We’ve heard the same story again and again from our clients: they start a document conversion project and soon find themselves in over their heads. Clients regularly underestimate the length of time and the amount of labor it will take to complete their document conversion project. Converting microfilm to digital is particularly challenging because microfilm is fragile and easily damaged, requires specialized equipment and skills, and has a unique indexing system.

What goes wrong? Lack of planning and the desire to save money are usually the culprits. There are a number of outcomes, few of them good. Sometimes the project gets started but is never finished due to lack of resources. In cases where not finishing the project is not an option, sometimes the project goes way over budget. Often, scanning is completed, but without an adequate quality control or a pre-determined indexing plan, the data is virtually unusable because the digital product lacks coherent organization or search capability.

Best Practices for Converting Microfilm to Digital

Sometimes we here at Advantage Archives are called in, mid-project, to finish what was started and to try to rescue irreplaceable microfilm and microfiche from inexperienced handlers and inadequate equipment. While we always appreciate business, this is obviously not the most cost effective or optimal way to manage a document conversion project.

Microfilm conversion projects involve several steps. Skipping any of these steps or underestimating the time involved can put the success of any microfilm conversion project in jeopardy. Before you start your microfilm conversion project, you should:

  1. Complete a thorough inventory of all of the images that need to be digitized.

  2. Scan a random selection of microfilm to determine the scope and difficulty of your project.

  3. Create examples of the final product to verify that they meet your goals and standards.

  4. Identify any problem areas so adjustments can be made at the start of the project.

  5. Pre-determine your indexing plan so users can easily retrieve data once all images have been digitized.

Once you’ve completed these steps, there are other factors that will determine the success and speed with which you can complete a microfilm conversion project.

  • Quality of scanning equipment needed to complete a microfilm conversion project

  • Scanning experience, quality control skills and indexing expertise of personnel

  • File type (TIFF, JPEG, PDF, etc.) best suited for your current imaging system

  • Full-text search capability using Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

  • If you intend to make data accessible online, quality of website access, security and hosting costs.

If you’ve done your homework as described above, you’ll have a better idea about whether your organization is ready for a major microfilm conversion project or if, in the long-run, you may be better off outsourcing to a records management company experienced in these kinds of projects.

At Advantage Companies, we specialize in converting records and documents of all kinds, including microfilm and microfiche records, to a digital format. Our quality and service makes us stand out from the competition. If you would like to check out our capabilities as a part of your homework, 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.