It is now official – microfilm lasts 500 years!


Why? Because Kodak now state this information as a fact in their advertisements (It is human eye readable for five hundred years) as located on the back page of the microfilm and imaging journal, the Green Sheet, April 2003.

I am a believer in microfilm, and I support microfilm as a, or the media for longevity or as the official wording states LE-100 or Longevity Expectation of one hundred years. Where is the proof and where is the honesty that we as an industry or profession should be adding to any statement of this type in regard to the LE-500 for micrographic material.

Where are the ** see clause below ** if stored at less than 10 degrees Celsius, at a relative humidity of 30-40% plus or minus 10%, not to be exposed to ultraviolet light, to be brought up to room temperature e.g. at 20 degrees Celsius at no more that 1 degree per hour and the same in the reverse cycle going back to the 10 degree Celsius storage room and similar criteria for relative humidity?

I attended the Australian Records Management Conference held in Melbourne in September 2003 and I overheard a conversation by some Micrographic Industry personnel talking about the LE of microfilm at one thousand years which was to appear in a publication shortly. Where is the proof of these lofty figures? Will Kodak be held legally responsible for their April 2003 advertisement in several hundred years’ time or sooner when the microfilm is unreadable by the human eye? An interesting thought.

Polyester may be a stable medium but expose it to the lovely Australian summer sun on your vehicle dashboard for several or more days and see how valid the five hundred years longevity LE stands the test for brittleness and yellowing. Gelatin the binder that keeps our microfilm images attached to the polyester film is unstable and has a much variant expansion and contraction characteristic to that of the polyester base which is inherently stable in these characteristics. If one wishes to grow fungi cultures in a controlled environment the best substance to grow them in is gelatin [produced from animal hoofs and skin]. This doesn’t sound like the stuff to hang your hat on for that LE -500 years for longevity.

What am I trying to say?

In my book, honesty is always the best policy and if we have the proof that Microfilm, suitable processed and tested after processing to some criteria will last X hundreds of years in certain conditions, we should honor that proof and publish the ability and the limitations of what this wonderful, stable, long-lasting LE-?? media can do and not get carried away with the hype which will, I am certain, impact on our Industry or Professions credibility over time.

Is there an alternative to microfilm? Probably, yes!

The Rosetta Disk is being used by several parties for long term preservation of information which challenges microfilm. Is it eye readable? And the answer is a big, NO! But the process has other strengths in that the LE at the 1,000 years some would like to believe that microfilm can deliver. A bit smaller than microfilm at 2 inches in diameter and based on a page size of 8.5 x 11 inches = American A size = A4 DIN size = (210 x 297 mm), you may store about 196,000 pages with electron microscope retrieval and between 5,000 – 18,000 pages with optical microscope retrieval. Physically Durable with its magnetic immunity, a life expectancy of at least 1,000 years and a temperature threshold of 500° C, nickel is the HD-Rosetta material of choice. The nickel holds etched images clear, while resisting all the trials that time and the elements can deliver. Quoted from the Norsam WWW site.

Is this a product to remove microfilm from it place of eminence as the leader of miniaturisation of images, and the longevity of media? I think not, but it may be another product for us as information and records management specialists to take under our wing as an additional bureau service IF, and a big IF, the Rosetta Disk ever reaches the mainstream of commercial reality. This product has been around for several years and has some years past been exhibited at the AIIM USA shows in the early 1990’s. Have a look at the Norsam www site located at Norsam for further information.

Laurie Varendorff ARMA

The Author

Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president & national director, has been involved in records management and the micrographic industry for 37 years. Laurie has his own microfilm equipment sales & support organisation – Digital Microfilm Equipment – DME – and a – records & information management – RIM – consulting & training business – The Varendorff Consultancy – TVC – located near Perth, Western Australia, & has tutored & written course material in recordkeeping & archival storage & preservation for Perth’s Edith Cowan University – ECU. Phone: +618 9286 3705; mobile: +61 417 094 147; email @ Laurie Varendorff

Please Note: This article was first published in the publication – The GREEN SHEET – INCORPORATING THE MICROGRAPHICS MARKET PLACE AND THE MICROGRAPHICS NEWSLETTER – Issue No. 22 ISSN 1476-3842 October 2003 Edition on page (17).

Please Note: This article has recently been reproduced with permission in the publication – inFocus – The Quarterly Journal of PRISM International in their September 2004 Edition on page (30).

Please Note: This article has recently been listed on the Microfilm Depot website located @ Our Top longevity microfilm Resource

The author, Laurie Varendorff gives permission for the redistribution or republishing of this article by individuals and nonprofit professional organisations without cost based on the condition that he as well as the URL of the article are recognised at the introduction of the article when redistributed or republished.

SPECIAL NOTE: Use of this article by publishers, commercial, government, or educational organisations requires a financial agreement to be negotiated with Laurie as the copyright holder for this work.