(+) Microfilm or Digital?
The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Warning: This article contains personal opinions.
I was surprised and a bit dismayed this week when I read about the discovery of a lot of old records at a county courthouse. Local archivists spent thousands of hours sorting, filing, and organizing the documents. They repaired damaged documents and worked hard to preserve all the documents for examination by future historians, genealogists, social scientists, deed searchers, and others.
Such efforts are commendable. A handful of people labored intensely so that many others will be served in the future. Then I read one more line: the archivists also microfilmed the records. Microfilmed? My heart sunk. Hey folks, this is the twenty-first century!
Microfilm is so “nineteen eighties.” Today we have better and cheaper methods that will serve many more people.
In case you haven’t noticed, microfilm is disappearing. In fact, it is almost impossible to purchase a new microfilm camera today, and microfilm readers are slowly disappearing. What’s more, the parts and expertise to repair that equipment are costly when you can find them. I expect that we will have microfilm readers available in libraries for another ten years or so as usage dwindles and the equipment wears out. Eventually, such readers will be available only in (a few) museums.
Even worse, who has a microfilm reader in their home these days? How will future genealogists and others access these records? They will need to travel cross country at great expense to examine the originals in person. While microfilms may exist, nobody will be able use them.
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