With microfilm having a theoretical life expectancy of around 500 (LTE) years, it is assumed that once vital documents are converted to film that they are safe. However, this may not always be the case.
Due to a variety of factors, paper-based documents will inevitably deteriorate over time. One way to ensure the long-term retention of vital records is to convert them to a more durable format. Microfilm has long been accepted by major institutions as an effective and reliable format. If processed and stored correctly, including the use of polyester based film and optimum storage conditions, microfilm can last hundreds of years; much longer than many paper documents.
Microfilm has many advantages, such as:
- Preserving and protecting information that has long term or permanent value,
- Reducing physical space and storage costs,
- Resistance to flooding, and
- Technology independent.
However, it is important to note that microfilm does not in fact last “forever”. Despite its reputation for being the best solution to store vital documents, there are still challenges with using film. Microfilm used for long-term preservation of information requires careful production and quality control in addition to well controlled storage and handling conditions. Those storing microfilm should follow established handling procedures set to ensure that preservation needs are met.
Why Digital Instead of Film?
Properly created digital images successfully address many of the challenges presented by the use of microfilm for long term document storage. Digital files can be:
- Easy to view and print,
- Require less storage space than microfilm and/or print; and
- Virtually eliminates disaster risk.