Digital Archive Hosting
Give your historic documents a new life and give your community an easy-to-use resource by converting your local newspaper microfilm to a fully-searchable digital archive. The Community History Archives serve as a practical means to explore and discover content that was not easily accessible before. Preserving the historic content on microfilm ensures that the “first rough draft of history” is available for future generations. Using digitization as a supplement (not a replacement) to your long term archival strategy opens up a very real way for the members of your community to connect with their history.
The Community History Archive is user friendly, and easy to learn. We focused on making it as simple as possible, so that everyone…from students to grandparents (and everyone in between) can browse, search, view, clip and share articles, headlines, pages, and stories recorded in the pages of the community newspaper.. Just type a search and hit “enter” or browse to a specific year, month, day or page in any (or all) publications contained in the archive. Often a better value than a single microfilm reader! Advantage Preservation has developed a tailor made solution to meet the preservation needs of libraries across the country.
- We will work with you to inventory your materials and provide a comprehensive listing of your collection.
- We will provide you with an accurate estimate of cost associated with the digitization service.
- We will assist in the secure shipping and tracking of your materials
Our team will work with you to create a text searchable database – delivering you a valuable asset that you are proud to share with your patrons and community. We will help guide you through securing permission from the publisher to ensure all copyright laws are being followed. Upon completion of website our team will provide you with access to tracking tools so you can track the usage of your database for your end of the year reporting. Our team will continue to improve and update your database as technology changes.
Preserving our cultural heritage often falls to local communities and groups, with small staffs and even smaller budgets. Cities, counties and community organizations collect records, vital statistics and transactional data that, over the years, tell the story of an era. Previously this data was the purview of a few local historians and government types but, more and more, citizens are recognizing the importance of preserving historical documents for the long term and making them accessible to anyone, anywhere.
Newspaper Microfilming Solutions
At Advantage, we fully recognize that the history recorded in the pages of a community’s newspaper is invaluable. It puts historical events in perspective, allows us to view those events through the lens of someone who was there and witnessed “history as it happened”. It also allows us to connect to our past in a real and tangible way. This cultural asset must be protected and preserved so future generations can can have access to the “first draft of history”. The only true way to ensure its survival, is through microfilming.
Those local historical newspapers, record books, public records, and photos must be captured onto 35mm Silver Halide Microfilm to protect the valuable content from the ravages of time. Our microfilm meets all ANSI/AIIM Standards for microfilm preservation and use archival-quality 35mm Silver Halide microfilm produced in our FujiFilm Certified Lab for true 500+ year preservation. Through a collaborative approach, our clients are involved from the initial specifications to the delivery of the products, thus assuring the outcome they want and expect. All film is produced in the United States, and original materials will NEVER leave our secure facility. With microfilm that is stored to our standards, archived content will be available for future generations and can be accessed by anyone with a magnifying glass and a light source!
Our processes align to ANSI/AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) standards for archival microfilming, as well as specifications developed by the Research Libraries Group (RLG) & by the LIFLA & ALA. This requires stringent adherence to our internal guidelines regarding the careful production & examination of all archival microfilm, in addition to well controlled storage & handling conditions
We are very conscious of the fact that many institutions and government agencies face funding challenges and restricted budgets. Our goal is to ensure that a model exists to make those limited funds as impactful as possible. At Advantage we believe there is a solution for any budget, and that access to local history should not only be available to the largest of institutions, but also to small and underserved communities.
To achieve our goal, we have embraced the idea that preserving history is a shared responsibility. We partner with local community publishers, libraries, and other like minded individuals to make local content more accessible, now and in the future.
Provide Practical Access To Preserved Content
Historical newspapers and documents provide the first draft of our communities history and they not only need to be preserved, but made easily accessible. You might be evaluating the advantages of digitizing this historic content once it is preserved on microfilm. We have received this question asked by library directors many times. The answers very from community to community to some degree, but in the end the universal answer boils down to:
It will same time, improve research accuracy, protect the preservation copy, save money on physical replacements, & create a valuable community asset.
The Community History Archives are designed to be powerful, but not intimidating. It needs to be friendly, intuitive, and easy to learn. Advantage has focused on making it as simple as possible, so that everyone…from students to grandparents (and everyone in between) can browse, search, view, clip and share articles, headlines, pages, and stories recorded in the pages of the community newspaper. Just type a search and hit “enter” or browse to a specific year, month, day or page in any (or all) publications contained in the archive.
The platform is intended to serve as a “portal to the past”, allowing those primary source documents to give an accounting of history as told by the individuals that witnessed it. The pages in an archive, when stitched together, tell the story of the people, places, and events that shaped the community.
Spotlighting A Few Of Our Library Partners:
A Commitment To Quality
There is a difference between a microfilm “service provider” and a true partner for microfilming services. Advantage is a partner, not a “provider”, and our reputation is built on our commitment to provide our partners with the quality that they deserve. Quality Control and Quality Assurance are what set the microform production process at Advantage Archives apart from others in the industry. Quality Control is defined as those steps incorporated into the production process that are designed specifically to reduce error. Quality Assurance is the process by which the total product is examined to ensure that the quality criteria established by Advantage Preservation are met.
Our quality criteria include careful inspection of the microfilm for overall legibility, the smallest detail legibility captured, the dimensional accuracy compared with the original, and the completeness of overall image area density. We also verify completeness of record vs. original materials provided, the fate bars match the dates printed in the masthead or page, and all targets are accurate.
Our internal processes include:
- Auditing all available versions of source material available for the project to identify best available quality original for filming.
- Ensure that reasonable effort is put forth to repair any imperfections that affect the legibility of the pages on the volumes identified for filming.
- Document preparation, including but not limited to: the insertion of targets (density target, resolution target, declaration by camera operator) and preparing the newspapers in a manner that they are filmed in an orderly sequence and misplaced pages will be put in the correct order.
- If missing or illegible pages are identified, they will be documented by inserting and the proper filming targets, as specified in standard ANSI/AIIM MS23.
- Microfilming the physical newspapers on roll microfilm first-generation, silver microfilm. A leader with a minimum of 28 inches of blank film will be used as well as a trailer also of 28 inches. The shot count per 100 foot roll of film will not exceed 1000 pages. Lab processing of the camera master and methylene blue testing.
- Quality assurance of the images on film. If pages do not pass the quality tests, they will be sent back to the camera operator for retakes. Replacement images will be identified by a title target identifying the retake/addition records. Retakes/additions will be spliced either before the density and resolution targets at the beginning of the film or after the density and resolution targets at the end of the film.
Advantage Archives’ Adopted National Standards
Advantage adheres to the recommended practices issued by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and/or the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) as minimum requirements for microfilming & standard or practice:
Microfilm Storage & Custodianship
To ensure your collection meets the 500 year life expectancy target, the microfilm will be stored in temperature and humidity controlled vault. The vault’s temperature is set at a 67 degree base temperature, and will not exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A constant relative humidity of 35% will be maintained with a maximum variance of plus/minus 5.0% in a 24-hour period. We store your film on 1,000 foot reels and a non reactive container will be used for processed microfilm to protect the film and facilitate identification and handling.
Only, chemically stable materials such as non-corrosive metals (anodized aluminum or stainless steel), peroxide-free plastics, and acid-free paper will be used for containers to ensure no degradation is caused to the image. Container label information will include identification number and an Advantage barcode which will then be ingested into our records management software allowing for cataloging the location and contents.
Advantage Archives’ Adopted Microfilm Storage Standards
When you entrust us as a custodian of your microfilm collection, we take every that as a very serious responsibility. We have adopted several industry standards, and developed additional procedures to ensure the content contained on your microfilm is available for future generations!
Microfilm storage facility:
- Must be separate from other types of storage, offices, or work areas and offers protection from fire, water, steam, structural collapse, unauthorized access, and other potential hazards
- Must be equipped with a fire alarm system and capable of preventing temperatures inside the storage vault from exceeding 150 degrees & the relative humidity from exceeding 85% for up to two hours in the event of an external fire
Storage on open racking with closed containers:
- Must be equipped with a fire suppression system and with automatic fire control dampers in ducts carrying air to and from the storage room/vault If needed, it should be equipped with a system capable of removing those gaseous impurities in the surrounding environment as specified in standard ANSI IT9.11;
- If subject to invasion of solid particles that can abrade film or react on the images, has mechanical filters or electrostatic precipitators installed with a cleaning efficiency of at least 80% when tested with atmospheric air in accordance with standard ANSI IT9.11
- Storage housing materials must be non combustible and non corrosive.
- Storage housing and containers must not be overloaded and film must not be stored under pressure.
- Films of different generic types, such as silver-gelatin, diazo, and vesicular films, must not be stored in the same storage room/vault or in rooms sharing common ventilation.
Temperature and humidity controls:
- For microfilm of records with a retention of 10 years or more, temperature must not exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and a constant relative humidity of 35% must be maintained with a maximum variance of plus/minus 5.0% relative humidity in a 24-hour period.
- For microfilm of records with a retention of less than 10 years, the maximum temperature must not exceed 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and a relative humidity range between 20% and 50% must be maintained with a maximum variation of plus/minus 5.0% relative humidity in a 24-hour period
- Chemically stable materials such as non-corrodible metals (anodized aluminum or stainless steel), peroxide-free plastics, and acid-free paper must be used for containers to ensure no degradation is caused to the image
- If an adhesive is used, it must have no harmful effect on the photographic images.
- Inks used on the container and on the label must not be a source of damage to the film or the enclosure itself.
- Paper that is free of chemicals harmful to the film may be used to secure roll film, if needed.
- A microfilm container must be used for processed microfilm to protect the film and facilitate identification and handling.
Container label information:
- Identification number
- The beginning and ending records
- Retakes/additions, if applicable
- Name of agency
- Records series title
- Inclusive dates of records
- If the film is original or a duplicate
- Generation number if known
As resources and time are limited commodities in most organizations, we have contract services for microfilm inspection available to help ensure the integrity of your film archive. Advantage Preservation’s associates and archival specialists will evaluate existing acetate based microfilm collections and provide detailed documentation concerning the current condition of your archive. We will document any brittle film, microfilm with redox or other blemishes, the presence of vinegar syndrome (and stage of infection), any discoloration , mold or fungus growth, or any other condition that may jeopardize the life and longevity of your valuable archive.
At minimum, each year a random sample of not less than 2% of the total number of rolls stored in the facility should be examined to determine if deterioration is taking place. Each successive year the sampling population should include new rolls stored in the facility and the balance of the rolls not examined in the previous year. Film collections containing older films should be inspected in greater numbers. Guidelines for inspection are available in ANSI/AIIM MS45-1990 – Recommended Practice for Inspection of Stored Silver Gelatin Microforms for Evidence of Deterioration (as amended or replaced). In addition to common microfilm maladies, we will inspect each roll for quality, and adherence to standards. This includes counting the number of physical splices (and butt splices as opposed to overlap splices) and there are no rubber-based adhesives contained in any tape material used.
Lastly, a content inventory will be assembled to determine gaps in coverage, missing dates, and/or incorrect labeling or database information. Once the audit and inspection are complete, your account manager will share his or her findings in a comprehensive report and solutions can be discussed. To ensure that the collection is complete and contains the highest quality images available, and no content is compromised due to vinegar syndrome or redox, the microfilm collection will be audited in its entirety. The quality-index graph in standard ANSI/AIIM MS23 will be used to determine the minimum quality index for 15% of the total volume of microfilm. All microfilm must meet a minimum quality index level of 5.0. The microfilm must meet standard ANSI/NAPM IT9.1 (See Appendix A), except where these sections specifically state otherwise. Our process includes:
- Documenting start and end dates on each 100-foot roll of microfilm
- Quality auditing of 2% -5% of collection to ensure density and resolution of the microfilm in compliance with ANSI/AIIM Standards
- Visual inspection to verify image quality, skewing, damage or defects. If an issue is found, the un-inspected microfilm preceding and/or following those pages will be inspected image by image until all defective film has been identified.
- Each roll identified as needing to be re-filmed will be documented and cross referenced with the audit of bound volumes to identify best original available.
- Each 100-foot microfilm rolls will be conjoined for storage on 1,000 foot reels for long term archival storage
- Any deteriorating film will be immediately removed, documented and communicated to all parties involved in this agreement. Once the problem is corrected it will be returned to storage.
Certified FujiFilm Microfilm Lab
At Advantage Archives, we demand excellence and hold ourselves responsible to provide the highest quality of deliverable to our partners. We demand the same level commitment from our suppliers. We have selected Fujifilm as our preferred provider, as they have demonstrated that quality is their primary concern. Fujifilm has been awarded ISO 9002 quality certification for its microfilm manufacturing operations. For that reason, we use only the highest quality archival microfilm from FujiFilm and process it in our FujFilm certified lab.
FujiFilm microfilm is ideal for preserving irreplaceable documents and pictures for future generations. Their microfilm provides high-resolution, human-readable, archive-quality images that are provide superior results if digitization is elected for use as an access method. Their black-and-white microfilm has a Life Expectancy (LE) of at least 500 years when processed and stored according to recommended standard practices. Fujifilm negative microfilms provide outstanding performance for scanning into digital systems and viewing on conventional reader-printer screens. Fujifilm silver halide duplicating microfilms make high quality copies of source document originals.
Film specifications, processing, and storage
- Before Processing: Unopened packages of Fuji Microfilm is stored at 70F (21C) or below, and 50% relative humidity or less.
- After Processing: The term ‘archival’ is no longer specified in ISO/ANSI standards. Films are now classified according to their Life Expectancy or LE rating. LE is the life expectancy, in years, whereby filmed information can be retrieved, when the film is manufactured, processed, and stored under specified conditions.
ISO/ANSI specifications require the use of accepted processing methods to meet the standards of maximum Life Expectancy. These include the use of a developer, fixing solution, and adequate washing to ensure that the residual Thiosulfate level does not exceed 1.4 micrograms per square centimeter of film, as specified in ISO 18917:1999 Photography — Determination of residual thiosulfate and other related chemicals in processed photographic materials — Methods using iodine-amylose, methylene blue and silver sulfide, and as recommended by ANSI/AIIM MS23 -2004 Standard Recommended Practice – Production, Inspection, and Quality Assurance of First-Generation, Silver Microforms of Documents.Temperature and Humidity Storage Requirements for Microfilm (After processing)
All Fujifilm Silver Halide Microfilms and plastic boxes, and other archive media, are manufactured to meet or exceed all pertinent ANSI and ISO specifications, including ISO 18901:2010 Imaging materials- Processed silver-gelatin type black-and-white films.
Our Adopted Archive Media Standards:
Only Silver Halide Gelatin Microfilm on Polyester base has an LE500 designation when processed and stored as specified. The Applicable ISO/ANSI Standards in regards to the microfilm we use from FujiFilm are as follows: (Please check with ISO for latest/current revision)The ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards dealing with permanence and physical properties are being phased out and are being replaced by ISO standards.
Looking For A New Partner? Do Your Homework!
We have had many recent conversations with librarians, newspaper publishers and state entities who are deeply concerned with their current microfilm preservation companies. Several institutions have also been subject to an interruption in service when a large national microfilm provider recently ceased operations. Needless to say, there are many individuals just like you, searching for websites just like this, trying to figure out what their options are.
There is understandable stress when selecting a new vendor. Consideration must be given to preservation budgets, about providing good and current resources to your patrons, and ultimately about the preservation of your community’s history. Here are four questions that you should consider asking of a potential preservation vendor (and from your newspaper’s publisher, as they ultimately choose a vendor).
How well do you understand the needs of our library and community?
Can you preserve and provide practical access to all of the newspaper titles printed in our community? Will you make recommendations as to the best research experience for that content? Will 0ur account manager take an interest in my community’s history? Will you consult with us on best practices for storing and viewing our film? Do you understand which documents are important to our community, and advise us on how to make them widely accessible to our patrons?
Are you a “vendor”, a “service provider” or a collaborative partner?
Can you tell me how you plan to collaborate with us to understand, develop and execute on preservation and access strategy? Are you selling a product, a service or a commodity, or are you taking a role as a partner that will work with us towards a common goal? How can I be sure if you will make a good partner? How do I know that you won’t prioritize your company’s strategic goals and profits ahead of our needs or our budget? How can you assure me that I have evaluated the proper comprehensive solution, and I am not just subscribing to a service or tool. Will you look at custom preservation and access strategies that fit our exact situation, or do you offer a “one size fits all” approach?
Do you have a digital offering to compliment our preservation efforts?
Do you have the knowledge to help build a digital archive? Can you explain the benefits and shortcomings of digitization of our records, and how will we know when microfilm is a better option than digital, and vice-versa? What is your role after the archive has been built?
Can you help on other projects?
Can you assist in preserving and providing access to other historical records such as directories, yearbooks, maps, and my community’s other historical documents? Will you help build a preservation program to protect and provide practical access to our old documents, genealogy books, or anything else that might be of interest to our community?
What are your microfilming quality standards?
Do you understand that properly preserving a newspaper (and the other documents that tell the story of our community’s past) requires care and precision? Do you exclusively capture newspapers and documents to 35mm silver-halide master microfilm for 500 year preservation Do you strictly adhere to ANSI and AIIM standards? Do you audit the density, reduction ratios, and clarity of your film? Can you provide details as to your quality control process? Will you keep me informed as to where, and under what conditions our film is being created? Can you provide me with a sample?
How will my master microfilm be stored?
Can you tell me about you microfilm storage facility? How can I be assured my microfilm masters are stored properly, in a humidity-and-temperature controlled environment? Will duplications be made this master microfilm or will you be using our service copy that may inherit any issues with clarity and readability? Do you offer any auditing services for my collection? What environmental testing do you do to address issues like containment mitigation, air quality, and isolation of “at risk” film from contagious conditions like vinegar syndrome or redox?
Are your prices fair?
No follow up questions needed, you will know.
If you do not feel your current provider can, or is willing to answer the questions above, or you suddenly find yourself with out a provider…we would like you to know that there is an alternative. We built Advantage Preservation specifically to address the deficiencies in the industry. We came together from different areas in the preservation and newspaper publishing communities because we are not happy with how publishers and libraries are being treated. We have designed a preservation solution with clear and open answers to all the above questions, as well as a dedication to quality and a focus on marketing your history. Our program is designed to care for newspaper publishers and libraries equally.
Please remember to contact your current vendor to make sure they are taking care of your history
We truly value our long standing partnerships with libraries and publishers, in communities across the United States. We have been privileged to help them preserve, and provide online access to their community’s history, and are pleased that they share our mission to ensure that documents from the past are accessible in the present, and available in the future. We also work with museums, historical societies, genealogical societies, colleges, universities, and more, to provide Document Imaging, Preservation Microfilming Services, Microform Scanning, Digital Archive Hosting, and Document Management Solutions.
The Advantage Archives team has been partnering with libraries, colleges, and historical societies to preserve their local history one community at a time. We take great pride in our work to preserve the past, make it accessible in the present, and ensure its future…..and it all starts with converting local historical newspapers and other documents onto 35mm Silver Halide Microfilm, It is critical to protect the valuable printed content, from the ravages of time. Our internal microfilm standards exceed ANSI/AIIM standards for microfilm preservation.
Newspaper publishers have recorded their community’s “first draft of history” everyday. We preserve that history, on microfilm, and partner with the publisher to make that preserved content widely available to interested libraries and institutions in their community and beyond. Our processes meet or exceed all ANSI/AIIM Standards for microfilm preservation. The service will be done at no cost to our qualifying publishing partners. The papers will be shipped to our facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where they will be handled with care.
Qualifying publishers will also enjoy a revenue sharing opportunity on the content sold on a subscription basis to the interested libraries . The master negative copy can be stored at no additional charge in our state of the art vault under the publisher’s ownership. We are merely the custodian of the publisher’s intellectual property.
The Advantage team has been closely monitoring the painful condition and trends in the budgets of our state governments… and we are extremely conscious of the fact that one of the hardest hit areas over the past several years has been in document imaging and historic document preservation services in our government libraries, historical societies, archives, & other agencies. Often the cuts have been deep, and in many cases, these institutions have been under funded, or no longer receive funding at all. We have developed several service offering and solutions in the wake of the ongoing budget cuts and resource allocations…many provided at no cost to the state or its tax payers.
Advantage Archives has been working with educational institutions of all sizes, public and private for many years, and we understand the importance of the services they provide their students, their community, their state, and beyond. We have partnered with these college & university libraries, K-12 schools, & other educational institutions to provide subscriptions to newspapers on microfilm, preservation microfilming services, digital access solutions, and much, much more. We also recognize that the administration is burdened with more paperwork than ever before. Dealing with paper-based business processes while struggling to comply with regulations such as NCLB, FERPA and HIPAA is resource intensive to say he least. Our document scanning and conversion solutions for educational institutions can help reduce costs, improve staff productivity and provide superior service to departments, faculty, students and parents.
Historical preservation is far from our only area of expertise! Our dedicated commercial document imaging solution division AdvantageIMS, is dedicated to providing solutions to industries and government agencies everywhere. Businesses large and small value their partnership with Advantage, as much as we value ours with them. Archiving and retrieving information may not be your core competency, but it is ours. We provide solutions tailored to your industries including hospitals, universities, law firms, manufacturing companies, research firms, transportation, and any other business that generates paperwork. Advantage’s commercial division has provided document management solutions for many years. We pride ourselves in our understanding of business documents and their impact on your bottom line. We listen to your needs and requirements and design a solution specific to your company and its’ clients.
Whether your document is a day old, or 200 years old, we have the technology, experience and expertise to provide your library, historical societies, museums, and other institutions, with archiving and access options. Our solutions are designed to fit your institution’s unique needs and budget restrictions. We specialize in Document Imaging, Preservation Microfilming Services, Microform Scanning, Digital Archive Hosting, and Document Management Solutions. We partner with libraries & historical societies just like yours, to preserve their community’s past, make accessible in the present, and available in the future.
The history recorded in the documents from communities across the country, is invaluable. Newspapers, atlases, almanacs, personal journals, directories, government documents…and even yearbooks can put historical events in perspective, and allow us to view those events through the lens of someone who was there and witnessed “history as it happened”. It also allows us to connect to our past in a real and tangible way. This cultural asset must be protected and preserved so future generations can can have access to the documents that would otherwise be lost to the erosion of time if they remained on fragile paper. The only true way to ensure its survival, is through microfilming.
A digital archive allows you to give your historical documents a new life, and give your community an easy-to-use resource, by converting your local newspaper microfilm, and other historical documents, to a fully-searchable digital archive. The Community History Archives serve as a practical means to explore and discover content that was not easily accessible before. Preserving the historic content on microfilm ensures that the “first rough draft of history” is available for future generations. Using digitization as a supplement (not a replacement) to your long term archival strategy, it opens up a very real way for the members of your community to connect with their history.
The content contained on paper documents give a firsthand account and informs our perspective of history, that shaped not only your community, but also your state, and the nation…from a local perspective. Although historical newspaper imaging is our specialty, we have equal passion for all historic documents, including vital records, family bibles, transcripts, journals, and more. All documents and fragile papers are evaluated and processed to assure proper care and accurate conversion. Our experience covers a broad range of document types from a few days, a few years, or even 300 years ago. All phases of the archival document imaging process, such as preparation, document scanning, document indexing, etc., are managed effectively by the experienced team at Advantage. We work closely with our clients through the entire lifecycle of the project utilizing proven project management and preservation methodologies.
Historical preservation is far from our only area of expertise! Our dedicated commercial document imaging solution division AdvantageIMS, is dedicated to providing solutions for more documents critical your business or organization. Archiving and retrieving information may not be your core competency. It is ours. We provide solutions tailored to your specific requirements. Advantage Archives commercial division has provided document management solutions for many years. We pride ourselves in our understanding of business documents and their impact on your bottom line. We listen to your needs and requirements and design a solution specific to your company and its’ clients.
Connect Your Community To Its History! Explore A Partnership With Advantage & Discover “History As it Happened “. Use the form below to connect with us, and let’s discuss way’s we can ensure your local history is easily accessible!
OCR - Making History Searchable
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the term used for the automated process of converting the words on an image into machine readable text that can be searched,, displayed on-line, and indexed. When applied to historical newspapers OCR can be exceptionally challenging.
We use an automated OCR process that we have optimized for those challenges unique to historical newspapers. This method allows us to make the expense of providing access to your community’s newspapers as low as possible. Libraries and local communities can afford to procure access to decades of content as an enhancement to the preservation of their papers on microfilm.
To understand the challenges with OCR, specifically inherent to historical newspapers, you must first understand the source materials
The newspaper industry in the United States has evolved considerably over the last 300 years. Each development in the typesetting methods, printing process, and paper stock created unique challenges in adapting the digital image of old newspapers to a searchable format. In short, the OCR quality (therefore, the search-ability of the newspaper) is solely dependent on the condition of the source material. This does not reflect a technology problem, nor is it a problem with. If the words on a page are not recognized by the software, most likely it is the result of a series of problems that began 300 years before the first computer was even invented.
Most OCR software tools do not necessarily follow the logical arrangement of a newspaper’s multi-column, multi-sectioned layout. The software does, however, endeavor to identify zones with possible text so that OCR may be applied to these zones. There are two types of zones: graphic and text. Typically, the text zones are very accurately represented. At the Advantage, we use 100 percent automation for both zoning and capture. The quality of the OCR is completely dependent upon the quality of the medium that is scanned, as is the case in every step preceding OCR.
The quality of the original image has several implications throughout an automated process. If the second or third generation images on the microfilm have deteriorated to any degree, the imperfections and poor image quality will interfere dramatically with the OCR process. Areas of text may be seen as a graphic and spacing of columns or even letters may lack consistency, which leads to a “ballooning” of the number of terms that are submitted for a search. For example, a simple imperfection can close a “C,” transforming a word like “cat” into “oat”.
Combined with unusual fonts, faded printing, shaded backgrounds, fragmented letters, skewed text, curved lines and bleed-through on the originals, OCR will be far less than 50 percent on most historical documents. We are able to manually correct OCR, but this would be a cost-prohibitive process for libraries given their budget constraints.
One method of measuring OCR efficiency is gauging how accurately it determines which words are on the printed page. This is normally expressed as the percentage of words on the page that are accurately “read” by the software. Of course, “reading” a word entails piecing it together letter by letter, therefore, OCR accuracy is sometimes measured as the percentage of letters that are accurately “read.” It is important to note, however, that these two measures of accuracy are fundamentally different. Word accuracy is, by definition, significantly lower than letter accuracy, as it is effectively the joint accuracies-or joint probabilities- of the letters in the word. For example, OCR accuracy at the letter-level for a document may be 98 percent. But computing the accuracy of a five-letter word in that same document is done by taking 0.98 to the fifth power.
Despite these challenges, the benefits of OCR far outweigh the benefits of using microfilm for research or content-based inquiries. Microfilm provides many advantages for long-term archiving and preservation of content, but a quick search to find information, such as a name, is not among them. OCR eliminates the need to tirelessly inspect each page, and scour each word, to locate a mere tidbit of information within a microfilm reel. Furthermore, one must know the City, State, Title, and Date of the information sought in order to first locate the reel. If the user is unable to find an item by conducting a search due to poor OCR returns, the digital images are still indexed by City, State, Title and Date. As a result, the user has a content-browsing tool, and the process operates more efficiently than film readers.
Try It Yourself
(Click The Image To See A Community History Archive In Action)
The Site Can Be Branded With Any Artwork You Provide
(Click the image to visit this archive!)