Seriously though, I came across this article yesterday and thought it was pretty interesting. It’s well worth a read. I’m not exactly an antiquarian, but I do think microfilm has some life left in it for long-term preservation. I think digitization is the way of the future and it does make collections far more accessible than traditional preservation methods. However, there are some forms of records for which microfilm is the most appropriate.
Corporate employee health records, for example, have to be kept for 30 years by law. Who knows what type of computers or program formats we will be using then — we might not be able to access our own histories. That’s the problem we are facing now with digital records created 10 or more years back. To be fair, I think this problem will fix itself (now that we’ve admitted we have a problem).
Also the costs quoted in this article aren’t quite right. Best practices say you need to have a digital record in at least two places: so, either two hard drives stored apart or perhaps in the cloud (but that’s a whole other kettle of fish). Also the cost of migration for digital data can get pretty high depending on what you’re storing and how often you’re migrating it. Hard drives can also fail. Microfilm degrades, but it doesn’t fail (unless there’s a flood or fire). The author is right that microfilm isn’t the future. But I don’t think you can write off microfilm just yet in all areas of the industry.