Micrographics is not obsolete as a storage and access media. Not all records can and will be accessible through the use of computers, imaging, CD-ROM, etc. Microfilm is still the proven archival method for retaining records with long retention requirements. When managing information resources, accessibility for present and future needs must be addressed.
Standards and Guidelines
Standards and guidelines have been prepared by the Kansas Historical Society's Library/Archives Division to implement KSA 45-412, which directs the State Archivist to "prepare recommendations, to be approved by the state records board, based upon the current standards of the federal government and the American National Standards Institute, for the quality of film or optical disc, proper arrangement of materials, suitable filming techniques and equipment, quality of photographic or optical disc images, film processing results and film or optical disc storage conditions which should be achieved or utilized by state and local agencies when making microphotographic or optical disc copies of government records with enduring value."
KSA 12-122, 19-250 and 75-3506 refer to microfilming standards for records "with enduring value" only. It might be unnecessary to meet all of the standards for records without permanent preservation, however, proper filming techniques are still important.
The decision to microfilm should be based upon a feasibility study conducted within the agency to determine whether microfilming is a cost and time efficient method of managing information. Careful consideration must be given to the effect of micrographics on agency staffing, funding, costs, and operations. Agency records management needs often change due to growth, new legislation, new technology, or internal policies. A feasibility study should reflect the present and projected needs and may have to be updated when conditions change.
A decision to microfilm should not be made unless your agency has a records retention and disposition schedule that has been approved by the State Records Board. (See the Retention and Disposition Schedule section for more information on the scheduling approval process.) By using the retention and disposition schedule which is based upon the inventory and appraisal of records, informed decisions may be made about which, if any, agency records should be microfilmed. Microfilmed records can require as little as 2% of the space occupied by paper records but space savings alone is not a reason to microfilm records. A micrographics system will not change poor records management practices into good records management practices. There are many factors that need to be considered when determining its advantages and limitations.
A needs assessment can help give direction to the feasibility study. Microfilming can be a very efficient storage and retrieval method, but only if the agency can benefit from its use. A study of the nature of the record in the agency's custody, and a cost analysis of the application of micrographics in an agency must be carried out. The following facts should be considered when analyzing the records for filming feasibility.
Analysis of the Records
Volume. High volume may suggest that a record series be microfilmed for convenience of handling. However, volume should not be used as the only consideration. For example, if a record series has a high volume but a three year retention period, it is usually a waste of resources to film the series. Some agencies may be tempted to base their decision to purchase microfilming equipment on a backlog of records which should be filmed. The danger in this approach lies in justifying the expense and upkeep of the equipment once the conversion from paper to film has been made. The feasibility study incorporates long term as well as short term projections of micrographics needs.
Records Retention. Is there an authorized agency retention and disposition schedule, and if so, what is the retention period listed on it? Can the records be destroyed or transferred to the state archives? Storing inactive hard copy records in the state records center rather than in the office area can result in a significant cost reduction. Thus, it is usually not cost effective to base a decision to microfilm records with short term retention periods solely on the space savings.
Use. How frequently are the records used, by whom, and for what purpose? Would access to the records be improved if the records were on microfilm? What would be the resulting cost savings or cost avoidance? For records that require simultaneous multiple access, microfilming may be a feasible method to accommodate usage demands.
Quantity. How quickly do the records accumulate? How much space and filing equipment could be saved during the retention period if the records were filmed and the paper originals destroyed? To what extent would the cost savings in space and equipment justify the cost of microfilming?
Physical Characteristics. What is the shape, size, and condition of the original records? Will the information be legible on film? Dimensions, degree of fragility, and even color of the records can be a determining factor in the decision making process.
Cost Analysis If the agency decides to contract with a private service bureau for the filming of records, the cost is usually calculated on a per image basis. A list of possible vendors is available from the records management section with the caveat that no specific vendor is recommended.
If an agency decides to establish an in-house micrographics operation, there are also fiscal considerations that must be included in the feasibility study. Each agency will have its own manner of conducting an economic analysis, and the following elements should be considered.
Labor. Several questions can be asked about the labor requirements of an agency's current records management system.
What steps are required to access a record, or to enter a record into the system? How might this be changed if the records were microfilmed?
To what extent is the present file accessed simultaneously by more than one person, and to what extent does this result in delays in retrieval, access, and refiling?
What is the present turnaround time for manually retrieving a specific document? How does it compare with what can reasonably be expected if the record was in microfilm format? For example, how much less walking time would be involved for a file clerk? Turnaround time on requests can affect user productivity and clerical labor requirements.
What is the present time requirement for refiling? How does it compare with what could reasonably be expected if the same document were filed in microform?
To what extent are retrieval and refiling delays incurred by previous misfiling of documents under the present system?
What are the possibilities that microfilming would permit more convenient location of the file? What might this mean in terms of personnel or mail travel time, within or between locations, by those who must access the file regularly?
In what ways will the adoption of micrographics be likely to affect the training of personnel and the skills and responsibilities required of them?
Capital Outlay. The initial cost of the filming and processing equipment can be substantial. Capital outlay involves the costs of cameras, laboratory machinery for the processing and quality testing of film, film editing devices, and any installation charges.
Maintenance Cost. There will be maintenance costs associated with the use of micrographic equipment. The equipment contains mechanisms that are subject to wear and misadjustment, and components that are breakable or have limited life. As a general rule, the anticipated annual maintenance cost may be as much as 10 to 15 percent of the purchase price of the equipment. When equipment is rented rather than purchased, the annual cost may be between one-half and one-third of the purchase price, depending on the vendor. Maintenance is often included in the rental charge.
Materials and Supplies. Depending on the type of microfilming done, the necessary supplies and related materials include:
Tape, sealing material
Camera brushes, cleaning supplies
Reels, film boxes
Personnel Requirements. In addition to anticipating how the use of microfilm will affect current staff; hiring and training of additional staff to operate and maintain micrographics equipment must also be considered. Staff positions may include:
Document preparation clerks
Quality control editors
Floor Space. If an agency decides to establish its own micrographics operation, the cost of having the equipment in prime office space must be considered.
The system should be reviewed at periodic intervals to determine if any changes should be made. The following checklist may be useful:
If an in-house system is installed, evaluate the equipment's performance and maintenance records. Is the equipment appropriate for the volume and the speed required?
If filming and processing is being done elsewhere, evaluate the quality of filming overall, the turnaround time for filming and processing, and the frequency and severity of problems with any aspect of the filming system.
Examine the operational policies and procedures. Are they sufficient to insure an effective microfilming operation, or do they need revising or expanding?
Evaluate the microfilm staff's skills. Are they performing tasks for which they are properly trained? Is additional training warranted?
Are costs running at the projected rates?
Review the system as a whole. Does it meet agency goals?
When considering the microfilming of records, a comparison between contract services and the establishment of an in-house operation should be a prime consideration. It is clear that an agency must carefully analyze the decision to set up an in-house micrographics operation.
Micrographics Procedures, Equipment and Analysis
Whether the choice is made to contract with a commercial service bureau or determine that it is cost justified to do all or part of the micrographics in-house, standard procedures must be adhered to in order to produce an acceptable product. The following are typical procedures for converting hard copy records to microfilm.
The microfilming process begins with document preparation. Each file and its documents are made "camera ready" before they are filmed. Document preparation involves removing all bindings, clips and fasteners, repairing paper tears, flattening bent pages and inserting indexing documents.
Improper document preparation can slow the filming process, damage documents as they become caught in equipment, and even damage the camera equipment. It is essential that proper care is taken to make the documents ready for smooth and efficient progress through the filming process.
After documents have been properly prepared, they are filmed using the appropriate equipment. Camera type is determined by a number of factors such as user requirements, condition of the documents to be filmed, and final film format preference. There are three types of cameras most commonly used in the filming of government records.
A planetary camera is used for large, brittle or old documents which require care in handling. It is also used to film books and pamphlets which must remain bound and for other projects requiring the highest quality of filming.
In using a planetary camera, the operator places each document on a stationary copy board for filming. This minimizes the chance of mechanical or operator error and usually increases the resolution quality of the image on film.
A rotary camera films same-size documents which can be automatically fed into the camera, as well as other documents of a condition and size to permit carriage through the camera's mechanism. Filming is faster than with a planetary camera, but there is a greater margin for error.
Step and Repeat Camera
A step and repeat camera is a large computer-interface camera which produces microfiche. Using this device, the camera operator can film various sizes of documents at an increased speed and can program indexing information directly onto the film. This camera is ideally suited to micropublishing.
After filming, the next step is microfilm processing. Proper processing of the film is critical to the overall quality and archival longevity of the film. The processing equipment and chemicals must be continuously monitored to insure an acceptable microfilm product.
After the microfilm is processed, it must be tested on a densitometer to insure that image and background have proper density. The resolution of the film, which is the quality of sharpness of filmed images, is inspected through a microscope. To evaluate the image against a standard, a resolution target must be filmed at the beginning of each roll of film.
Another test, the methylene blue test, should be performed weekly, and must be performed whenever chemical or processors are changed to determine the amount of sodium thiosulfate left on the film after processing. Sodium thiosulfate affects the long-term quality of the film image. If the reading from this test is not satisfactory, the documents must be refilmed and processed.
No matter where or by whom documents are microfilmed, all film must be properly inspected. This is a key element of the quality control procedures which must be in place in any micrographics system. Inspection reveals if the documents are accurately represented on film, if there are errors in the filming by the camera operator, and if the processing measures are satisfactory. Under no circumstances should the original documents be destroyed until the film images have been inspected.
Inspection must be conducted in a clean environment to avoid contamination or damage to the film. No smoking or food is to be allowed in the area. Editors should wear lint-free cotton gloves when handling all types of film. During inspection, attention must be given to indexing, organization, and any evidence of operator error or equipment malfunction.
Standard inspection equipment includes a light box or light table, which provides diffused illumination evenly dispersed under the viewing area, and a microfilm reader, which is a projection device for viewing an enlarged microimage with the unaided eye.
Light box inspection is performed by leading a reel on one side of the light box and manually passing it across the box to a reel on the opposite side. Technicians can spot problems with images, and then make a more careful inspection with a magnifying device.
Microfilm reader inspection uses a roll reader for detailed inspecting of the film. Each document image is inspected to make certain it is legible. If an inspector detects errors, the corresponding documents are sent through a retake cycle and refilmed. The new film is then processed and inspected. The refilmed documents are spliced onto the beginning of the original roll of film to maintain file integrity.
These inspection and retake procedures must be strictly adhered to in order to produce microfilm which meets the minimum quality standards.
It is highly recommended that all microfilm be duplicated with the duplicate used as the working copy. In the case of essential records, the original master copy of the film must be stored in a safe location.
Duplicate copies of the microfilm should not be made until the original film has been processed, tested, and edited.
After the film has been processed, inspected and duplicated as necessary, it must be properly stored. There are a number of factors that must be considered in determining the correct storage of film.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has recommended the following optimal conditions for archival storage of silver-gelatin type master negative microfilm.
Film should be stored in a vented and fire protective vault, located in a facility remote from where air-entrained or gaseous contaminants may be in harmful concentrations.
The following information is adapted from Storage and Preservation of Microfilm, Kodak Pamphlet No. P-108.
Fire Protection. There are several alternatives for the storage of microfilm. The highest degree of protection for a large number of records is afforded by a fireproof storage vault or room. Sufficient insulation should be provided in the area to provide temperature control at all seasons of the year and to prevent moisture from forming on the walls.
For smaller quantities of records, a fire-resistant cabinet of the type approved by the National Board of Fire Underwriters will provide protection. Such cabinets should protect microfilmed records against severe fire for at least four hours.
Some fire-resistant cabinets use a type of insulation that releases moisture when heated, filling the interior of the cabinet with steam. This can cause melting or stripping of the film emulsion layer, and loss of the filmed image. For protection, film stored in such cabinets should be placed in moisture-tight cans. Fire-resistant cabinets are also available with an inner chamber sealed against moisture. Underwriters' Laboratories Inc., classifies these as Class 150 Record Containers. Use of these cabinets eliminates the danger of film damage caused by steam.
Questions sometimes arise as to whether microfilm stored in fire-resistant cabinets might, in the event of a fire, generate enough pressure to damage the cabinet or cause it to explode. There is no danger of explosion from the storage of either ester-base or acetate-base safety film under these conditions. There are small amounts of organic materials and moisture in an acetate film base which will expand under heat and under some conditions may generate slight pressure. In most cases the temperatures outside the cabinet would have to be intense for this to be a problem.
In addition to complete loss by fire, film records can also be damaged if they are exposed to very high temperatures. Extreme heat causes film to buckle due to shrinkage of the film edges. When the buckling is severe, the distortion makes it difficult for the information to be retrieved from the film by either projections (as in a reader) or by duplication onto other film.
Tests have indicated that acetate-base microfilm that has been conditioned at a relative humidity of 50% or lower will withstand 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours without significant loss in readability or printability. At 300 degrees Fahrenheit, severe distortion may occur in under five hours. Film that has been conditioned at a relative humidity higher than 50% may show objectional distortion in shorter times or at lower temperatures.
Water protection. Microfilm records should be protected from possible water damage from leaks, fire-sprinkler discharge, flooding, and other water hazards. Whenever possible, storage facilities should be located above basement levels. Storage cabinets should be raised so that the lowest shelf or drawer is at least six inches off the floor, and should be constructed to prevent water from splashing onto records from above. Drains should have adequate capacity to keep water from a sprinkler discharge from reaching depth of over three inches.
If a storage area should become flooded, take prompt steps to reclaim any records that were immersed. Allowing the film to dry even partially will cause the layers to stick together. If it is impossible to rewash and dry the film at the storage facility, place the film in a container filled with clean tepid water until it can be properly treated.
Effects of High and Low Humidity
The choice of humidity level depends largely upon usage. Keeping use in mind, the best relative humidity for storage is the lowest that can be achieved practically and controlled reliably.
High Humidity. Storage in moist air such as that frequently found in basement rooms and attics (above 50%) should be avoided. Relative humidities of 35% or less are best for minimizing the possibility of growth of microscopic blemishes. A definite upper limit of 60% relative humidity should be established for protection against fungus.
Low Humidity. At low humidity levels problems of brittleness or static might arise if the film is to be handled frequently. However, in the case of inactive filmed records, the increased protection that low humidity provides against microscopic blemishes may be desirable.
A vault, affording protection against fire, excessive temperatures, water and other fire-fighting agents, steam, and collapsing or falling structures should:
Be capable of withstanding temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours.
Be located separately from offices and work areas and from facilities for short-term storage of film or for storage of film other than silver-gelatin type.
Be vented but not connected by air ducts to rooms where nitrate-based film is stored.
Have its own air-conditioning or atmospheric control system capable of maintaining constant temperatures of 70 degrees or less (preferably 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit) and constant relative humidities of 40% or less (preferably 30-40%) with maximum variances in a 24-hour period (as measured and recorded continuously on a thermograph and on a hygrometer) of not more than 5 degrees or 5%.
Have an air filtration system equipped with mechanical filters of dry media type and with air washers of activated charcoal or other absorbers adequate to preclude entrance of dust and other air-entrained solids and of such gaseous impurities or pollutants as sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, acid fumes, peroxide, and ozone.
Have a fire alarm and suppressant system equipped with automatic fire control dampers in ducts carrying air to or from the vault.
Vaults should be furnished with multi-drawer storage cabinets made of non-corrosive, non-combustible material such as stainless steel, or steel with a baked-on nonplasticized synthetic resin lacquer.
Film rolls housed in cabinet drawers should be encased in film boxes of acid-free (pH 8.5+) paper, anodized aluminum, stainless steel, or peroxide-free plastic. Paper bands (unless they are acid-free) or rubber bands should not be used for confining film on reels or cores.
At approximately two-year intervals, an adequate number of selected lot samples of stored film (for example, 20%) should be microscopically or otherwise examined for discoloration, blemished, fogging, fungi, buckling, brittleness, image fade, adhesion or other signs of degradation or deterioration.
Defects and Problems
Defects are classified as either major or minor. If important information is obliterated, the defect is classified as major. The probable cause should be noted on an inspection report and identification of the affected documents should be recorded on a refilming log.
The affected documents are then refilmed and spliced onto the beginning of the film reel. If information is not obliterated, the defect is classified as minor. The probable cause should be noted on the inspection report.
There are a number of common problems or defects that can occur during filming or processing that leave characteristic marks on film. Inspectors should be aware of these marks and conditions. A more detailed description of the possible problems and the probable causes follows:
Blank film. No images of any kind, usually a result of the film not advancing or shutter failure.
Contraction. A shortened image containing a dark bar across the width of the image on film exposed in a rotary camera. This is usually caused by a failure of the film drive.
Dark vertical streak. A defect that appears as a darker density line running parallel to the edges of the microfilm.
In a rotary camera this is caused by:
A foreign object, located between the documents and the lens which has reflectivity greater than that of the documents being filmed.
Improper positioning of the lamps or mirrors.
Lamps not evenly matched.
Defect in film manufacturing.
Created during processing.
Double exposure. Two distinct sets of documents will be superimposed on the film when double exposed. The overlapped sections of the documents will appear darkened, although the outlines of each set of documents are still distinguishable. The possible cause is that the operator has re-exposed a previously exposed roll of film, or the film has failed to advance.
Edge fog. Dark margins along the length of the film. This is the result of light leaking between the flange of the spool and the film. This condition is aggravated by:
Prolonged handling of the unprocessed microfilm in the room light.
The flexing of the flange of a plastic spool during unloading.
Use of a spoked reader reel in place of a camera spool for take-up.
Camera spool flanges out of tolerance, too far apart or bent.
Fingerprints. Visual image of a fingerprint, caused by improper handling of the film by the camera operator, processing technician, or inspector.
Fog. Darkened or black areas on the microfilm. Probable causes are:
Improper camera loading.
Taking too long to load camera in room light.
Failure to observe subdued light loading recommendations.
Failure of camera operator to provide sufficient leader and trailer before and after document exposures.
Camera door ajar or accidentally opened.
Defect created during film manufacturing.
Camera light leak.
Fog from processing.
Improper or contaminated developer.
Failure to observe safelight recommendations.
Use of outdated or improperly stored film.
Folded documents. A defect in which the document being filmed has folded over on itself, causing some information to be blocked out. This is caused by improper feeding or transporting of the documents through the camera. It is more likely to occur when documents are in poor condition.
Frilling. A puckering and peeling of a photographic emulsion layer from its support, usually caused by excessive temperature or improper compounding of the chemical baths, poor adhesion qualities of the emulsion to the base, improper hardening of the gelatin, the use of very soft wash water, or a combination of these circumstances.
Jam. Parts of documents followed by a dark streak on the film. In rotary cameras, a jam is caused when one or more documents are caught in the exposing plane.
Light vertical streak. A defect that appears as a lighter density line running parallel to the edges of the microfilm.
In rotary cameras this is caused by:
An obstruction of some type between the documents being filmed and the lens which allows less light to be transmitted to the lens.
Scratched or dirty guides.
Improper positioning of the lamps and mirrors.
Lamps not evenly matched.
Lamp or lamps burned out.
Defect in film manufacturing.
Created during processing.
Mottle. Cloudy or blotchy appearance, uneven density, generally caused by insufficient agitation during processing, storage conditions, or defective emulsion.
Overdevelopment. Images or D-min (the lowest density obtainable in a processed film; occurs where there is no image on film), or both are darker than normal. This is caused by:
Excessive time in the developing chemicals.
A combination of these circumstances.
Overexposure. Images are too dark, but the D-min remains normal. This is caused by one or more of the following:
Improper response of exposure control.
Light density too high.
Aperture too large.
Exposure time too long.
Pressure marks. A defect found in processed film that may appear as an area of reduced or increased density. An abrasion or a striking of the emulsion may cause the formation of a latent image or the destruction of an existing latent image.
Residual dye-back. Residual dye-back is indicated by black particles or dark streaks remaining on the microfilm. It is caused by incomplete removal of the back-coating material.
Reticulation. A processing defect affecting gelatin layers on photographic film which, upon drying, shows an irregular surface due to the formation of small, irregularly scaly patterns. Sharp differences in the temperature of pH of successive processing solutions are the usual causes of reticulation.
Scratches. A dark or light linear groove which damages the base (also called the sensitized side) of the film, and which is usually caused by faulty equipment or improper handling.
Stacked or overlapped. A defect in which one image or document partially covers and obscures another. In planetary cameras, this is caused by improper film advance, causing the image to overlap. In rotary cameras, overlap is caused by improper setting of the document stop or improper clutch adjustment.
Static marks. Black spots, streaks, or tree-like forms produced on microfilm by the discharge of static electricity, generated in the film by friction and made visible by developing.
Stretched. An elongated image caused by the document stopping, hesitating, or slowing down while the microfilm continues to advance in the rotary camera.
Synchronization, out of. An out of sync condition will cause the image to have blurred bands across the width of the film. In rotary cameras this is caused when the speed of the film transport is not synchronized with the speed of the document transport.
Underdevelopment. The images will appear too light on the microfilm. This is caused by insufficient development due to:
Developing for too short a time.
Use of a weakened developer.
Too low a temperature.
Underexposure. The images will appear too light on microfilm, but the light-struck areas at the beginning and the end of the roll appear at high density. Insufficient exposure of the sensitized material is due to:
Improper response of exposure-control device.
Light intensity too low.
Lens aperture too small.
Exposure time too short.
Washboard. A defect that appears as alternate bands of greater and lesser density across the width of the film. This may be caused by:
Faulty document transport.
Faulty film transport.
Water spots. A defect that usually appears as dots or rings and may be caused by:
Deformation of the gelatin layer in an irregular spot pattern. This is caused by water drops on the surface during drying, due to improper pressure.
Residue from materials in the wash water.
Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM)
The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) is the leading association for users and providers of document and information technologies. For more information on the following publications contact: AIIM International at 1100 Wayne Ave., Suite 1100, Silver Spring MD 20910; (301) 587-8202 or fax (301) 587-2711.
AIIM MS 42-1989 Recommended Practice for the Expungement, Deletion, Correction or Amendment of Records on Microforms. This recommended practice will apply to the expungement of microfilmed images. It will specify the methods to use and recommends procedures which establish uniform documentation for such legally ordered removals.
AIIM MS 43-1988 Recommended Practice for Operational Procedures/Inspection and Quality Control of Duplicate Microforms of Documents and from COM. This document provides guidelines for the production of duplicate microforms. MS43 discusses major factors to consider when selecting duplicating film, addresses procedures with a series of reproducible inspection and control charts, and ends with helpful hints on jacket/microfiche enhancements. Of considerable interest is the troubleshooting guide on almost every known problem encountered in microfilm duplication.
AIIM MS 45-1990 Recommended Practice for Inspection of Stored Silver-Gelatin Microforms for Evidence of Deterioration. This document will provide procedures required to inspect camera negative and archival masters, both positive and negative, for mold, fungus, excessive brittleness, film curl, discoloration, scratches, dirt, chemical stains, the presence of redox blemishes, etc.
AIIM MS 48-1990 Recommended Practice for Microfilming Public Records on Silver-Halide Film. This standard gives guidelines for converting public documents to silver-halide microforms. Using data abstracted from numerous national and industry standards, these guidelines present in an easy to read and understand format the quality, environmental, and storage specifications generally required for microfilmed public records.
AIIM MS 19-1993 Recommended Practice for Identification of Microforms. This standard, also written for the filming of federal, state, local, and other public administrations, describes declarations by the camera operator and the records custodian regarding the authenticity and identification of records. The standard includes sample forms.
AIIM MS 14-1988 Specifications for 16mm and 35mm Roll Microfilm. This standard covers general specifications for 16mm and 35mm microfilm for roll applications and reference standards that address material (type of microfilm) and dimensions. In addition, this standard includes information covering the permissible placement of images, film modes, and/or formats, and includes information related to reels, cores, and winding.
AIIM MS 5-1992 Microfiche. Covering all types of microfiche, this standard describes formats, document sizes, and reductions. It explains microimage placement and orientation, and makes recommendations for quality control.
ANSI IT 9.11 - 1991 Processed Safety Film - Storage. This standard deals with the storage conditions, storage facilities, and handling and inspection procedures for processed safety photographic film in roll, strip, card, or sheet form, regardless of size.
Suggested Reading. Nancy E.Gwinn, editor. Preservation Microfilming: A Guide for Librarians and Archivists (Chicago and London: American Library Association, 1987).