Inside TDV - The Data Vault Blog

Why Does Microfilm Still Matter?


Thinking of microfilm might conjure up memories of dusty libraries confined to college campuses, but in our modern digital world the medium has shown surprising resiliency. Deep archives at prestigious institutions such as the New York Public Library continue to use the technology, and each year millions of additional images are added to commercial repositories around the world.

Chris Cowan, vice president of industry leader ProQuest, believes there are three reasons microfilm has not gone the way of the floppy disk: archival value, ownership ability, and highly specialized microfilm-only information.

“Microfilm can last more than 500 years if it’s stored under the correct temperature and humidity conditions, making it the best archival medium available” according to Cowan. “Digital data actually degrades over time due to bit rot, which is the deterioration of electronic programs or files after a period of no usage. It begins to erode in little increments, but steadily it gets worse. So there’s a reliability, long term, in being able to have the content on microfilm.”

With modern advances in technology, there has also been a converging of different eras to make pre-existing information more accessible. Instead of needing specialized readers, many organizations are finding that computer systems allow them to read the data directly from the film – cutting out the labor intensive process of finding the specific image on the reel and then separately scanning it into a database. Though digitization is growing in importance, for bulk scanning projects the cost of going completely digital remains a roadblock to moving away from microfilm. It’s status as a mature technology makes affordability a key feature for cash strapped budgets, and with computers able to read the film without special parts it remains attractive.

If your organization is interested in learning more about climate controlled microfilm storage for long term archiving, The Data Vault has you covered. Our facility is specially equipped to prevent the environmental degradation of materials due to sunlight exposure and other variables, making the safeguarding of your information our priority. We can also provide digitization services through our in-house imaging department, providing ease of access without the risks of moving sensitive media. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us any time if these services can meet your needs, and one of our experts will be in touch!


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