Microfilm: The Solution to Digital Preservation

This is the next wave for digital preservation (at least for now). We are all embedded in this fast, accessible and informational age that sometimes as content managers we forget the digital preservation aspect of it. We are subdued to believe by IT vendors that keeping our information in the digital form is “archiving”. This is utterly and obnoxiously wrong, period! How is it keeping information on one medium, regardless of the many backups, ever be thought as archival? It is still a digital medium which information cannot be retrieved on its own. It depends on external hardware and software which is constantly upgrading with NO downwards compatibility. As they say, we are lucky Shakespeare did not write on an old PC.

Do not misunderstood me that I am against digital. In fact, I am all for digital as far as accessibility and convenience is concerned. Micrographics Data has invested almost half a million on industry’s top of the range document scanners, overhead book scanners, large format scanners and microfilm scanners. However, digitization is only the front end of the document supply chain (if we so humbly coin such a concept). The entire document supply chain can be summarized with a “PA2” chart whereby preservation of the original, an archival copy and digital copy for accessibility is fully addressed. Of course, we fully understand not every document has to go through this life cycle. A classic example is library rare books versus invoices. Library rare books would need to go through the entire 3 phases but for the invoices it depends on the document retention time line, budget to keep the hard copies, resources to manage etc. But the golden rule is never have the information on ONE medium UNLESS there is no risk in losing it. Another thing is, having the information stored in several hard disk is called backup and NOT archival as at the end of the day, the several copies are still on ONE medium, digital.

In the past, microfilm was used as form of accessibility and dinosaur microfilm viewers would be used to view them. However, things have changed in this web 2.0 era. Digital has taken the front seat as far as accessibility is concerned and interestingly enough, microfilm has taken a back role in terms of archival. Cornell University has conducted a “digital to microfilm” case study ten years ago regarding taking a hybrid approach towards digital and microfilm. Recently in year 2010, Steffen W. Schike and Andreas Rauber published a paper in the International Journal in Electronic Governance ( Vol. 3 No. 3, 2010), “ Long term archiving of digital data on microfilm” which push forward the idea once again of using microfilm as form of digital preservation for long term archiving.

Digital to Microfilm Conversion is the emerging market like how scanning was ten years ago. There are equipment available to do such digital to microfilm conversion such as MD AW1Series Archive Writer which readily converts digital information onto a 16mm/35mm microfilm in black & white, greyscale and colour and archival for 500 years! In the next entry, we will be talking about archive writers and ISO standards of microfilm produced by such equipment.