For many governmental departments and organizations, digital preservation has been a concern for the past several years. One such concern has been what to do with microfilm in the next five to ten years and should your microfilm records be digitized.
Benefits of Microfilm:
- Microfilm can last up to 500 years if stored in the proper conditions;
- Eye-readable – can view with a light source and a magnifying glass.
Drawbacks of Microfilm:
- Large collection of records on microfilm and your microfilm is only for records preservation purposes, not for use. You don’t have “access copies” for many of these records that are on microfilm;
- Limited physical storage space for microfilm;
- Departments need access to records that are on microfilm but they do not have the machines to read the microfilm;
- Some types of film are too expensive to create duplicate copies;
- Don’t have the budget to store duplicate copies at an off-site location for disaster preparedness purposes;
- An inventory of what is on the rolls of microfilm may not exist;
- Parts for microfilm readers may/have become obsolete;
- Have to train people on how to use the microfilm readers;
- Microfilm may develop vinegar syndrome if you do not have an environmentally controlled space to store them properly.
Benefits of digitizing Microfilm:
- Digital preservation preserves the digital record and creates an “access copy”;
- Can migrate the format so that it will always be accessible;
- Cloud-based storage and glacier storage. Glacier storage is a Cloud-based type of storage that is cheaper since these records do not need to be accessed however, they need to be preserved;
- Search-Engine based (online platform) accessibility for certain digital preservation systems, the public and/or staff can access;
- Continual 24/7 monitoring of digital records;
- Will no longer have to store microfilm which will save space and money.
Drawbacks of Digitizing Microfilm:
- Extensive project especially if you have a large microfilm collection – need to prioritize;
- Limited time and staff to carry out project.
Multimedia Archivist, Greene County Records Center and Archives