Satellite transmission. Telecommunication. A fax machine in every office. A computer on every desk. A phone in every car. Communication is constantly improving and the world is continually growing smaller because of these expanding opportunities. Can the preservation community grow closer through improved communication? The answer would seem to be yes.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is embarking upon a new program in hopes of improving communication within the preservation community. Preserve Link, a nationwide on-line computer network, will establish a coast-to-coast link for national, state, and local preservation organizations and agencies. The program, which will be launched on June 1, will provide valuable information and resources not currently available from a single source. This communication link will also encourage interaction between subscribers and will provide them with direct access to other preservationists around the country.
Preserve Link will operate within the Local Exchange (LEX) Network. The National League of Cities created LEX in 1988 and has invited the Trust to become a partner in the network. The Trust will recruit pilot subscribers to help shape the system into a valuable tool for preservationists nationwide.
The LEX network includes three major categories of service: bulletin boards, data bases, and electronic mail (E mail), providing a unique collection of information to serve the users. Interactive bulletin boards provide a forum for Q & A interchange; other bulletin boards provide up-to-date information on current topics.
The system's data bases will contain subject indexes and will be full-text searchable. The E mail feature will facilitate communications between all users and will also provide fax capability. Messages can be transmitted coast to coast, providing preservation organizations with sophisticated communication capability. Users will have individual mailboxes and the ability to establish and maintain distribution lists. These distribution lists will enable users to send mass communications to their members or to other parties within the system.
LEX currently provides valuable resources, among them "Local Government Solutions," one-page descriptions of thousands of successfully implemented problem-solving programs, and "Urban Affairs Abstracts," a data base of article and report summaries from more than 400 publications. Trust subscribers will also be able to access the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) network, which provides literature and valuable resources needed to stay abreast of current educational issues. In addition to the services currently available Preserve Link will bring to the network a wide array of preservation-related information through a variety of bulletin boards and data bases. Potential topics will include:
- A Preservation Q & A Board promoting interchange on current preservation issues. Depending upon the demonstrated interest among users, the Trust also anticipates the evolution of specific topical boards.
- A Calendar of Events listing conferences, meetings, workshops, tours, and other educational activities. Information is currently being gathered from preservation and related organizations and agencies at the national, state, and local levels.
- A Job Listings board announcing positions and internships available with the National Trust, other national preservation organizations, and state and local organizations and agencies.
- Legislative Updates from the National Trust's Center for Public Policy reporting on preservation-related legislation.
- A Preservation Resource Directory listing preservation organizations and agencies.
- A comprehensive List of Publications and Products describing items available from the National Trust with on-line ordering capabilities.
- The Preservation Link Library including an organizational development data base listing educational and technical resources and a bibliography of reference materials; the Main Street four-point file index developed by the National Main Street Center; bibliographies from the National Trust/ University of Maryland Library; publication indexes for Trust periodicals.
- A Heritage Education data base listing local programs around the country.
The Trust considered afford ability a high priority when selecting a firm to support the communications system and was determined to enable interested preservationists to participate in the pilot program at a reasonable rate. An annual subscription fee of $60 will be charged as will monthly usage fees at a minimum of $20, based on one hour of on-line time. LEX estimates that monthly usage time will average between one and one and one half hours.
Because the preservation community is spread across the nation, the existence of a twenty-four-hour-a-day help line is a significant advantage of Preserve Link. Network members will receive personal attention day or night, and the system is completely menu-driven. You don't have to be a computer whiz to use it.
Subscribers must provide their own hardware and software. Specific requirements include an asynchronous modem with a communications speed of 1200 or 2400 baud rate, asynchronous communications software compatible with the modem, and an IBM, IBM-compatible, or Macintosh computer.
"The Trust is committed to the success of Preserve Link, but we cannot do it alone," says Peter Brink, National Trust vice president for programs, services, and information. "We need enthusiastic and dedicated subscribers to also commit to its success. We encourage preservationists around the country to come 'on-line,' because together, we can build a closer and better-informed preservation community."
Publication date: March/April 1992#ForumJournal#Technology