Inner Banner Bg

At-Risk Microfilm

Advantage Archives is partnering with communities to provide free, practical access to local history.

Advantage Archives Is Partnering With Communities To Ensure Their Past Has A Future

The only true way to ensure the survival of your community’s printed history is through the preservation of microfilming. Archived content will be available for future generations and can be accessed by anyone with a magnifying glass and some light IF the microfilm collection is appropriately produced, handled, and maintained. Are you confident that your microfilm holdings are “healthy”?

If you have microfilm that was produced after the early 1930s, but before the early 80s, it is highly probable that it is an acetate-based film stock, making them vulnerable, and the content archived on it could be “at-risk” of being lost.

Vinegar Syndrome

Prior to 1980, microfilm produced with an acetate backing was often used to capture documents and newspapers. Unfortunately, this film base is susceptible to a “disease” known as “Vinegar Syndrome.”

Vinegar Syndrome is a chemical degradation of cellulose acetate film. It takes its name from the obvious vinegar smell, which is the identifying characteristic of the degradation process. It smells like vinegar because infected film releases acetic acid, the same substance in ordinary vinegar you might find in your kitchen cupboards.

Vinegar syndrome is also “contagious.” If a reel in your collection is infected, the other reels stored with could “catch it,” too. The autocatalytic nature of vinegar syndrome triggers the breakdown of any cellulose acetate film reels stored in close proximity.


Microfilm can also suffer from another condition known as “redox.” Redox describes the process that forms the blemishes caused by a localized, cyclic reduction and oxidation of the silver in the image area. Redox appears most commonly on microfilm but may also appear on prints made that used silver in the development process.

Many kinds of defects and blemishes that occasionally appear on processed microfilm can be attributed to redox. Most commonly, redox blemishes are small circles outlined with concentric rings that alternate between dark and light. They are frequently in shades of brown or yellow and often seen centered on scratches in your film, sometimes closely packed, like water droplets on a spiderweb.

First, Identify At-Risk Film

Advantage Archives recognizes that both resources and time are limited commodities in most organizations, and it is difficult to perform a full audit of the integrity of your film archive or evaluate existing acetate-based microfilm collections on an annual basis. However, we recommend that you randomly select a sample of not less than 2% of the total number of reels in your collection and do a quick annual “health check” of your microfilm holdings.

Document any brittle film, microfilm with redox or other blemishes, the presence of vinegar syndrome, any discoloration, or any other condition that may jeopardize the life and longevity of your valuable archive.

OK, Now What?

If you identify a suspect reel, immediately “quarantine” it away from your collection and test the reels stored near to the infected reel. A-D Strips are available to purchase from the Image Permanence Institute. These are dye-coated paper strips that provide a simple and safe method for detecting, measuring, and recording the severity of vinegar syndrome.

If you want to perform a more in-depth and thorough inspection, Guidelines for inspection are available and can be found in the ANSI/AIIM standards (section MS45-1990 can be purchased at the ANSI Webstore). In addition to common microfilm maladies, you may want to take the opportunity to check the reels for quality and adherence to standards. This includes counting the number of physical splices (and butt splices as opposed to overlap splices) and that there are no rubber-based adhesives contained in any tape material used. A content inventory can also be helpful in determining gaps in coverage, missing dates, and/or incorrect labeling.

Don’t Worry; We Can Help!

Advantage Archives prides itself not only on meeting but exceeding ANSI/AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) standards for the production, processing, duplicating, and storage of microfilm as an archival medium. We also have built our process upon specifications once developed by the Research Libraries Group (RLG) and guidelines written by the National Archives, as well as the Library of Congress. This requires stringent adherence to internal Advantage guidelines regarding the careful production and examination of all archival microfilm, in addition to well-controlled storage and handling conditions.

By reformating the 35mm acetate microfilm master to archival quality, polyester-based silver halide film, you will mitigate the risk to your collection and ensure that your community’s history is available for the next half-century.

Let’s Set Up A Time To Talk!

If you are interested in learning more about how you can make your local history more accessible, then let’s schedule a time to talk about a partnership with Advantage Archives.

Pick a time and day that work for you, and we will set up a telephone or video meeting to discuss how Advantage can help you and your community.

Duplicating The 35mm Master To Silver Halide Microfilm

The only proven long-term preservation method for newspaper & document preservation: Capturing content onto 35MM silver halide archival quality microfilm.

This polyester-based microfilm is the only medium currently recommended for preservation microfilming. Silver halide is a gelatin film composed of very fine grains of silver and is the most light-sensitive of all the bases used in microform. These characteristics allow for the greatest amount of detail to be captured in the film and provide the richest tonal variance. As a result, silver halide microfilm offers the most faithful reproduction of the source document.

Archival quality microfilm is a stable and durable medium that has a life expectancy of over 500 years under the proper storage and handling conditions.

Let’s Talk About How Advantage Can Help!

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about how to mitigate the risk to your collection, have concerns about reels in your holding that are between 1930 and 1980, or want to discuss how Advantage can help you with a preservation reformating project! 

(855) 303-2727

Microfilm Storage

Proper storage can help mitigate the risk to your microfilm collection and ensure it meets the 500-year life expectancy target. All microfilm should be stored in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment.

Ideal storage conditions for microfilm masters consist of a 67-degree base temperature that does not exceed 70 degrees with a constant relative humidity of 35%. These conditions should not vary more than 5% in a 24-hour period.

In addition, the master film should be stored on 1,000-foot reels (as opposed to the 100′ reels used for your service copies) in a non-reactive container.
Only chemically stable materials such as non-corrosive metals (anodized aluminum or stainless steel), peroxide-free plastics, and acid-free paper should be used for containers to ensure no degradation is caused to the image. Container label information should include an identification number or barcode to allow for cataloging the location and contents.

Interested In Having Advantage Store Your Microfilm Masters?

Tell us how we can help you safeguard your community’s history from being lost to the ravages of time:

    A lady using The Community History Archives to do Research

    Microfilm And Digitization Should Co-Exist

    If digitization is a higher priority than preservation, I urge you to look at microfilm as your “analog backup” for your digital images. New digital images can be created from quality microfilm, now or in the future. For example, suppose a digital file is lost due to hardware failures, lack of redundancy, or absolution of technology. In that case, you can “restore” your digital image from your “analog backup” by rescanning the microfilm.

    Properly preserved microfilm content will also allow you to “upgrade” your archive as technology advances, processes become more efficient, and things like hardware, software development, infrastructure, and bandwidth become increasingly affordable.

    Proud To Preserve Our Partner’s Past

    Learn More About Advantage’s Preservation Microfilming Services And The High Standards We Hold Ourselves To When It Comes To Archiving Our Partner’s History!


    We are focused on the preservation and digital accessibility of Iowa’s historical collections and documents so that your community’s history is available for current and future generations.


    We are committed to greater access to Iowa’s local historical content and primary source materials. We work on digitizing Iowa’s history to make it more easily accessible.


    We believe in forging strong and meaningful partnerships, and as your partner, our role is to provide free and open access to unlock Iowa’s past, leading to a more connected future for Iowans.

    Don’t Just Take Our Word For It!

    See what some of our partners from around Iowa have to say about their relationship with Advantage Archives, their Community History Archive, or the importance of making Iowa’s history more accessible.

    William Paton Public Library in Iowa

    Searching for information on the archive website is similar to searching for information on Google.  Enter a name or keyword in the search field, and all the instances that name or keyword appears in all of these resources will be listed as search results.  You can narrow down the results by date and resource and also print, email or save the articles you find.

    Kimberly Bohnet

    The Catholic Messenger in Iowa

    A newspaper is a journal of the life of a people, in the case of the Messenger, the life of the people of the Diocese of Davenport. So it is important that the Messenger be preserved. This new digital archive will make it easily accessible and preserve it for generations to come.

    Fr. McDaniel

    Ida Grove Public Library in Iowa

    The digital archives of the Ida Grove Library is a fantastic resource for library staff, patrons, and visitors. Having a searchable online database of newspapers allows us to quickly find information that would have normally taken hours of searching microfilm rolls, we can now do this in a matter of minutes.

    Angela Scales

    Nevada Public Library in Iowa

    We receive many requests that come to the library from people who are searching for information, and without exact newspaper dates, it can be difficult to find what they are looking for. By digitizing the collection — It will have a keyword search, so people should have a much easier time finding all kinds of old stories, obituaries, ads, and whatever else they might be searching for that ran on the pages of the newspaper through the years.

    Shanna Speer

    Cedar Rapids Public Library in Iowa

    In the past, we would have been totally reliant on an outside vendor to provide access to this important historical archive. This allows us to make these items available through our website to anyone who needs them at no additional future cost.

    Erin Horst

    Jefferson Public Library in Iowa

    Newspapers preserve the history of our communities. We have had very consistent usage of the Jefferson newspaper archive… and statistics also show usage from all other states and many other countries.  We have always wanted to expand this resource to include resources that represent the history of the whole county.

    Jane Millard

    University of Iowa Office of the Registrar in Iowa

    The Registrar’s Office feels confident with our choice in keeping with technology – going digital – and with our selection of Advantage to process our conversions.”

    Sarah N.M. Harris
    Senior Associate Registrar, University of Iowa

    Clear Lake Public Library in Iowa

    Free to users, the Advantage Community History Archive is incredibly user-friendly with a wonderful search engine and clipping tool that saves the newspaper source and info. It has easier and better searching than even some of the huge paid online sites. I love how it can highlight articles you have already viewed, which is enormously helpful when returning to a search of hundreds of articles on the same computer later so you don’t lose your place.

    Ann Tice

    Churdan Public Library in Iowa

    We think this new website is so easy to use, and our county school teachers and students will also find it useful when doing local history projects.

    Shari Minnehan

    Iowa City Public Library in Iowa

    Our Community History Archive has opened a window to things. You can uncover so much more, and so much more efficiently. Historic research is hard, going through newspaper after newspaper on a microfilm machine — your eyes miss things. This archive is going to help immensely.

    Anne Mangano

    The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Published in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

    Our archives are an important part of community history. They help us understand events in our community’s history, and help us understand the contributions of generations past from a truly unique vantage point: as they were happening. Making these archives accessible to the public is a great service to the community.

    Zack Kucharski

    Washington Public Library in Iowa

    We are so excited to make our history available to residents both young and old, and to tell our story to the rest of the state, country, and world. What started out as a small project has gotten bigger with additional communities in our area all eager to participate. With the help of two large grants, the cost to our communities will be minimal and the benefits will be great.

    Debbie Stanton

    Linn County Treasurer in Iowa

    Advantage has been a valuable partner for the scanning needs of the Linn County Treasurer’s office for many years. Their weekly pickup and delivery of our paperwork is always on time and very dependable. The ease of searching their indexing allows my employees to have immediate access to hundreds of thousands of documents at their fingertips! They are a great company to work with!”

    Sharon Gonzalez
    Linn County Treasurer

    The Scranton Journal in Iowa

    This project has been on my personal bucket list for years. The bound copies dating back to the 1880s are so fragile, they were literally falling apart and we couldn’t allow anyone to use them. Now with the newspapers searchable online, our history is preserved in a digital format that won’t crumble or be lost.

    Luann Waldo

    Jefferson Public Library in Iowa

    I know there is always more work to do, and more mountains to climb, but I wanted to take a few minutes to show my gratitude, both as a librarian, and as a family historian. You guys all great! And thank you, also, for the shout out to libraries and all the other funding resources we work with to be able to digitize our newspapers and provide this wonderful resource for our communities. Next time I have an opportunity to visit with all the local organizations that helped make our project possible, I will share this article and show them how many archives have been preserved thanks to working with Advantage. We’re so pleased to be part of a true success story!

    Jane Millard

    The Cedar Rapids Gazette in Iowa

    Advantage’s approach is scalable as a comprehensive project not only for Iowa, but for any community across the country. We’re appreciative of Advantage’s approach and understanding for the value of the archive and their willingness to work as true partners.

    Zack Kucharski
    Get Started!