Here at the State Library our staff and users still heavily rely on this crazy little technology called “microfilm.” It is what people used for high-density information storage before the age of computers, and digitizing it all is still going to take some time. The library keeps all of the Washington Newspapers on microfilm and many other interesting documents, such as the Territorial Newspapers Card Index [see catalog record online], which is shown above, or even more enticing, the Special report No. 14 of Project Blue Book: Analysis of Reports of Unidentified Aerial Objects, 1955 [see catalog record online].
One of the best things about microfilm is that if there are long-term power outages, you can always hold them to the light and pull out a magnifying glass to read the data. Try to do that, memory stick! One of the downsides is that they are so well loved they begin to wear out, and we occasionally need to have new film made from the masters. Just look at the above example to see how bad they can get. The old film stock starts to yellow, the image gets scratchy from hours of running through high speed readers, and…is that tape holding the two ends together? Yikes!
Luckily, the fine folks at the State Archives keep master copies of the state’s newspapers on microfilm and Northwest Collection on microfilm, and our crackerjack acquisitions team can order new ones from them as the budget allows, ensuring that Washington State researchers will continue to have access to these fine resources for decades to come. You can also purchase copies of microfilm held by the Washington State Library. Find out more by clicking here.