Libraries, academic institutions, state historical societies, and genealogical groups all share a vital mission – to gather, steward and share our collective history and learning for our communities. Noble as that all sounds, in this day and age, the mission also includes providing those services as inexpensively as possible all while improving library accessibility and improving circulation.
Many of these organizations, particularly local historical groups and libraries, have a treasure trove of information available from old newspapers, census reports, historical artifacts, photos and personal papers preserved on microfilm. However, making data preserved on microfilm attractive to patrons can be a challenge.
The New Archival “Normal”
Too often those with an interest in local history and preservation avoid searching those micrographic records because they don’t like using old microfilm readers or they find the process tedious. In addition, even though microfilm is a better medium for preservation than paper, it is not indestructible. Repeated usage of microfilm and microfiche can lead to accidental tearing or bending of the film. Older film may become brittle giving it even greater potential for tearing. Even aging and broken microfilm readers can cause damage if users aren’t extremely careful.
Many libraries and archives are converting microfilm to digital and then creating searchable databases to overcome some of these negatives. This option allows libraries to improve accessibility to historic archives while still being able to safely preserve the original records.
24/7 Online Access to Library and Historical Microfilm
Once you have digitized your newspaper or historical document you can produce a comprehensive, keyword searchable, digital archive. At that point, your patrons can search your entire archive of newspapers, vital records, journals, or any other historic document with simple and intuitive text searches.
Adding this information to organization’s website has several advantages:
reducing library facilities costs by freeing up space previously reserved for microfilm reading rooms
cost savings on microfilm reader repair and/or replacement
reducing the wear and tear on microfilm and microfiche
improving efficiency of keyword search for patrons with the use of OCR software
making data available to patrons and library staff 24/7
in many cases, with the assistance of advanced technology, producing better visual quality than the original film
Digital microfilm conversion technology has practical applications for organizations of all sizes. For instance, the Marion, IA Public Library had a huge collection of local newspapers dating back to the 1800s preserved on microfilm. When these records were digitized, they also created a searchable database. The entire archive is now available 24/7 on the library’s website.
For smaller organizations like local newspapers and parish libraries, this scalable solution is key to their continued usefulness and relevance. It allows their patrons access to historical archives that would otherwise have very limited access.
Some scholars and researchers are located all across the US. Most do not have the resources or ability to travel all over the country to uncover these microfilm resources at their physical location. A digitized microfilm collection converted to an online resource gives life to history that would otherwise likely have remained locked in a vault. In many cases, the discovery of existing repositories has resulted in the donation of additional collections and more funding.
At Advantage Companies, we specialize in converting archival records, including microfilm and microfiche records, to a digital format. Our quality and service makes us stand out from the competition. But don’t take our word for it. We would be happy to scan one roll of 35mm microfilm FREE and turn it into a searchable website for your review. Your microfilm will be returned to you in perfect condition, all at absolutely no cost or obligation to you. Register today for this FREE service and one of our representatives will contact you shortly.