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Microfilm, acid-free paper and CD roms

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  • doomcats
    I am a library assistant by profession, and costuming is just my hobby. Preservation of old books versus space constriction (mainly a matter of limited
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 22, 2002

       I am a library assistant by profession, and costuming is just my hobby.     Preservation of old books versus space constriction (mainly a matter of limited budgets) has been a topic of discussion for some time.  But Tara mentioned one thing I was not aware of - namely, microfilm being a problem for costumers.  Why would this be?  I'm curious.

      Incidently, my library uses both microfilm and CDs.  Although CDs are sturdy (although not indestructable), technology often advances to the point where information may be stored on a system that is no longer able to be read - like the 8 track cassette or perhaps soon, the floppy disk.   Microfilm has been around for years, and will continue to be around. 

      Kudos to people who are trying to save the old magazines, truly a labor of love.  There's nothing like primary source material. 

      -lisa



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    • thecostumersmanifesto
      Microfilm copies (as compared to microforms) nearly always seem to be in black and white regardless of the original colors of the documents. The spools also
      Message 2 of 3 , Jan 22, 2002
        Microfilm copies (as compared to microforms) nearly always seem to be
        in black and white regardless of the original colors of the
        documents. The spools also quickly get scratched by the cumbersome
        reading devices, and the copies produced from them are, to put it
        politely, less than ideal. As an example, Sears coporation was kind
        enough to put microfilm copies of all it's catalogs onto microfilm
        and give 100 US research libraries the copies in 1976 as part of
        their effort to celebrate the US bicentennial. When I was a graduate
        student at UGA in 1986 I found them in a little used cabinet in the
        Science library (?) there. Althogh records showed they were barely
        ever used during the decade they were there, the copies were already
        horribly scarred and scratched. All the pictures were in B&W despite
        the fact that most of the original catalogs were at least partly in
        color, and there was also the stomach churning nausea created by fast-
        forwarding the reader to contend with as well. To top it off, the
        copy machines that work with microfilm readers tend to produce a
        greyish haze and even further degradation of image quality, usually
        making all details mesh into a blur. Microforms are a considerable
        improvement on reel to reel microfilm, but they are still stomach-
        churning to read, connect to poor quality copiers, and are difficult
        to search compared to web page format.

        It is also quite true that most things that people commercially make
        as CD Roms are a total disaster as well. While their colors are
        crisp and clear and printable (unless this feature has been disabled
        by a rabid desire to preserve copyright at the expense of
        researchers) nearly all CD rom manufacturers witlessly use propritary
        formats for reading the data on their disks that are NOT backwards
        compatable. "Educational" CD Roms have been handled so badly by the
        manufacturers that the industry has peaked and now crashed into
        oblivion within less than a decade.

        That is why I exhort people to make these things in html (web page
        format). One of the nice things about html is that each new
        improvement in web page making still sits atop the simple code of
        html, making old simple web pages backwards compatible with any new
        ones. Anyone with a browser can read them. As long as we have the
        Net (and it is likely future versions of the Net will simply add
        features like dominoes added to an original game) in some form the
        older documents will continue to be readable. Basic graphics files
        formats like bmp, tif, jpg and gif are also non-propritary, and have
        lasted quite some time. Educators who are seeking a format for CDrom
        based lessons are increasingly opting out of propritary software and
        into html, precisely because it allows their disks to be both
        backwards compatable, and for any user to already have (and be
        familiar with) the reader needed to view their software. Html is not
        perfect, but it is blessedly simple, and does not create a format
        that (in the awful event of html going the way of the dinosaurs)
        would prevent a future user from directly viewing the graphics files,
        or even the text (since one can also open html as a txt file and view
        it in it's raw state). Even if html were to die as a format, futurre
        users could simply open the html as plain text, and read the text
        along with the code, and open the jpeg or gif files as images,
        without having a layer of propritary software that bars them from
        viewing the raw data.

        The reason I suggest CD Roms (which will surely die out as a format
        like all other forms of media eventually do) is that unlike magnetic
        media and even microfilm, they are extremely stable, difficult to
        damage media. Only acid-free paper is more stable. It is quite
        possible to crack or scratch a CD Rom, but it is not nearly so easy
        as it is to do this with long strips of film zipping a mile a minute
        through a reader. It is also very cheap, costing only about $1 or
        less a disk on a disk that can hold about a hundred very high
        resolution images, or (in my actual experience) over 10,000 lower
        resolution jpg images. Just as an example, my monstrously huge web
        site (The Costumer's Manifesto), including all the images, fits on
        only two CD Rom's with room to spare. I have dozens of books and
        catalogs in my site reproduced in this fashion, and even at the rate
        of compression I use, the images can reproduce far better than any
        micro film or form copy (see
        http://www.costumes.org/history/18thcent/lacroix/chrome9.jpg for an
        example). When you see a poor quality image at my site don't blame
        jpeg or html, blame the original I scanned from, or my early poor
        scanning skills in 1996 when I began the site.

        Yes, at a certain point people will need to copy and convert the
        files on the CD Rom to another format, when that new format is
        invented. The only way around this is to make the copy onto acid-
        free paper and save it like a book (which I also suggest as a good
        option, and the main one I've used till 1996). But that is one very
        pricey alternative. CD Roms with either raw graphic files, or
        graphic files and an html "page" to help browse them costs only time
        (plus equipment most colleges and libraries already have.) The time
        cost is even higher for making microfilms, the storage space larger,
        the readers unlikely to be in the homes of users, I could go on and
        on.

        The biggest difference however is that while making microfilms is
        practical for a large library that has the necessary set up for doing
        this, it is quite unlikely that many individuals have the ability to
        do this at home. Yet with scanners routinely sold for under $100,
        many people now have these at home, at work and at school, usually
        sitting idle for weeks on end. These many individuals, each in their
        own homes, offices and student labs can each make a contribution to
        the preservation of printed resources that can suppliment the efforts
        of library workers without using library equipment and resources.
        The huge amount of print records produced in the era of acid paper
        are, most probably more than can be rescued solely by library workers
        operating alone, with minimal funding. The single greatest expense
        is the labor of transfering documents from dying paper to another
        media. By using these cheap alternatives (html & CD) to copy them,
        private citizens have an easy way of volunteering to help preserve
        these books and magazines for the future that doesn't require any
        labor or expense on the part of cash-strapped libraries. It can't
        replace the efforts of librarians to preserve these resources, but it
        offers a cheap and easy suppliment to their work that could
        definitely make a difference for both present and future scholars.
      • Patricia Mason
        Here, here, Tara! It can t
        Message 3 of 3 , Jan 23, 2002
          Here, here, Tara!
          It can't
          > replace the efforts of librarians to preserve these resources, but it
          > offers a cheap and easy suppliment to their work that could
          > definitely make a difference for both present and future scholars.
          >
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