Microfilm Digitization is The Key to Unlocking Content That is Not Currently Accessible In a Practical Way.
35mm microfilm is the “gold standard” for archiving the pages of printed history found in newspapers and other historically significant documents, but it is a rather impractical research tool. Digitizing your library or institution’s microfilm collection allows you to provide your community with a solution for practical access to that historical content. Unlock your community’s rich history when you digitize your institution’s microfilm collection and provide free, practical access to anyone, anywhere, anytime, on any device. Microfilm digitization will bring local history out of the drawer and put it at your community’s fingertips.
The free and easy-to-use Community History Archives is a user-friendly digital search platform that provides your community with free access to their digitized microfilm. Once your newspaper microfilm is digitized, each newspaper page can be explored by anyone from anywhere, meaning if your institution’s microfilm reader is occupied (or not operational!), patrons and residents have access with no limitations.
Striking A Balance Between Quality, Quantity, & Value
Preserving our cultural heritage often falls to local communities and groups, with a small staff 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. Still, more and more, citizens recognize the importance of preserving historical documents for the long term and making them accessible to anyone, anywhere.
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 Archives, we believe there is a solution for any budget and that access to local history should be not only available to the largest of institutions but also to small and underserved communities as well.
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.
We work hand-in-hand with our partners to develop a project plan to provide the best balance of quality and quantity that can stretch the budget. We have a “3-legged stool” approach: Quality, Quantity, & Value. If any one of these three factors is given more priority than the other two, the stool becomes wobbly and can tip over. Decisions must be made as to where to make concessions, and either image quality, the number of images produced, or the ability to keep the project under budget will suffer.
Our process ensures that you don’t have to sacrifice when building your digital archive. Our team will work with you to create your Community History Archive—delivering you a valuable asset that you are proud to share with your patrons and community. We will help guide all the parties in finding funding, ensuring all copyright laws are being followed, the content is appropriately preserved, and the collection properly reflects the community’s commitment to preserving the past and making it accessible in the present.
Digitization Is An Enhancement To The Preservation Of History
The newspaper microfilm will be scanned in 8-bit greyscale, which is best suited to providing volume and cost-effectiveness while retaining an image quality that allows for easy access. The Advantage Archives scanning process is intended to accurately render the content of the original newspaper if the source material in respect to its completeness, appearance of the original text, and the correct sequence of pages.
Newspaper microfilm is scanned for access, not as a preservation method. Advantage considers microfilm digitization as an enhancement to make the content more practically accessible and not as an archival solution.
Our approach results in a keyword-searchable Community History Archive that provides a high return rate on keywords, a browse-able index, online (or in-house) availability, and the tools to explore, discover, and share content in ways not possible when it only existed as microfilm… all at a per image cost that allows archives to be built within almost any budget.
You may have questions regarding the digitization of your microfilm collection… Let us give you some answers!
- A Digital Archive Will Save Time
- It Will Improve The Accuracy Of Research
- It Will Help Preserve The Physical Materials
- It Can Protect Your Previous Investment In Microfilm
- It Provides Valuable Patron & Community Service
A Digital Archive Will Save Time
Keyword searching allows library staff and patrons to find information within seconds of typing in a name or search term. Less time spent researching by thumbing through pages of newspapers or microfilm is more time spent assisting patrons & working on other projects or programs for the library.
- Patron A calls the library looking for “John Smith’s” obituary believing “John Smith” passed away between 1910 and 1920.
- Reference staff spends two weeks flipping through one page at a time, trying to find every “John Smith” that passed between 1910 and 1920.
- Patron A calls back and says I’m sorry it was between 1900 and 1907.
Three weeks have been lost researching an obituary. Keyword searching allows phrase searching for every newspaper page containing the phrase “John Smith”. Once that term has been explored, reference staff just has to click through each indexed year in their database from 1910 to 1920. Those years will be filtered by the search term “John Smith” (only the articles containing the phrase “John Smith” will appear for that year once searched). Three weeks of research via microfilm is now an hour of research on a computer.
Sidney Public Library Director Andrew Sherman sums up the problem:
“We get a lot of requests from people to find information in the old local newspapers we have on microfilm,” said Mr. Sherman, “and the issue we have is, if the person doesn’t have a good idea of the date or a fairly limited date range for us to search, with our staff, it’s just not practical for us.”
Like many of our partners, Bossard Memorial Library director Debbie Saunders also knows the limitations of microfilm at her library in terms of accessibility.
“While it was great that patrons could come in and search the microfilm in-house, it wasn’t searchable in a really efficient way,” said Saunders. “We now have an online searchable index of every paper since 1895…We just believed in the value of it and what it will do for people in terms of their research capability. Even if you’re not doing real in-depth research you can learn a lot about local history or family members.”
“So many times we’ve tried to research something, and it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack unless you had a date to go by. This makes research so much easier and more productive.” BUT…you might WANT to spend a bit more time on your research. “It is easy to get lost browsing through the archives.”
It Will Improve The Accuracy Of Research
The ability to search by a key phrase or browse the archive’s indexed newspaper content assures that the user will find significantly more information than using a microfilm reader to scroll frame-by-frame on or around a specific date or date range.
Searches in a digital archive can find people, phrases, places, and events people can overlook after hours of researching a newspaper page-by-page. Without a searchable archive, you first need to know a date or a fairly narrow date range to locate a name, an event, or anything else of significance. Once you find the right cabinet, drawer, and finally the reel containing that date range of the newspaper you were looking for…then the work begins.
Thread the microfilm reader…now rethread it correctly, change the lens…then realize the one you had initially was the correct one…then start scrolling. Then scroll some more. Keep scrolling. Scroll a bit longer… until you find the single page you want out of the 900 or more on the reel. Now locate the article. Now find the name, place, or event that started you on this journey in the first place. Then rewind the reel, and put it back so that you can repeat the process for the following item on your list.
Is there any question that things will be overlooked or instances missed? How complete can one’s research be utilizing this method? Wouldn’t it be a lot more convenient to just search for “John Kennedy’s” name and have every instance of it presented to you, to begin with? Then (equally efficiently), have it highlighted on the image if “John Kennedy” appears on that newspaper page? Searching within newspaper pages allows researchers to uncover the information they would otherwise have overlooked.
Toby Schwartzman, public service director for the James V. Brown Library, knows that looking for one particular article or obituary without the exact date it was published is nearly impossible for the individuals using the library’s microfilm.
“You are reading the newspaper very arduously. You have to know already what you are looking for.”
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 historical 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.
It Will Help Preserve The Physical Materials
Researching digitally is not only a more efficient way of searching. It also helps further preserve the preservation copy from deteriorating over time with use.
We stand by our convections: Microfilm is for preservation, digitization is for access. Hard copy newspaper, microfilm, & microfilm readers wear down with every year and every use.
Caribou Public Library Director Anastasia Weigle sums it up well when she says:
“Archivists know it’s not the newspaper that’s valuable, but the content in that paper. We have a number of publications we can’t even bring out of the box because they’re just falling apart.”
Oils from the skin are acidic and can damage microfilm and compromise newspapers and other original documents. Oil from fingerprints also collects dust, which is abrasive and can cause scratches on your microfilm. If your microfilm readers are not adequately cleaned and maintained or covered when not in use, it too can be a source of damage. Dust, oils, and particles settle on the glass and become abrasive. Paper is even more fragile and less stable. Humidity, temperature variations, and other environmental factors compound the risk.
Your microfilm or original paper materials will deteriorate from the normal wear of use. Digitization allows for the reels and documents to be handled only by your staff.
It Can Protect Your Previous Investment In Microfilm
Have we mentioned that we think the microfilm reels are a preservation medium? Due to the wear and tear on your microfilm service copies, you will periodically replace damaged reels or lose the content because the replacement costs become too high.
We believe the microfilm should be purchased once and handled as little as possible. The more it is used the higher the chance of scratches, tears, and other forms of deterioration caused by oily fingerprints, contact with the hard (and often unclean) reader surfaces, improper storage, and careless handling. Another thing to consider is how long you will be able to source parts for or even find someone to service the microfilm readers in your institution.
As long as your microfilm remains in the condition in which you purchased it, you will always be able to re-scan or reformat your digital images from the best available source materials. If your film is unable to provide the image quality you find acceptable. At that point, you must purchase a duplicate, borrow from an institution that may have a better quality copy, or in extreme cases, pay to re-film from bound volumes or other paper documents if you can locate it.
“The digitization of the paper for the library will actually be done through the newspaper microfilm negatives that are owned by the State Historical Society, rather than those owned by the library. That’s because the film owned by the State Historical Society has never been used except to make a positive copy of the film. Therefore, there are no scratches or blemishes on the film, so it will allow for the best digital copy.”
However, we work with many libraries across the country that have experienced “expense creep” when it comes to their digitization efforts, due to the costs associated with time spent locating and evaluating copies of microfilm in better shape than theirs or purchasing copies from a vendor. Purchasing replacement duplications of the microfilm is a viable option, however, our position remains…you should only have to replace at-risk film suffering from vinegar syndrome or redox. All other factors can and should be mitigated by limited handling and proper storage.
It Provides Valuable Patron & Community Service
The most important reason why your institution should consider a digital Community History Archive created from your existing microfilm collection may be the most obvious: To provide a valuable service that meets or exceeds its patron’s & community members’ needs.
The faster you can find the information they need, the more you and your staff can be devoted to other projects, allowing those resources to be directed towards other meaningful projects.
Libraries are at the very heart of your community and serve as an essential component of collecting, preserving, and providing access to information and engaging the community. There is no better way to accomplish that than offering innovative services and creating tangible ways to learn, connect, and facilitate a culture of discovery. The Community History Archives help facilitate these objectives and likely align with your institution’s guiding principles and mission statement.
Ryan Gjerde, Luther College Preus Library director, recognizes the vehicle that their new Community History Archive can serve in the library’s outreach efforts.
“We are excited that this project will unlock a significant source of local history for casual and serious researchers and genealogists, and perhaps even students in local schools…we look forward to reaching out to local groups who might be interested in training on how to use the collection.”
Partnering With Communities To Provide A “Portal To The Past”
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 vary from community to community to some degree, but the deciding factors in the decision-making process often come down to: It will save time, improve research accuracy, protect the preservation copy, save money on physical replacements, & creating a valuable community asset.
The Community History Archives platform is designed to be powerful but not intimidating. It needs to be friendly, intuitive, and easy to learn. Advantage Archives 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 who witnessed it. The pages in an archive, when stitched together, tell the story of the people, places, and events that shaped the community.