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The process of microfilming[1] is more than 150 years old. “In 1839 the French began to use micro-photography, primarily for placing small portraits into lockets. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, the French filmed documents and used carrier pigeons to transport the filmed information to unoccupied portions of France.”[2] Comparatively, this makes the process of microfilming seem ancient compared to newer electronic formats for record keeping. There are several well-documented advantages of microfilm; control, convenience, space savings, protection, and the quick entry of full text.[3]  Microfilming can offer as much as a 98 percent reduction in storage space over storing records in their original paper format.[4]  By having a back-up copy of microfilm stored off-site, governments can almost immediately  recover from any disaster or occurrence that damages its vital paper records. Produced correctly, microfilm is considered to be archival quality meaning it is a suitable format for storing permanent retention documents.

But microfilm also has its disadvantages. No alternative format is going to be a perfect solution for all your records management problems. Microfilming is not cheap. It is a labor intensive process that requires a level of expertise from the person doing the work. Additionally, if microfilm is not properly produced, developed and stored, it will not stand the test of time. It may be difficult to recognize deterioration of microfilm records or mistakes in the filming process until it is too late to correct the problem. There is anecdotal evidence of some cases where a person filming records made the error of skipping over many pages of text which were subsequently lost forever when the paper originals were destroyed upon the completion of filming. For these reasons, it is vitally important that any county office relying on microfilm have a strict quality control procedure in place to make sure the film adequately captures the content of the paper records prior to their destruction.

            [1] The term microfilm or microfilming will be used generally to discuss the various micro-photographic processes available.

            [2]  Using Microfilm, Julian L. Mims, CRM, issued by the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (February, 1992), p. 1.

            [3]  Using Microfilm, p.1.

            [4]  Using Microfilm, p.1.