Preservation is about linking the past with the future. It is about passing on cultural knowledge and information from one generation for the benefit of the next. Preservation helps to make heritage for the use to current and future generations either in its original format or in another usable way. Over centuries many societies have preserved their cultural heritage in a variety of ways.One of those preservation measures includes microfilming. In this paper the author is going to identify and explain the key issues considered relevant in a microfilming programming.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Microfilming according to Chiwanza and Tsvuura (2011:62) “is the photographic process of creating miniaturized images of records on high-resolution film.” According to Millar and Roper (1999:114) microfilming concentrates information into a compact and relatedly easy-to-use form, so that information from many records may be stored in a small space and read using microfilm or microfiche readers. Actual microfilm is a long reel of film, much like moving picture film. Microfilming as a preservation measure had advantages which are as follows: it reduces records storage space by almost 90 percent, it is relatively low cost to duplicate and ship, a properly produced microfilm copy is recognized legally as an acceptable substitute of originals.
According to Queensland State Archives (2006), when undertaking a microfilming project, a number of factors need to be decided and specified. These include the type of film to be used, the microfilm format to be produced, the equipment to be used, and specifications and standards and copyright issue to be met as described in the following paragraphs.
There are three types of films used in microfilming which are silver halide, vesicular and diazo films. According to Millar and Roper (2011) silver halide film is the one recommended for microfilming preservation because it is long lasting. Silver halide film on a polyester base that is processed and stored correctly has an estimated life expectancy (LE) rating of up to 500 years.
The emulsion layer consists of silver crystals suspended on gelatin. Silver halide according to Queensland State Archives is generally used for first and second generation microfilms. It can also be used for third generation service copies. Its main drawback is that its surface is more easily scratched. Other advantages of silver halide film are; it is the most high sensitive of all films used, it can record a greater variance of density and contrast present in original material and gives the highest resolution. Polyester based films are recommended due to its: proven chemical stability, tear resistance and durability.
The next issue to consider when considering a microfilm is that of film format. The two commonly produced formats are the 35mm and 16mm microfilm. Each format according to Queensland State Archives (2006) has advantages for specific applications. Advantages of 35mm roll microfilm include; allows a larger image size and allows a greater variety of reduction ratios can be used to film a wider variety of original records and can be produced from a planetary camera or using computer output technology.
Advantages of 16mm roll microfilm include; most commonly used for the filming of uniform sized documents and due to its size, images are usually filmed at higher reduction ratios. A 16mm roll microfilm can be produced using a planetary camera, a rotary camera or computer output technology.
According to Chapman S, Conway P.and Kenney A.R. film formatting includes permanence requirements, resolution and pictorial quality, polarity, density, image placement, reduction ratio, film size, bibliographic integrity and technical targets.
The third issue to consider whenever planning for microfilming projects includes equipment to be used for microfilming. According to Queensland State Archives (2006:5) microfilm can be produced using a traditional camera to take a microfilm image of a paper record or the film can be generated using computer output equipment whereby a microfilm image is produced from a digital file.
Traditional microfilm cameras currently used to microfilm public records include the planetary and rotary/flow camera. Planetary cameras are the ones recommended for their quality microfilming. Millar L.and Roper M.(1999:117) says the decision about the materials to be filmed and type of microform to be used will determine the type of camera needed. The nature of archival material places certain constraints on the choice of equipment. Millar and Roper (1999:18) continues to say the fragility of the documents also rules out any type of camera, which passes the original sheets of paper through a feeder and films them as they pass. Such cameras are not suitable for filming archival records as there is a risk the originals may be damaged as they pass through the feeder. The decision about which type of camera to use will depend on the needs of the materials and the probable use, as discussed above. When selecting a camera system, it is very important to consult with the archival institution or conservation specialist familiar with the modern generation of cameras.
The other important issue to consider in a microfilming project is the specifications and standards of microfilms. There are standards set by different information organizations. For example, guidelines sat by ISO are as follows; ISO 6199:2005 Micrographics-Microfilming of documents on 16mm and 35mm silver-gelatin type microfilm. On operation procedures ISO 6200:1999 is used. The ISO’s web site describes standard 6199 as specifying (1)“procedures that enable a camera operator to produce microfilm of appropriate quality of presentation and legibility, capable of yielding scanned images of acceptable quality (2) “methods for microfilming documents on 16mm and 35mm silver-gelatin microfilm, including orientation of images on microfilm, use of non-image areas and information required to facilitate identification of the microfilm.
The USA document titled microfilmstandards found on website www.dogitizationguidelines.
gov/term.php?term= microfimstandards says whenever organizations decides to plan to scan microfilms then they must make sure to produce high quality capture, avoiding or minimizing page curvature, gutter shadows, or lack of focus, lower reduction ratios preferred to higher, the inclusion of test charts in which resolution test pattern 5.0 or higher is readable, unambiguous indication of reduction ratio, variations in density between images and exposures narrower than permitted by current standards, i.e. from 0.9 to 1.2
The issue of copyright is another important point to consider whenever embarking on a microfilming project. According to Brown (2003:22) there are two major copyright issues to be addressed when microfilming. The first is the rights of the original copyright owner, and the second is the copyright that may exist in the microfilming production.
Brown (2003:22) says the rights of the original owner need to be respected. He says before materials are filmed relevant national and international copyright laws must be checked to ensure compliance with the copyright owner’s rights. Brown (2003) says unpublished or archival materials may have special requirements, for example, diaries and other publications may never be published and in such situations written permissions of the copyright owner must be sought before microfilming. The organization that produces the microfilm copy may also hold copyrights on the microfilm production. Both copyrights issues-the rights of the original owner and the copyright in the microfilm copy should be recorded in the microfilm targets (the equivalent of the title pages in books).
The author has identified issues to be considered whenever planning a microfilming projects. Issues discussed are; the type of film to be used, the microfilm format to be produced, the equipment to be used, specifications and standards to be met and copyright issues.
Millar and Roper, 1999, Preserving Records, IRMT,LONDON
Chiwanza and Tsvuura, 2011, Conservation Prevention and Reprography, ZOU,
Brown H, 2003, Training in Preservation Microfilming, National Library of Australia,
Chapman S,Conway P,Kennedy.A.R1,Digital Imaging and Preservation Microfilming:
Queensland State Archives, 2006, Guideline for Best Practice Microfilming of Public Records, Queenslands State Archives, Queensland
Etiwel Mutero holds a degree in Records and Archives Management.You can contact him on 0773614293 or email@example.com