Condition survey: Microfilm

One of the biggest (and most educational) tasks of this project was our comprehensive condition survey of our newspaper collection. Our student workers Aneesah and Kim worked diligently to identify physical problems with the materials that might effect how items are prioritized when making digitization choices.

This post showcases some of the results for the microfilm in the collection, which gets the most use, and will probably be the format most content is digitized from (as opposed to original newsprint, which is more costly). Some of the results confirmed my ideas of the collection:

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 4.28.50 PMThese results show that most of our microfilm consists of positive exposure acetate film with 2 images per frame, which I have learned is pretty standard for access microfilm. Unfortunately for us, this scenario is not ideal for digitization. NDNP best practices stipulate that master negative microfilm results in the best possible image when scanning. Furthermore, acetate film is generally of poor quality, and was eventually replaced by polyester, which became the standard film material in the 1980s.  (Read more about acetate here).

Acetate film degrades over time, and becomes subject to “vinegar syndrome,” which is characterized by a vinegar odor. As the acetate backing of the film separates and degrades, it releases an acid that produces a vinegar-like smell, which in turn accelerates the process of degradation. Read more about vinegar syndrome here.

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 4.51.21 PMA couple of notes about these condition results:

The other category includes anecdotal observations that were not options on the survey form, such as “dark edges and/or corners,” or “torn pages.” I believe this is useful information, even though it isn’t quantifiable in Google’s form reporting function.

It isn’t necessarily true that 25% of the microfilm has scratches on the film itself, although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that some of this film is scratched. It is available for use after all. I suspect that there appear to be scratches in the image projected by the microfilm reader, which could have been produced by many factors, including the physical state of the newsprint when the microfilm was originally made.

For instance, this scan of microfilm shows what could be scratches on the film, or irregularities on the original newsprint, or, as identified with the circle, a piece of lint found on the glass of the microfilm reader!

Highland Park News-Herald & Journal, January 4, 1962

Highland Park News-Herald & Journal, January 4, 1962

While our microfilm is not up to the highest digitization standards, we know that it isn’t held by many other institutions. (And for some tiles, Oxy is likely the only place maintaining microfilm or print). For me, this reinforces the need to digitize this material for the sake of long-term preservation and use.


Intriguing Article Series: Merchants Thank Residents in 1940

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The Eagle Rock Advertiser. 1940 December.

I stumbled across this lovely thank you in the Eagle Rock Advertiser. What caught my eye was the endearing Santa Claus with a megaphone.

This issue of the  Eagle Rock Advertiser features local merchants thanking the residents of Eagle Rock for their holiday shopping. It is interesting to witness how the times have changed just by surveying old newspapers. Today we rarely see thank yous’ from retail stores for holiday shopping. Instead, retail stores provide fantastic after holiday sales for us to spend more money.

Going through old newspapers helps me to understand why my grandparents reminisce about the days of their youth, when people were respectful and kind. As a consumer in 2013 I rarely feel appreciated, but my grandparents often did. Maybe one day a retail store will thank me for spending my hard earned money via email simply stating: “Ms.Ettress, thank you for being a loyal customer”.

Quality analysis

Today I saved a few test images of a couple of our titles to compare to microfilm at the Los Angeles Public Library. I want to see if their copies are more legible than ours, and if it would be possible to get duplicate copies if they are.

The Eagle Rock Sentinel, Volume 10 no. 10, January 14, 1915

The Eagle Rock Sentinel, Volume 10 no. 10, January 14, 1915

I have been utilizing the UC Riverside’s California Newspaper Project catalog and the Library of Congress’ U.S. Newspaper Directory to locate other institutions that may have better microfilm copies of the titles in our collection, but have discovered that few libraries collect these titles.

The Highland Park Herald, volume 1 no. 40, March 17, 1906

The Highland Park Herald, volume 1 no. 40, March 17, 1906