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Storage and Preservation FAQs

Can I store government records off-site in leased storage space?

Local governments and state agencies do not have to store their records in their own facilities. They can store their records in commercial records storage facilities, and state agencies can also store their records at the New York State Archives' records center on the State Office Campus in Albany. For more guidance on storing records off-site, see the publication Off-Site Storage of Inactive Local Government Records (Technical Information Series 42), or contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or via e-mail at recmgmt@nysed.gov.

Do I need to be concerned about buying multiple lenses for my reader/printer?

This depends on the number of reduction ratios and the microfilm format used. A zoom lens may accommodate several microfilm applications as long as the microfilm can be read comfortably. For more information, see State Archives Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pg. 8.

Do you have any grants for records management or archives projects?

The State Archives oversees the Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund (LGRMIF), which annually awards millions of dollars for records management and archives grants to local governments across the state. For more information on the LGRMIF grants program, see the grants section. This grants program is only for local governments; the Archives does not award any grants to state agencies.

Do you provide inactive records storage services?

The State Archives does provide records storage services for a fee to state agencies. The Archives' website has a list of annual flat rates for different media types. For more information contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or via e-mail at recmgmt@nysed.gov.

How can I dispose of large quantities of paper records?

Figuring how to destroy large quantities of paper records can be a difficult. One good solution is to use the services of a vendor that recycles paper. Such vendors certify the destruction of records and can make special accommodations for confidential records. Any state or local government agency in New York may now use the services of Confidata/Empire Recycling Corporation for secure and environmentally acceptable disposal and recycling of bulk quantities of obsolete paper records at no cost. The services include pick-up, secure handling and, if necessary, shredding. The services are provided under the terms of a statewide contract administered by the State Archives' Records Center Services. For additional information about the contract, contact State Archives Records Center Services at (518) 457-3171 or via email at records@nysed.gov.

How do I estimate the costs of microfilming?

Cost considerations include format, condition of original records and the amount of preparation time needed, whether or not the preparation will be done in-house, type of camera, and size of film used. For more information, see State Archives Technical Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects. The Archives also offers a micrographics workshop in the summer.

How do I prepare records for microfilming?

Preparation is considered to be all the activities that are performed prior to filming. After a selection of records collections have been made, a records collection is examined folder by folder, and many times item by item. Many archival collections need to be arranged and described in-house, as well as made camera- ready. In certain situations, this work can equal or exceed the cost of filming. For more information, see State Archives Publication #9, Producing High Quality Microfilm, pgs. 17-19, and Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pg. 9-11, for more information.

How often should stored silver master negative film be inspected?

A one percent random sample of the total master permanent record microfilm inventory should be inspected every twelve to eighteen months. The film should be inspected for damage, defects, and deterioration. This information should be noted and corrected to prevent further loss to the rest of the collection. For more information, see ANSI/AIIM MS45-1990, Recommended Practice for Inspection of Stored Silver-Gelatin Microforms for Evidence of Deterioration, and see State Archives Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pg.7.

How should I go about hiring a consultant in records management?

There are a number of basic issues you should address whenever hiring a records management consultant, including how to choose a consultant, how write up a contract, and how to oversee a project. For detailed information on hiring consultants, see Records Management Consultants (Technical Information Series 44). The State Archives maintains lists of consultants who do various types of records management consulting. For a copy of these lists, contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926, via e-mail at recmgmt@nysed.gov, or find them online at our website.

How should I set up a records center or records storage area?

Before setting up a storage area for inactive paper records, you should carefully plan for it. You need to consider how to provide security, how you will arrange shelving, and how you will locate and retrieve records from the area among other things. For more information on developing and maintaining a records center, contact the State Archives Regional Advisory Officer in your region of the state. Also, see the State Archives' publications, Developing an Inactive Records Storage Facility (Technical Information Series 48) and Administration of Inactive Records (Technical Information Series 49). The Archives also offers an Inactive Records Management workshop in the summer.

I'm just starting out. Where should I begin to address records management issues?

One of the most interesting challenges in records management is getting started. If your government or agency has never tackled records management before there can be a lot of work ahead of you. First, you have to start by getting preliminary control over your records. Many government agencies accomplish this by conducting records inventories, developing or implementing retention schedules, and establishing inactive storage areas. For more information, see the "Getting Started" section of the website.

Is it acceptable to store silver master negative film with duplicate rolls of film?

No. Silver gelatin film is highly susceptible to environmental damage and should at all times be stored by itself in its own environment. The silver master negative film needs to be stored off-site to ensure its security and preservation. For more information see ANSI/AIIM MS 48, Recommended Practice for Microfilming Public Records on Silver-Halide Film.

Is microfilming or micrographics an obsolete technology?

Many people now seem to believe that microfilming is no longer a viable records management technology because imaging has replaced it. However, microfilming remains a useful technology alongside imaging. Microfilming is a better solution for the permanent storage and protection of permanent records, especially if those records are not used too frequently.

Is the owning government or agency required to keep the microfilm?

Yes, for the life of the record.

My diazo duplicate seems scratched. Should I be concerned?

If the scratch is interfering with the document image area and covers vital information, another diazo should be made to replace the scratched copy.

Should local government or agency staff inspect a microfilm vendor's facilities before signing a contract?

Yes, to observe the conditions, determine whether or not microfilm standards are practiced, check on security, and question staff about their knowledge of microfilming.

Should vendors visit a government or agency before submitting a microfilm quote?

Yes, to understand the condition of materials, the size and complexity of the microfilming project, and to be able to talk with the government or agency about expectations of the product.

Should we use a microfilm vendor or start our own in-house filming program?

A government needs to determine which option is more cost effective. Factors to consider include the volume of records and size of your organization, as well as the dedication of resources, including staff. Consult State Archives staff for advice regarding your specific situation. For more information, see State Archives technical Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects. The Archives also offers a micrographics workshop in the summer.

What are leaders and trailers?

Leaders and trailers are the blank (unused) sections of film 24 to 36 inches long, at the beginning and end of the roll of microfilm. These lengths of blank film are used to mount and dismount the film on a reader, thus protecting the image area on the roll of film.

What are the different roll lengths for microfilm? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each roll length?

16mm microfilm comes in rolls that are either 100 ft. x 5ml thick, or 215 ft. x 2.5 ml thick. 35mm microfilm comes in 100 ft x 5ml thick rolls.

Advantages of using 215 ft.- length rolls of film are that it doubles the number of document images that can be exposed on a roll, and the film roll can fit onto the same spool as 100 ft. film.

Disadvantages of using 215 ft.- length rolls of film are that it takes longer to retrieve an image at the end of the roll, and that because the film is thinner, it has a tendency to tangle into knots.

What are the proper environmental conditions for microfilm storage?

Climate conditions should not exceed 70° F, with a relative humidity between 20 and 30 percent. Conditions should be kept as constant as possible, fluctuating no more than five degrees within twenty-four hours. Gaseous pollutants need to be filtered from the surrounding air. See State Archives Publication #9, Producing High Quality Microfilm, pg. 5 for more information.

What does reduction ratio mean and should I be concerned about it?

The reduction ratio is the size of the filmed image compared to the size of the original document. For example, a ratio is expressed as 24 to 1 (filmed image is twenty-four times smaller than the original document). It can also be expressed as 24:1 or 24X. The smaller the reduction ratio to produce a readable image the size of the original, the better the quality of microfilm. A formula that can be used to determine reduction ratio is: the desired reduction ratio (25 for 25:1) multiplied by the resolution (for example, 8.0) provides a reading of 200 lines per milliliter. For more information, see ANSI/AIIM MS23-1991, Practice for Operational Procedures/ Inspection and Quality Control of First-generation, Silver Microfilm of Documents, pg. 21, and State Archives Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pg.4.

What is a blip and why is it important?

A blip is an opaque, usually rectangular optical mark located below the image on the roll of microfilm. This blip mark is created by the camera to serve as a retrieval device to locate each exposure on a roll of 16mm film. It is also used for counting images or frames automatically. For more information, see State Archives Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pg.8.

What is a book cradle? Why use it?

A book cradle is a device to support bound volumes. The cradle carefully flattens pages during microfilming to increase image sharpness and reduce shadows during filming without damaging the original binding.

What is a diazo duplicate and why do you use it?

A diazo duplicate is a copy or duplicate roll of the original silver camera film that is used for retrieval of information because of its low cost, high image quality, and durability. For more information, see State Archives Publication #9, Producing High Quality Microfilm pgs. 26 and 35 and Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pgs. 6 and 19.

What is a methylene blue test?

The methylene blue test (or residual thiosulfate test) is used to document film quality by measuring the chemical residue left on the film after processing. The test is in accordance with the American National Standards Institute PH4.8-1985 and ANSI IT9.1-1992. For more information, see State Archives Publication #9, Producing High Quality Microfilm, pgs. 24 25, and Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pg. 15.

What is a resolution chart?

A resolution chart is a technical chart containing twenty-six sets of detailed horizontal and vertical lines of varying sizes and specific spacing. It is used to test the ability of the microfilm to record fine detail so it is readable. There are five charts to a resolution target, and these charts are located at the center and four corner points of the target. For more information about resolution, see Archives Publication #9, Producing High Quality Microfilm, pg. 24; Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pgs. 15 and 21; and Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects.

What is a splice?

A splice is a joint made by welding two pieces of polyester microfilm together so they will function as a single piece when passing through a microfilm reader. Splicing is usually used when retakes are necessary. For more information, see State Archives Publication #9, Producing High Quality Microfilm pgs.26, 35,45 and Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pg. 13.

What is background density and why is it important?

Background density (Dmax) measures the contrast between the image and the non-image background of the microfilm, and determines the exposure setting to maintain quality control. For more information, see State Archives Publication #9, Producing High Quality Microfilm, pgs. 21 and 24; Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pg. 14; Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects.

What is CAR?

Computer Assisted Retrieval is an automated system that uses a database in conjunction with reading blip marks. For more information, see State Archives Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pg.8

What is COM?

Computer Output Microfilm is microfilm produced directly from a computer file. COM produces high-quality microfilm, usually in 105mm microfiche format. It can also produce 16mm, 35mm and 70mm roll film.

What is jacketed microfilm?

16mm or 35mm film, or a combination of both, is sandwiched between two layers of polyester film, creating a sleeve. There are three to eight sleeves to a jacket sheet. For more information see State Archives Publication #9, Producing High Quality Microfilm, pg. 26.

What is microfilm targeting?

Microfilm targeting is the use of targets (graphic or textual images) produced on a sheet of paper for the production of microfilm. Targets provide the reader with content information such as its creation and production, accuracy, corrections, and imperfections (on original documents). For more information on targeting, see State Archives Publication #9, Producing High Quality Microfilm, pg. 24, and Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pgs. 11-15.

What is the targeting sequence I should use?

Clear Leader (14 inches minimum), Retake Targets (where applicable), Start Target, Roll Number Target, Inventory Worksheet (LGRS-5), File Information for Microfilming Paper Records, Certification by Camera Operator, Declaration by Records Custodian, Density Target, Resolution Target, Residual Thiosulfate Test Certificate, Title Target, Restriction Specification Target (where applicable), Records Filmed, Certification of Camera Operator, Density Target, Resolution Target, Residual Thiosulfate (Methylene Blue) Test Certificate, Roll Number Target, End Target, and Clear Trailer, 24 inches minimum. See State Archives Publication #9, Producing High Quality Microfilm, pgs. 24 and 51 and Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects.

What quality control technical targets are necessary for filming?

The necessary technical targets are resolution, density, and residual thiosulfate test certificate. For more information, see State Archives Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects.

What's the difference between 16mm and 35mm microfilm?

16mm microfilm means that the film is 16 millimeters in width. This film is commonly used to film office documents measuring up to 8 = x 14 inches. 35mm microfilm means that the film is 35 millimeters in width. This film is commonly used to film documents that are larger than 8 = x 14 inches and are considered archival.

What's the difference between a rotary and planetary camera?

A rotary microfilm camera photographs documents while they are being moved by a transport mechanism. The film is moving at the same speed as the document during exposure.

A planetary microfilm camera, also known as a flatbed camera, photographs documents in a stationary position during exposure. The film is also stationary. Image quality from a planetary camera is much higher than from a rotary camera.

When preparing records for microfilming, do I have to be concerned if some documents are larger than others?

Yes. The larger the document, the more times it must be reduced to fit on the microfilm. Reduction ratio should always be based on the size of the largest document in a file series. Document size will also dictate the size of the microfilm to be used. For more information see State Archives Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pg. 4.

When should microfilm be considered? What types of records should be filmed?

Microfilm should be considered when you have a large volume of records that needs to be retained for a long period of time. Consider it also when you need to protect important records and want to improve access to them. For more information see State Archives Technical Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects and #76, Inventory and Planning: The First Steps in Records Management. The Archives also offers a micrographics workshop in the summer.

Where can I get training in records management and archives?

The State Archives provides workshops free of charge to local governments and state agencies, and others can attend if there is space available. The Archives holds these workshops across the state in three different seasons each year (spring, summer and fall), and we announce these workshops in seasonal catalogs and via our website. You can find a registration form for our current workshop offerings online. The State Archives can also present specialized workshops for individual governments, agencies or associations. For more information on workshops, contact the State Archives Regional Advisory Officer in your region of the state or (especially if you are an Albany-based state agency) contact the State Archives central office at (518) 474-6926.

Which is cheaper: storing the microfilm or storing the paper records?

A rule of thumb is that usually filming is cheaper if the records will be kept for at least another 10 to 15 years. It may be cheaper for state government agencies to store materials at the Records Center with a 30 to 40 year break-even point. The Archives also offers a micrographics workshop in the summer.

Why can't master negative microfilm be used in a reader/printer?

The master negative is preserved as the first-generation photo image. Silver gelatin emulsion is highly susceptible to physical damage. A few passes through a poorly maintained reader/printer can severely scratch the emulsion. For more information, see State Archives Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects.

Why is it important to wear cotton gloves when handling master negative microfilm?

Wearing clean white cotton gloves when handling microfilm will prevent the naturally occurring oils, acids, and residues on your hands from coming into contact with the emulsion and film. This prevents fingerprint smudges on the film, as well as mold growth and chemical reaction from damaging the emulsion. Cotton fabric is used because it doesn't create static.