The 5 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making with Microfilm Storage

Posted by Kevin D'Arcy on Sep 30, 2014 9:30:00 AM
Microfilm continues to be a popular medium due to its longevity and archival quality. Silver halide film, for example, can last up to 500 years if stored and kept properly! That said, there are a number of common microfilm storage mistakes that people make that threaten the preservation of the information contained via this medium. Furthermore, some practices for microfilm storage are also inefficient, which affects the ability of your organization to truly leverage the data you are storing on microfilm. Below are a list of the biggest mistakes you’re making when it comes to microfilm storage.

1. Improper Environment

As mentioned above, microfilm can last up to 500 years, but only if stored properly. This means an environment that is controlled for both temperature and humidity. For example, silver microfilm should be stored at a maximum temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, and at a relative humidity of 25%. Furthermore, microfilm should be stored in sealed containers, otherwise they will become damaged much the same as other media formats. When people need to constantly consult the microfilm for information, the integrity of the microfilm is put at risk, which leads to the next big mistake.


2. No “Working” Copies

Working copies are copies of microfilm that are used on a regular basis. These can be consulted in day-to-day operations, while a master copy is stored in a controlled environment to ensure the original microfilm is properly preserved. The issue is that many organizations either don’t develop working copies, or don’t have a clear process outlined for using microfilm. This adversely impacts your ability to store microfilm in a manner that ensures longevity.


3. Improper Storage Materials

Microfilm has very specific storage requirements, and this extends to the very materials used to store it. According to Library and Archives Canada, the best method for microfilm storage is sealed containers which are placed in inert metal cabinets that have been treated with non-corrosive, non-staining and non-combustible paint. Furthermore, microfilm should never be stored in wooden cabinets as they are not appropriate for preservation.


4. Improper Inspection Practices

An important part of the microfilm storage process is regular inspection. This helps ensure that the microfilm is being properly stored and is not being adversely affected. This is a big gap in storage processes for many organizations – they either do not have an official inspection schedule and process in place, or their inspection isn’t regular enough to ensure preservation.


5. Ignoring Microfilm Digitization

Given the effort required to store and maintain microfilm, many organizations could benefit from microfilm digitization. This option allows you to centralize all of your data and back it up, without having to worry about all of the extensive storage requirements of the microfilm medium. It also allows you to use microfilm more efficiently, as digital files are more easily searched and indexed.


Are you making any of these big microfilm storage mistakes? It may be time to look at your storage processes and procedures and make adjustments where necessary. Whether this means improving storage conditions, developing formal storage processes, or looking into microfilm digitization, avoiding these mistakes will help you ensure the integrity and longevity of your data.


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