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Pearl Document Scanning Blog

News and updates related to the document scanning industry.

What is microfiche and microfilm?

Microfiche and microfilm are not everyday words to most, but in their day, both microfiche and microfilm offered the best possible storage and archive solution. In the days before computers really took off and the digital age became what it is today, they were commonplace for those wanting to preserve documents and images in time.

However thanks to the almost unprecedented advancements in technology over the last 15 years, both microfiche and microfilm are now seen as outdated, having been replaced my more modern methods – such as simple scanning. These methods have taken over thanks to providing numerous benefits, such as more economical and secure, as well as providing much faster access to these important documents. And as a result, microfiche scanning and microfilm scanning is now a popular option for those wanting to make the leap towards more modern processes.

Despite being seen as outdated, both microfiche and microfilm are a part of our history. And you may even have come across them before, but not known exactly what they were. So if you’re keen to learn more about these two, once pioneering methods, keep reading.

What is microfiche?

Microfiche is essentially a card made from transparent film. It is used to store printed information in small form in order to save space. Not readable to the naked eye, it must be placed under the lens of a specialist machine which magnifies it to enable it to be read easily.

They became so popular thanks to their small and super thin size. This allows them to be stored easily and efficiently which allows libraries, museums and businesses to increase their resource collections without the need for additional storage space. Although their popularity has declined, microfiche records are still created and used.

What is microfilm?

Microfilm is similar to microfiche, but does have a significant difference. Where microfiche is a sole sheet of plastic that contains several pages of text or images, microfilm is a long reel of plastic film that winds and rewinds to view the text or images.

Microfilm again requires a specialist tool to enable the data to be read easily due to the scaled down size of the information contained on it. Just like microfiche, they were common sights in archives, libraries and museums, providing a glimpse of days gone by. Many microfilm reels have been replaced nowadays due to their outdated nature, but do still exist.

Thanks to computers offering a cheaper and more economical storage solution, microfiche and microfilm are on the decline.

Find out about our microfiche scanning and microfilm scanning services for businesses of all sizes.

Historic archives given digital update with microfiche scanning

Libraries and museums across the world store many old books, manuscripts, drawings and more for educational purposes and to inform generations to come. Since the late 1920s, microfilm and microfiche has been used to reduce these dated documents to a smaller size, preserving content and making them easier to store. As technology has progressed, Pearl Scan offers the ‘next step’ in archiving with its microfilm scanning service, digitising these microfiche and microfilm files into a digital format, providing a modern day upgrade to this conventional historic document storage solution.

While microfiche and microfilm allows for huge archives of information to be kept within a smaller area, physical space is still required to store these files in a format that will naturally deteriorate over time. Using Pearl Scan’s microfiche scanning service, vast libraries of important data can be digitised and stored virtually on a cloud-based server, freeing up more space and preserving these files in a secure and indestructible format.

Naveed Ashraf, Managing Director at Pearl Scan said, “Old texts and drawings can provide so much important information for us and generations to come, which is why it is imperative to preserve these physical formats over time. While microfiche and microfilm has proven to be effective in the past, it is not the perfect solution. I urge all libraries, museums and specialist archives that are currently using this storage process to try our Pearl Scan’s microfiche scanning service today.”

Ashraf continued, “As well as being able to store an infinite amount of files without the need for physical space, choosing to digitise microfiche documents means that more people can view the information that they store with ease. Rather than being limited to accessing the library or archive where the microfiche is stored, using a bulky desktop reader to read the text, we can convert your microfiche documents into digital files that can easily be viewed and uploaded online for instant remote access.”

Pearl Scan’s dedicated scanning bureau is equipped with the latest industry machinery, capable of scanning microfilm roll, cartridge microfilm, jacket microfiches and microfiche slides or sheets. After digitising the microfiche files these can be converted to PDF, TIFF and JPG formats. Pearl Scan also converts any file into a fully text searchable document using OCR technology, for instant retrieval of documents. 

Tennessee Library Microfilm Scanning Project

microfiche scanning

Tennessee Library in Process of Scanning 1 Million Pages of Microfilm

While the smell of musty paper and the sound of flicking pages is one of the most endearing qualities of a library, an increasing number of establishments are choosing to go digital. Across the globe a myriad of lending and reference libraries are beginning to digitise microfilm collections in a bid to safeguard against damage and enhance availability. Tennessee’s John C. Hodges Library is at the forefront of the trend, kick-starting the daunting task of digitising the 4,000 feet of physical materials that exist within its extensive archives.

Taking on the archives one page at a time

The project is a page by page process that’s captured the attention of worldwide media due to its sheer scale. Some of the documents date back to 1841 which means the collection encompasses almost 200 years of history! Alesha Shumar is the university’s official archivist, saying, “Within the university archives, we actively collect published and unpublished works by students, faculty, departments, programs, research centers and institutes on campus.”

Of course, a systematic approach is essential, with the most heavily requested material elevated to the top of the scanning priority list. “At this time, we are making available born digital archival material as well as scanning our most heavily requested physical material from the archives,” says Shumar.

From academic to civil, digitisation has arrived!

Knox County Public Library is another US establishment getting on-board the digital archiving bandwagon. Mary Pom Claiborne, director of marketing and community relations asserts that the library is currently in the process of converting its microfilm newspaper into digital format. This will eliminate the risk of deterioration as well as offer local researchers access to historic documents, at their fingertips.

“Right now, the only way to view old newspapers would be to come down to a place like the library or the library at UT or ETSU and view the microfilm through the computers that we have,” says Claiborne.

Digitisation will also make the search process fast and efficient, featuring a variety of search parameters including dates, events and themes. “If you’re looking for more general information — like what Knoxville fashion was like in the 1950s — you can now search for that information and look at ads in the newspaper from that time,” she adds.

The benefits of digitalising microfilm collections are immense, however the process is not cheap. The average cost sits at around 65 cents a page which means fundraising is always a popular option for both academic, state and independent libraries. Tracking down the best deals on professional scanning services is also an essential part of making funds stretch as far as possible.

Benefits of Scanning Microfiche & Microfilm

microfiche banner4
In the past, many organisations utilised microfiche and microfilm to store documents, historical records and drawings but in this digital age, that storage method has been overtaken by more efficient digital solutions. So what can be done for the files already stored on microfiche and microfilm?

During the 80s and 90s, microfiche and microfilm took off as the ultimate document storage method. Libraries, councils and museums used them to archive historical documents and architects, designers and engineers stored their plans and drawings on them but it is increasingly becoming a dated process as people turn to digital file storage instead.

You might feel like the files you have stored on microfiche are stuck that way forever now but that’s not the case as these documents can be digitised and brought up to date. Microfiche and microfilm scanning brings a number of benefits and here are just a few.

Reduce Costs

Storing microfiche and microfilm along with the equipment needed to view them is extremely costly. Add to that the potential storagecost of document scanning costs for large bulks and you have a large drain on the annual budget. By having them scanned and digitised to be stored electronically you will reduce those outgoing costs significantly. All you need for storing files digitally is a device to view them on but unlike microfiche and microfilm readers, there are devices like this in almost all offices nowadays as computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones can all open and view digital files.

Save Timesave time

Microfiche and microfilm storage faced the problem that all hard copy storage does which is the amount of time it takes to find the documents and files you are looking for. It slows down efficiency and leads to an increase in unproductive tasks. With fully indexed digital files however, you can find the document you need in an instant with a simple text search meaning tasks can be completed quicker and more efficiently.

Secure Filessecure documents

Not only is it difficult to secure hard copy documents with CCTV, locks etc. it is also not very cost effective. The alternative is though. You can have digital files encrypted and password protected to ensure the information is only access by those with permission. Document security is sometimes overlooked by companies but it is something that needs to be carefully considered before any document management decision is made.

Improve File Accessworldwide access

A lot of historical archives are stored on microfiche making it difficult for interested parties to view them as they would have to travel to the library, museum or other location storing them to view that copy. Luckily, with digital archives, they can be presented online and viewed by people right across the world whenever they want to. This is great for raising awareness of a topic or place.

Free Up Spacefree up office space

As I’ve already mentioned, large bulk storage of microfiche and microfilm can take up a lot of space without you even realising. This space can be costly and the loss of it can create a restrictive working environment. Digital files take up only virtual space and once you have scanned microfiche and microfilm, and backed up the files, the hard copies can be disposed of to free up office or storage space.

Microfilm and Microfiche Scanning Services

Scanning services like Pearl Scan can digitise microfiche and microfilm for you so you can start enjoying those benefits right away. We can scan 16mm microfiche, 35mm microfiche, Combi microfiche, COM microfiche, 16mm microfilm reel/roll/spool, 35mm microfilm and microfilm cartridges and cassettes. The digital images can be converted to a range of formats including PDF, TIFF and JPEG with OCR processing available. Our service is flexible and can be tailored to suit a range of needs and specifications and we also offer an archives digitisation service. For more information about how we scan microfilm and microfiche, check out our dedicated website or give us a call.

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Microfiche: The Cold, Hard Facts
Microfiche & Microfilm scanning
Best Way To Modernise Your Aperture Cards
Hidden Costs of Storing Aperture Cards

Microfiche: The Cold, Hard Facts

microfiche storage
What are microfiche? Why were they used? What can I do with my microfiche? In our latest article we take a look at the facts about microfiche.

What are microfiche?

The term microfiche dates back to 1950 and combines two words. Micro, meaning small and fiche, the french term for card or card index. Pretty self explanatory really. The Oxford English Dictionary defines microfiche as “a flat piece of film containing microphotographs of the pages of a newspaper, catalogue, or other document”

How long have they been around?

Microfiche have been around since the early 1900s when a number of researchers suggested microphotography as a solution to storing documents.

What can be stored on microfiche?

As we have already mentioned, microfiche can store pages of newspapers and catalogues as well as books and large scale drawings.

How are microfiche viewed?microfiche reader

Microfiche can only be viewed by being magnified as they are too small for the naked eye to see. Microfiche readers are machines that when loaded with the required microfiche will show you blown up versions of the documents.

Can I buy a microfiche reader?

In our world of gizmos and gadgets, a microfiche reader will seem ancient in comparison. Microfiche readers can still be purchased but they are often expensive due to their age and take up a great deal of office space.

What were the benefits of storing on microfiche?

Before the digital age began, microfiche provided a means of storing documents in a more compact way. This meant that you could store a large number of documents but they wouldn’t take up as much space as hard copies. Libraries could expand their archives without the worry of needing to store bulky books, catalogues and newspapers.

Who uses microfiche?

In their heyday, microfiche were used by offices and organisations nationwide across a range of industries to store important documents. Libraries, police stations and museums among others still sometimes use this method of storage however there are now more efficient ways to store documents.

What alternatives are there to storing on microfiche?

Now that microfiche no longer bring us the best and most compact storage solution, people have been looking for more efficient solutions to document storage and document archiving. Since we live in a digital age where most of us work on computers, it seems only logical to bring document storage into the digital age too. Microfiche scanning helps to convert the documents stored on microfiche to a digital format where they can be edited, viewed and sent much more efficiently.

Pearl Scan’s Microfiche Scanning ServiceMicrofiche scanning

Here at Pearl Scan, we offer a fully bespoke microfiche scanning service which scans and converts your microfiche to digital formats and makes them fully text searchable through OCR software to help you access your documents quickly and easily. With microfiche scanning, you can save on the cost of buying, storing and maintaining microfiche and the equipment needed to view them.

If you would like some more information about our microfiche scanning service or for a free, no obligation quote for your scanning project, get in touch today and speak to a member of our friendly and experienced team.

For more facts about microfiche, check out our microfiche scanning website.

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Why Hold Off On Digitising Your Microfiche? Now is the Time to Scan!