Frequently Asked Questions: Preservation Microfilm

  1. Why microfilm? Isn't everything digital now?
  2. So, I'm sending my one-of-a-kind archival collections to Backstage,
    how do I know they'll be safe?
  3. Microfilm is microfilm, right? What makes Backstage's filming service different?
  4. Just in Pennsylvania? Do you have any other microfilming operations, perhaps something closer to my institution?
  5. What other microfilm services does Backstage offer?
  1. Why microfilm? Isn't everything digital now?

    Microfilm is a cost-effective way of ensuring that significant works are preserved in a stable and accessible format. When produced according to ANSI/AIIM standards and RLG guidelines, then stored in proper conditions, preservation microfilm will last for centuries.

    The medium provides an accepted, relatively inexpensive, compact, and durable facsimile of the original document. Requiring no complicated electronic devices to read or proprietary algorithms to decode, microfilm offers a clean analog backup for collections that are increasingly being digitized or are born digital.

    Digital collections are searchable and much more easily accessible than microfilm. (We can help you with the digital imaging and metadata, too.) But preserving your materials in both digital and microfilm formats protects your virtual collections against hardware failure and technology obsolescence.

    No matter how image capture and display technologies change in the next 500 years, you will always be able to scan your microfilm into the very latest digital systems.

  2. So, I'm sending my one-of-a-kind archival collections to Backstage,
    how do I know they'll be safe?

    Our 17,000-square-foot preservation center, built in 1990, was designed specifically to meet the production and security requirements our clients demand.

    Access to the building requires an electronic key card. The building is equipped with smoke detectors, and all air-return ducts have rate-of-rise heat detectors. The security, fire/smoke detection, and entry/exit systems are monitored remotely, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our employees are trained in the proper handling of rare and fragile materials. The low turnover in our workforce translates into a staff of highly skilled technicians who have been properly caring for collections like yours for years.

  3. Microfilm is microfilm, right? What makes Backstage's filming service different?

    Our Herrmann and Kraemer (H&K) 35mm microfilm cameras are the best devices for this work that we've ever run across. H&K's precision-ground German optics produce better focus for superior resolution, and our patented ExpoSure™ electronic control system allows our operators to tightly regulate density variation from frame to frame, producing images of a quality and consistency you won't find anywhere else.

  4. Just in Pennsylvania? Do you have any other microfilming operations, perhaps something closer to my institution?

    For large collections that can't travel to our studios in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, we have set up microfilming centers at or near client institutions. We equip these on-site operations with the same high-quality H&K cameras that we use in our Bethlehem facility. Our on-site microfilming clients benefit from the same efficient workflows and expert project management practices as all of our customers. Microfilm from on-site studios is typically sent to our lab in Bethlehem for processing, quality-control review, and duplication.

  5. What other microfilm services does Backstage offer?

    Backstage offers a full range of microfilm services:
    • Materials preparation, including collation, targeting, and some preservation/conservation work.
    • Duplication and processing of your silver, acetate, and vesicular films in 16mm, 35mm, and 105mm widths.
    • Environmentally optimized, secure storage in our dedicated microfilm vault.
    • SilverLock™ polysulfide treatment: Backstage is the only organization still producing and treating films with this superior-grade polysulfide solution, developed by the Image Permanence Institute (IPI) at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
    • Microfilm digitization. High-resolution digital images and metadata created from your microfilm collections.
    • Computer-output microfilm (COM). High-quality preservation microfilm from your digitized and born-digital images.