PRIA Releases Microfilm Best Practices White Paper

August 22, 2007

Morrisville, NC - The Property Records Industry Association (PRIA) membership and board approved a “best practices” White Paper produced by the Archival, Backup and Disaster Recovery Committee at the organization’s recent Annual Conference. The document, “Recording Electronic Images on Roll Microfilm” describes the practices, processes and standards necessary to produce preservation microfilm from digitized documents. The document is being posted for a 30-day Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) review period which will end September 20, 2007.

This White Paper is the result of two years of discussion with recorders and industry professionals. It is a “living document” meaning that it will be periodically reviewed and revised as technology evolves.

The committee decided to address this practice because many county recorders are scanning their documents rather than filming them for daily access. For preservation purposes however, they want to transfer the scanned images to microfilm using a raster image recorder like Kodak’s Archive Writer. Until now, there have been no published best practices to provide guidance when recording digitized image on microfilm. This document is intended to provide that guidance.

The document begins with the importance of PRIAcapturing a quality image as the first step in any preservation plan. Among the key ingredients cited to assure consistent, high quality image files are: 1) the use of MS44-1993 to measure and compare a scanner’s output, 2) an understanding of the scanner’s capabilities and 3) regular maintenance.

Microfilm produced today will likely be scanned to recover lost images rather than used to view or print pages. Instilling structure and order in the film content is critical to creating “scanner friendly” film. Unlike conventional microfilming, electronic imaging technology possesses the tools to perform quality control, organizational and editing functions so the image file can be perfected before being committed to film. The document stresses the importance of using these tools so that when microfilm is called on to restore images, the scanning can be done quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively.

Finally, the film used in today’s raster image recorders has a potential life expectancy of at least 500 years. For it to reach that potential, it must be processed and stored correctly. The importance of testing processed film for acceptable levels of residual fixer as well as maintaining proper temperature, humidity, and air quality standards are explained in some detail as these are where most preservation problems occur.

It is the committee’s hope that this document will be informative and provide its readers with a better understanding of how the proper use of this time tested medium can still benefit the preservation of real property records more than 100 years after its inception.

Source: PRIA