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Microfilm, the stuff of comics, or real day to day business activity? - September 2004

Microfilm, the stuff of comics, or real day to day business activity?

Why? One may ask.

On Friday September the 10th 2004 I opened my daily newspaper to address my first indulgence of the day and that is to read my favourite comic Modesty Blaise.

But what do I read on the second frame but the statement as a heading for one of three images “Henry – microfilm the Bell formula and process and destroy the original”.

Am I dreaming? Is this my favourite comic strip and my business life of some 30 years coming together in the main stream media in a day to day comic feature in my local rag, the West Australian?

Surely not, so I went back to bed, got up a second time but this time the comic was the same MICROFILM as a dire plot by the bad guys, the ones with bulldog faces and dark suits and overcoats.

Is microfilm that universal a product to be known by the readers of this esteemed comic strip?

Maybe so! If it is, I am heartened by the prospect that our profession is so well known as to hit the daily comic strip and back to the good old James Bond days for the industry!

On a more serious note, what cost microfilming?

I located on the internet the following Australian Government discussion paper in respect to the Costs of retaining census records which does not appear to be dated but is in relationship with the then upcoming 2001 Australian Census.

The discussion paper states that the estimated cost of microfilming records from the next census is $22.45 AUD million. The Treasury stated that estimates for microfilming production that had been sought from commercial microfilm bureaux came in at $1.83 million, $2.92 million and $9.74 million.

The document proceeds to advise that the Australian Archives’ practice for preservation filming was to require a frame-by-frame check before Archives is prepared to certify under the Archives Act that the film is a true and accurate copy.

The Treasury stated that uses of the records that depend on looking up the copies of forms by census collection district would be facilitated by microfilming records in batches corresponding to collection districts and indexing them so that addresses of census respondents can be matched to collection district. The cost of address indexing is estimated to be $2.67 million.

The estimated cost of electronic recording of names and addresses using OCR is $14.5 million.

What actually happened?

In a media release made available at 10.30 am Tuesday 24 September, 2002 the following was advised:

Almost 10 million Australians or in excess of 52% of the census population chose 'YES' and the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been busily transposing that census information to microfilm for transfer to the custody of the National Archives. Now ABS's job is done!

Next Tuesday, the National Archives of Australia will take responsibility for the safe custody of the microfilm. It will be kept in a time capsule in a secure location, preserving the contents until their reopening in 2100.

The 1,422 rolls of microfilm that have been used to store the census information will periodically be inspected by Archives conservators to ensure they are kept in optimum condition for future generations', Ms Schwirtlich said.

To the best of my knowledge the 2001 census documents were scanned and the images transferred to the 1,422 roll of 16 mm microfilm via the use of one or several Kodak Archive Writers.

As to the cost of the exercise, I personally doubt that the figure of $22.45 million AUD was reached for the project and if it was I wished that I lived in Canberra and had carried out the program to capture 1,422 rolls of 16 mm microfilm because I would be writing this article from some more exotic place than my current office.

The wheeling and dealing for the 2006 census has commenced so here we go again to get the data onto a preservation media that will last at least 100 years. You all know what that media current is!

Happy Microfilming!

Laurie Varendorff ARMA

The Author

Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president and national director, has been involved in records management for 30 years. He has his own consulting and training business near Perth, Western Australia, and has tutored in recordkeeping and archival storage and preservation at Perth’s Edith Cowan University. Phone: +61 (0)8 9291 6925; mobile: 0417 094 147; email @ Laurie Varendorff

Please Note: This article was first produced in the publication - The GREEN SHEET - INCORPORATING THE MICROGRAPHICS MARKET PLACE AND THE MICROGRAPHICS NEWSLETTER - Issue No. 29 ISSN 1476-3842 September/October 2004 Edition on page (19).

The author, Laurie Varendorff gives permission for the redistribution or republishing of this article by individuals and non profit professional organisations without cost based on the condition that he as well as the URL of the article are recognised at the introduction of the article when redistributed or republished.

SPECIAL NOTE: Use of this article by publishers, commercial, government, or educational organisations requires a financial agreement to negotiated with Laurie as the copyright holder for this work.