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International Congress on Archives 2004 - pres 180 METCALFE C USA GSU 01 E (Page 4)

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International Congress on Archives 2004 - pres 180 METCALFE C USA GSU 01 E
International Congress on Archives
The Genealogical Society of Utah

The physical media that the digital images are stored on requires constant monitoring. The media that digital
images are stored on must be regularly checked for errors and failure rates. The images must be migrated to new
storage media as media changes. As file formats change and new standard file formats are devised, the images
may need to be converted to the newer formats. Every technology change must be reviewed and its impact on
the image collection considered. Missing one generation of migration can spell disaster for preserving access to
the digital collection in the future.

Digital images are not human-viewable by themselves. Digital images require computer equipment to translate
the files into human-viewable form. This whole process of conversion is technology based. As time progresses
so does the technology. Technology advances require that digital images must be managed to account for the
changes in technology.

Microfilm Conversion Methodology

Many archives have collections of microfilm. For many years microfilm has been one of the preferred mediums
used to preserve and distribute documents. However, digital images have been shown to be advantageous in
delivering information to the user. Converting microfilms to digital images provides the archivists and patrons
with several distinct advantages over the delivery of the images via microfilm.
Digital images can be delivered to the user without the damage that accompanies the use of microfilm when
delivering the same images. Patrons cannot damage a digital image. The digital images can be viewed on
computer workstations that can also serve other archival functions. This dual-purpose use of equipment can
further justify the expenditure of money to convert to digital imaging. Microfilm viewing equipment is
generally used for only one single purpose. With a properly configured computer system, multiple users can
access the same material at the same time. Those collections that contain high usage materials can more easily
be delivered to multiple users simultaneously.

Indices to the documents can be created that allow for direct access to the image that relates to the indexed
entries. These indices allow for greater penetration into the document collections. Microfilm that may have
previously presented a challenge for user access and use may now be more accessible by digital conversion.
With appropriate software the patron can enhance or manipulate the image to increase readability without
affecting the original image file. Such enhancement improves the user experience with the documents. Security
measures can be implemented to prevent unauthorized access and copying of the image. Watermarks can be
applied to the images and copies to show a restricted use of the document.

Microfilm can act as the preservation copy and the scanned digital image can be used as the distribution copy of
the images. The microfilm if properly exposed, processed and stored could act as the preservation copy of the
images. The scanned digital images could be converted to a distribution file format and used as the copy that
would be distributed to users. Extraordinary efforts to preserve the digital images could be ignored. If
catastrophic loss of the digital images occurred, the microfilm could act as the preservation copy of the images
and the microfilm could be rescanned. This method would allow for the best benefits of microfilm and digital
images. The microfilms superior preservation costs and longevity and the access and flexibility of digital image
delivery would both be realized.

While microfilm conversion to digital has many virtues there are some drawbacks that must be considered.
Digital images created from microfilm will have all of the imperfections of the microfilm they are scanned from.
Some image enhancement may be possible but poor microfilm will produce poor digital images. Additionally,
files sizes for digital images scanned from microfilm can be quite large as the quality of the digital image
increases. Files sizes in the range of 20 ­ 40 MB for TIFF uncompressed images are common.

Several considerations must be addressed when implementing a microfilm to digital conversion plan. A
carefully planned microfilm to digital conversion can spell success for an archive and its patrons.
Microfilm scanning equipment is available for purchase from several companies around the world to facilitate
the transfer of microfilm images to digital. Most companies that manufacture microfilm equipment also
manufacture microfilm scanners. This equipment can cost from the low end of USD $5,000 to over USD

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