This post is part of The Datamation Guide to Digitizing Your Microfilm.

While Microfilm has a reputation for being a durable way to preserve historical images, newspapers, and records, it is highly susceptible to damage from water, light, dust, and more if it isn’t stored correctly. Here are the different types of microfilm damage:

Water damage

Water damage can occur after floods, if storage conditions are too humid, or simply if someone spills a cup of coffee on them. You can tell when microfilm is damaged when the base and emulsion (or the image and plastic backing) begin to separate, when it begins to grow mold or fungus, or if the film itself becomes slimy. The slime is a result of the water dissolving the gelatin around the image. If the microfilm appears to have filaments or threads and the film changes color, it is most likely water damaged.

Light damage

Just like regular photographs, when microfilm is exposed to sunlight or artificial light, it can begin to fade.

Yellow discoloration

If your records include microfilm from between 1890-1950, it is most likely nitrate-based film. As the nitrate begins to leak out, the images begin to yellow.

Human handling

Microfilm can become damaged when it is handled too much. The damage may be the result of the oils on your hands and smudged fingerprints.

Microfilm hasn’t been properly stored

In order for records to remain viable, the rolls need to be stored in a room with low humidity and a lower temperature. Low humidity and temperature prevent the film from growing mold and fungus. An issue with this is that it is recommended that after you take microfilm out to be viewed, it needs to be warmed up for a few days before it can be viewed to prevent humidity damage. This delays any intentions of research and viewing.

Microfilm involves extensive upkeep in order to preserve the important images. It must be kept dry, away from too much light, and in a cool room without being often handled. How realistic it is to maintain these conditions is debatable, but there is a simple solution: when you digitize your microfilm, there is no physical upkeep at all. It can be accessed on any computer with just a few clicks, and will be permanently maintained and preserved.

Datamation will pick up your microfilm, process it at their secure facilities, and upload the records and images in any format of your choosing- a simple, painless process. Never worry about losing important historical records and images to physical damage again—they can be preserved for years and years to come. Call Datamation today so that we can come up with the perfect conversion process for you.