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Microfilm vs. Digital for Archival Storage
The discussion on the viability of using microfilm or digital for long-term archiving rears its ugly head on a regular basis in courtrooms, boardrooms and offices for both government and private institutions alike.
From a legal perspective, microfilm is a supported format. The Best Evidence Rule (Federal Business Records Act, Uniform Photographic Copies of Business and Public Records as Evidence Act) states that these statutes permit the admissibility of any record which has been “kept in the regular course of business and copied or reproduced by … any photographic, photostatic, microfilm, microcard, miniature photographic or other process which accurately reproduces or forms a durable medium for reproducing the original.” Accordingly, the reproduction is as admissible as the original. The process of recording information optically clearly falls within the law’s language of “other process which accurately reproduces or forms a durable medium for reproducing the original.”
All US states have published document retention and library standards and micrographics adhere to just about every state’s standards for long-term document archiving. New York State, California, Texas, Indiana, Arizona, Louisiana and Florida Archives, just to name a few, promote microfilm as a viable and practical medium for preserving the state’s history.
Now, ask yourself this question; Let’s say you have been left a trust in the value of $100,000,000.00. You must wait 20 years to have access to these funds. The money will be accessed via a 1,000 character code found on 200 separate documents (files). You will be provided with these documents on a USB drive, a CD, a DVD or a roll of microfilm. Which media would you choose? Backwards compatibility will always be a serious concern. What platform created the electronic copy? Was it Windows? Will this format be supported in 20 years? Will you need to do some type of conversion to your 20-year-old data to have access to your code? If you lose one single image, you will not be able to access these funds. Now, instead of a code for a trust, look at those documents as proof of purchase/ownership, human resource records, certification documents, medical research history, etc…
Advantages of Microfilm for Long Term Archiving:
- Properly filmed and processed microfilm on a polyester base has an anticipated life expectancy (LE 500) of 500 years.
- All you need to view film is a light source.
- Individual pages cannot be pulled or lost.
- Original rolls cannot be edited.
- A single roll of 16mm microfilm can hold over 8,000 images – that is almost an entire 3 drawer file cabinet of documents.