A presentation by Managing Director of Genus – Paul Negus from the “Microfilming in the Digital Era” Conference:
My father started The Microfilm Shop in 1974 after running a successful Microfilm Bureau for several years. When he retired in 1996 he was told – “You are getting out of the microfilm industry at the right time, it is dying” – 2017 is the 21st anniversary of that quotation! And microfilm is still going strong.
OK, where microfilm was used to “distribute” information it has been replaced by digital but where microfilm has been used to “archive” information it has stayed popular. In fact, we are now seeing a trend for a lot of new microfilm users who don’t trust digital for the long term and are sending their important digital images to be written directly onto microfilm for long-term 500-year preservation.
In the UK we have one customer who has scanned their microfilm collection 3 times in the last 20 years. Think about that – why 3 times? The second time was because digital files were in their infancy when the first scan was made and the file sizes and quality were not what they are today. The third time was because some digital file types had died out and were not backwards supportable
- Who can read 3.5”, 5” and floppy disks anymore?
- Most laptops don’t have a CD drive now
- Most USB connections are now only USB 3.0 and 4.
- SCSI has disappeared.
- Lotus 1-2-3 has gone.
- A lot of websites have gone – the 2002 Sydney Olympic website no longer exists and is irretrievable, remember Friends Reunited?
- Who uses Windows 3.1, NT, Vista and XP anymore?
- Apple 30 pin connectors are not used anymore
- SD cards are being replaced by Micro SD cards and Compact flash is still only popular with professional photographers
- Visual Basic stopped being supported in 2008
- Google Waves was never taken up
Digital Technology is fantastic but it is not for archiving and it is certainly not for security – ask Hilary Clinton about that one!
So, what is the current state of the microfilm market?
On-demand microfilm scanners – Wicks and Wilson, e-imagedata, ST Imaging, Minolta.
Production Microfilm Scanners – Wicks and Wilson, Nextscan, Mekel, Sunrise, Staude
Microfilm Processors – Staude, MD Microfilm, Microform, EPM
Microfilm Duplicators – REAL, Houston Fearless
Microfilm Cameras – Kyoko Seiko, Hirakawa, Zeutschel, SMA, Icam
Microfilm Writers – SMA, Staude, EPM, MD Microfilm, Icam, Microbox and Zeutschel
Agfa make microfilm in Belgium
Fuji make microfilm in Japan
There are two smaller manufacturers of microfilm in Europe that can do bespoke runs of microfilm material.
Coveris make Diazo in the USA
In 2017 Genus announced the introduction of a brand new Microfilm Diazo manufacturing plant in the UK
Examples of Current Microfilm Usage:
UK – In 2016 The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority built a brand new 80,000 sft warehouse and library in the very North of Scotland. Every document considered “critical” to the decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants has to have 3 copies of the document kept in the archive – digital, paper and microfilm – this is a legal requirement.
India – The US Library of Congress field office in New Delhi (under the American Embassy) microfilms all the leading newspapers & important publications covering the political, economic and social arena & duplicating them – about 2000 rolls of 35mm per year and diazo copies are given to the newspaper organisations.
India – Delhi Archives, the Archives Department of the National Capital Region of Delhi is embarking on a project in 2017 to digitise & convert to microfilm all the old records of the State Government. The projected rolls requirement is estimated at 18000 of 35mm over the next few years – all to be performed on SMA Archive writers. The main aim of this project is to “preserve the cultural heritage of the city”.
Portugal – Currently only large government institutions still use microfilm. But, most of them, only use it to access old backups. Paper storage, in-house or with external companies, is the most widespread adopted solution. There are new projects developing to transfer to microfilm documents with legal value. One Major Hospital, some branches of the Armed Forces and Big Government Departments still have a running microfilm department. Specifically:
Portuguese Air Force; Social Security (Central and Regional Offices); Saint Mary’s Hospital; Madeira’s Regional Archive.
Egypt – Central Bank of Egypt, National Bank of Egypt, Egyptian Army, Al-Ahram Newspaper and four main service bureaus. Main business is microfilming bank cheques.
Germany – Barbara Tunnel in the Black Forest. An old Silver mine has been converted in to a microfilm storage vault. Currently 1400 air tight steel containers hold 880 million archived pages on microfilm at a constant 10 degrees Celsius and 70% humidity (at 35% humidity for 4 weeks before being sealed). 14 different microfilm offices around Germany create the microfilm that is stored here. Each container holds 16 rolls of 35mm x 1520m films
http://www.genusit.com/germany-protecting-cultural-heritage-war-natural-disasters/ for background story and English speaking video
Israel – Microfilm is still used extensively in government, public financial sector, banks, municipalities and engineering departments. Whilst microfilm is not a compulsary storage medium, the legal courts in Israel prefer microfilm for documentary evidence.
Brazil – All of the state organisations in the capital of Brasilia use microfilm (Congress, Military, Aviation, Health, Justice and Federal Press office). The National Libraries and Archives in Rio de Janeiro all use microfilm. All states and most cities use microfilm. Banks are big users of microfilm. Many hospitals and universities also use microfilm with 8 service bureaus offering a service.
Conclusion – There are an awful lot of organisations around the world creating microfilm in the conventional way with an overhead microfilm camera. However, there is a growing trend to either take “Born Digital” images or scan paper documents and then write those digital images to microfilm. My feeling is that in the commercial market the trend will continue to favour the “Archive writer” method as this is an easier and cleaner option and there are more manufacturers in this area than in the conventional microfilm camera market. However, from a professional Archive and Library market I believe the traditional method of using microfilm cameras will still be considered as the method that obtains the most professional results. The downside is the lack of people with this knowledge but if that education can be encouraged then it will continue.
Microfilm Standards and Laws
Portugal – Article 3 of the Law Decree 447/88 of December 10th states that only a copy obtained from an authenticated microfilm original has the same legal force as the original in paper.
Law Decree 110/89 and Ministerial order 974/89 defined the use of microfilm in check compensation services, allowing the destruction of the original with specific instructions. The decree and Ministerial order were revised and replaced by Law Decree 279/2000. This decree states that non-re-writable optical discs are an option to microfilm. The financial institution can destroy the original, just preserving the microfilm or the optical disc.
The National Archive says that, scanning is admissible, if apposed with a qualified digital signature but not advisable in the long run (more than7 years). The National Archives state that only copies obtain from authenticated microfilm has the same force of the original.
Brazil – By Federal law, at present, microfilm is the only allowed, legal substitute of an original document. However State laws are the guidelines that government organisations follow and not the federal laws. So, you have a great variety of laws, some states have opened up to scanning while others still rely on microfilm. Scanning has been much of a debate specially in banking and the judicial system. Following the news on document and scanning there has been some news on the ineffectiveness of the “only digital copy”, reports of some court cases being nulled because the original documents were never found and the digital one presented some kind of problem.
Israel – All legal documents are supported by a 1955 testimony regulations law. In 2005 an amendment law was brought in by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to allow photocopies and reprographic copies but not “computerised scanned” documents. This was deemed to prohibitive so now scanned documents are allowed as long as proper scanning procedures are in place. As a result there are a lot of grey areas and a documents authenticity can easily be questioned. In addition the amendment law says that if you need to keep a document for life you can destroy the scanned copy only if you scan it from microfilm and there is still a microfilm copy.
USA – The following types of documents are all officially classified “document types” that have to be kept for longer than 10 years. Whilst it is not a legal requirement to use microfilm those US states more serious about their obligations are all using microfilm as the preferred archive medium:
General County Records, Records of Deeds, Records of Trust, Marriage Records, Municipality Records, Board of Commissioner Minutes, Newspapers, Plat Maps, Federal Tax Leins, Official Records – Daily Office Records, Probate Case Files, Civil Case Files, Juvenile Court Cases, Adoption Records, Cemetery Records, Birth and Death Certificates, Council Minutes, Commission Minutes, County Ordinances and Resolutions, Mining Records, Governor Office Holdings, City Planning Minutes, School Records – Grades, Minutes, Transcripts
Egypt – All legally relevant documents MUST be stored on microfilm by law. Microfilm is the specified storage medium.
ISO and BS Microfilming Standards that are appropriate:
- ISO 18901:2010 – Imaging materials – Processed silver-gelatin type black-and-white films – Specifications for stability
- AIIM MS23-2004, Standard Recommended Practice – Production, Inspection, and Quality Assurance of First-Generation, Silver Microforms of Documents
- ISO 3334:2006 – Micrographics – ISO resolution test chart No. 2 Description and use
- ISO 6196-1:1993 – Micrographics — Vocabulary — Part 1: General terms
- ISO 6196-2:1993 – Micrographics — Vocabulary — Part 2: Image positions and methods of recording
- ISO 6196-3:1993 – Micrographics — Vocabulary — Part 3: Film processing
- ISO 6196-4:1998 – Micrographics — Vocabulary — Part 4: Materials and packaging
- ISO 6196-5:1993 – Micrographics — Vocabulary — Part 5: Quality of images, legibility, inspection
ISO 8126:2000- Micrographics — Duplicating film, silver, diazo and vesicular — Visual density — Specifications and measurement
- BS ISO 6200:1999 – Micrographics — First generation silver-gelatin microforms of source documents — Density specifications and method of measurement
- BS ISO 6199:2005 – Micrographics — Microfilming of documents on 16 mm and 35 mm silver-gelatin type microfilm — Operating procedures
- BS 1153:1992 – Recommendations for processing and storage of silver-gelatine-type microfilm
German Microfilm Standards:
DIN 19052-1:1979-10 – Microfilming of engineering drawings on microfilm 35 mm; technical proceeding, dimensions
DIN 19052-3:1980-03 – Microfilm technics, microfilming of engineering drawings; reduction ratios for recording on film 35 mm and re-enlargement ratio
DIN 19059-2:1985-11 – Microfilms; graphic symbols for microfilming for use in practice; application and summary
DIN EN 2484:1989-10 – Aerospace series; microfilming of drawings; aperture card for 35 mm microfilm; German version EN 2484:1988
DIN ISO 6199:2008-12 – Micrographics – Microfilming of documents on 16 mm and 35 mm silver-gelatin type microfilm – Operating procedures (ISO 6199:2005)
ISO 3272-2:1994-02 – Microfilming of technical drawings and other drawing office documents; Part 2: Quality criteria and control of 35 mm silver gelatin microfilms
ISO 4087:2005-04 – Micrographics – Microfilming of newspapers for archival purposes on 35 mm microfilm
ISO 6199:2005-06 – Micrographics – Microfilming of documents on 16 mm and 35 mm silver-gelatin type microfilm – Operating procedures
ISO 9848:2003-12 – Photography – Source document microfilms – Determination of ISO speed and ISO average gradient
Plus many others
The National Archives Guide to Preservation Microfilming
Microfilm of the future:
Piql – www.piql.com
Piql are a Norwegian company that have developed an excellent new microfilm concept. The Piql “system” uses 35mm x 305m high resolution film which is stored in special plastic cassettes. They have also developed their own microfilm scanning unit and fully integrated software to access the microfilm images digitally at any time.
Crowley and Nextscan have their own ribbon microfilm software now for viewing microfilm images electronically whilst keeping the microfilm safely in an Archive.
The latest Archive Writers from SMA, Zeutchsel and MD all offer greyscale image writing now.
MD In Singapore have launched two new products in the last 5 years – a deep tank processor and a 35mm microfilm writer.
SMA will launch an 8k screen version of their Archive Writer early next year
But microfilm can have its own problems:
Ireland – Department of Social Protection – In March 2017 they had 3335 rolls of 16mm film suffering from vinegar syndrome (a problem of 1980’s acetate based film). They had all the rolls scanned and then those images were written back down to a new polyester based microfilm for long term protection – using an Archivewriter. So even when microfilm has a problem you can just scan it or make a new duplicate copy and get another 500 years.
People say microfilm is old fashioned and therefore we should replace it. Paper is over 2000 years old and we still all use it. Just because something is old does not mean that it is no good. It just means it works.
Microfilm is analogue, it is physical and it is secure. However, with the latest microfilm scanners you can turn microfilm into a digital format whenever you want to – the best of both technologies.
Paul considers this document very much a starting point for creating a white paper on the current position of the microfilm industry in the next 6 months. He would warmly welcome input from other microfilm specialists and consultants. So please feel free to share your experiences of microfilm equipment, microfilm usage, current microfilm projects, microfilm standards and new microfilm technology. Then, with your permission, Paul will compile this information into a white paper that will be available to everybody for free distribution.
Please leave your responses in the comments box below.