You are the protectors of history.

Historians recognized early on that if they wanted to retain the information in newspapers, magazines, and other documents they would need to get a copy on something that was less bulky than paper and would last dramatically longer. Microfilm was their solution. One of the beliefs about microfilm is it’s 500-year life expectancy. However, that was not how it turned out. The first report of film breaking down came from the Government of India in the 1950’s. They stored their film in hot, humid conditions.

As researchers studied the problem it became clear that all film would break down, but if it was not stored in cool and dry environment it would break down faster. “Vinegar Syndrome”- when film produces a vinegar smell…hence the name, also known as Vinegar Rot, is an indicator that the film is breaking down due to storage conditions. The film becomes brittle and shrinks which distorts the images. Deeming the film unusable.

Can You Smell That??

Perhaps you have asked yourself that. The microfilm you have, does it have that vinegar smell? You already have a problem called redox. In all likelihood, when you inspect a roll of microfilm, you will notice little red dots on the film. You cannot get rid of these red dots, but you can prevent it from spreading further. Delaying the decay, but nothing can stop it.

The only alternatives are to make a copy of the film on new film that does not break down or to scan the film and make a digital archive that can be viewed on PC’s and/or laptops or over the web.

Vinegar Syndrome is common in microfilm created before 1984. Is any of your microfilm made before 1984? It probably is on Acetate Film. This film tends to get brittle and tear very easily over time. Depending on the film operator’s attention to details during filming (such as camera quality and focus) and the processing tech’s attention to chemical levels and washing during the processing, the image quality may or may not meet specifications. Differences in film density could result from improper development. On lower density film, the images may be starting to fade away.

What Are the Options?

A choice has to be made, conversion services or creating a duplicate of the film. If you decide to convert the film it would be to a digital form. Having a digital copy creates an easy way to view records that would have been tedious to view. This is a great option for the records on film that are referenced on a regular basis. A complete roll of microfilm can be digitized edge-to-edge, end-to-end and stored as a digital copy. An easily accessible option to preserve the history stored on acetate film is through film scanning; used to preserve our past and make information more readily available for future generations.

If you decide to create a newer duplication of the film there are 2 questions to consider! One being ‘why are you storing these images on film?’ Is it a state requirement or is it because that is what your business or group has always done? This leads me to question two, ‘How often are you referencing these records?’ Are they records or historical documents that you keep for preservation or are they more current records? Re-filming the older film onto newer film can save the life of the roll.

Preserving the history and information on old film from Vinegar Syndrome is a very important action that needs to be taken. Taking the first step towards recovering your records is fairly simple and we can walk you through!

For more information on Microfilm! Contact us today!
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1933 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Missouri 64108 USA
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