Friday, January 21, 2011

This Microfilm Will Self Destruct in 30 Seconds

Although the headline is a bit dramatic, I couldn't help myself.

A report today in Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter stated that the LDS Church History Library in Salt Lake City was evacuated yesterday when flammable microfilm was discovered by an archivist. (Dick made a reference to the old television series and I decided to carry it a bit further)).

A 72 mm roll of film, inside a canister, was found to be deteriorating. It is easy to identify this stuff, because the film, as it breaks down, gives off a very distinctive ammonia type odor. The nitrate film is very combustible and capable of bursting into flames, or actually exploding.

In the case in Salt Lake, the library was evacuated. The film was removed and taken to a local landfill where it was detonated!

I think, beyond the safety concerns, what is important is the fact that film doesn't last forever. Although we, as researchers, are moving away from paper maybe we should rethink our actions. We can't count on film to keep our documents. Nor, can we count on digital records for any type of permanence. Here is another example proving that paper is the most stable and durable of products to save records.

Printing our important records and saving them in a box may still be the best action for researching and recording our family history.

1 comment:

Free Genealogy Guide said...

I agree. It's ironic that our attempts to preserve the past with technology have not been as successful as they were assumed to be at the time. The most reliable and long-lasting seem to be the earliest means. There was something to be said for handing down stories from one family member to another.