTD) undertakes scientific research to mitigate risks to the Library’s collections, while enhancing long-term collections access for researchers and the public. Materials science is applied to characterize the physical and chemical properties of library, archives, and museum materials ranging from paper, parchment, and photographs through audiovisual and digital media, and to identify both risks and preservation solutions. Several Library symposia have expanded knowledge in this arena (http://www.loc.gov/preservation/outreach/symposia/).
Research and testing for preservation can benefit greatly from developments in disciplines such as forensic science, polymer chemistry, micro-analysis, and remote-sensing imaging. In turn, the non-destructive and micro-analytical techniques used to characterize degradation mechanisms in historic and modern materials found in libraries, archives and museums create reference databases of aged and deteriorated substrates and media to inform lifetime predictive testing for forensic and security concerns as well as cultural heritage.
Information exchange and technology transfer among federal scientific research laboratories speeds application of tools and protocols, disseminates the achievements of federal research, and maximizes the investment of federal dollars for the public good. This meeting advanced techniques, skills, and performance in multiple disciplines. Symposia focused on the use of a common technology in differing applications provide a proven model for interdisciplinary communication and innovation. The Summit on Research/Technology Transfer (SORTT) builds on the Library’s 2008 Summit of Research Scientists in Preservation (SORS) to further areas of collaborative research and interchange (see http://www.loc.gov/preservation/outreach/symposia/researchsum.html).
Goal and Program Description: The Library of Congress convened approximately 20 scientists from public sector laboratories, including the Library’s Preservation Research and Testing Division, to exchange information about recent advances in forensic, analytical, and polymer science; industrial and aerospace technology; cultural heritage materials research; and other scientific fields. The focus was micro, non-destructive, and lifetime predictive testing and scientific data management. The summit also advanced development of a shared materials reference database, and a framework for storage, analysis, and exchange of large volumes of data.
Library of Congress collections range from the earliest existing records through the most recently created digital objects. These represent a very broad range of media—including proteinaceous, cellulosic, metallic, and plastic substrates; inks, colorants, and photographic media; and magnetic and laser-sensitive material. Characterization of these materials under natural and accelerated aging conditions is critical for preservation. It also aids lifetime predictive studies and the development of portable, real-time, micro-analytic and precision positioning technologies.
Participants: Selected researchers from key governmental institutions were invited, including scientists and scientific personnel representing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security (Customs, Border Protection and Secret Service), the New York Police Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, and naval and military research laboratories. These scientists were joined by approximately 10 observers from the cultural heritage scientific community.
Results and Outcomes: The summit advanced developments in:
- New and enhanced applications of non-destructive, micro-analytical and lifetime predictive testing techniques, and standardized protocols.
- Knowledge and technology transfer mechanisms among research scientists in the public and cultural heritage sectors.
- Create a knowledge map of scientific research of mutual interest across governmental and cultural heritage agencies.
- Standardized architecture for exchange of information relating to, and access to, physical and digital materials reference samples. Examples of such reference samples include the Library’s collection of Barrow Books, TAPPI Fibers, and Forbes Pigments.
The Library will issue a summary of key information and recommended next steps for the continued advancement of scientific research for the protection of cultural heritage in libraries, archives, and other collections-holding institutions. The results of this summit will be disseminated in a range of formats to address the needs of diverse interested parties.