COVID-10 has reshaped how many industries operate on a day-to-day basis. With social distancing and stay-at-home orders, industries that have traditionally provided in-person services are now having to rapidly transition online.
The microfilm and archival industries are one of many sectors that were hit considerably hard this past year. Traditionally reliant on in-person services, the sudden adjustment to a remote economy has pushed this industry into the digital world.
How has the COVID-19 Pandemic affected the Microfilm & Archival Industry?
In order to slow the spread of the virus, many offices and work facilities were required to close and transition their operations to remote settings. As much of the day-to-day functions of archival businesses occur within physical offices and through in-person services, the limited digital infrastructure many had in place in 2020 was not sufficient for a remote setting.
The digitization of records and online access to these services, although long encouraged, has been slow due to the financial cost and time it takes to convert decades, and sometimes centuries, worth of records to an online platform. For governments and small businesses, the option to digitize has been out of reach for many as traditional methods require significant manpower and money. Therefore, when the pandemic began, many members of the industry were left with limited options other than to transition online.
Barriers of preservation: Degradation & Climate Change
The recent demand for digitization not only helps businesses and governments adjust to the changing nature of client relations and remote work but will also continue to benefit the industry well after the pandemic.
It’s hard to think of a time before user-friendly cloud storage and external hard drives made the process of backing-up one’s work easy and fast. However, for the microfilm and archrival industry, many records still only exist in their original format. The lack of digitization in the industry has resulted in many records being lost due age and other external factors.
Although the science of preservation and maintenance has continued to progress, unavoidable risks such as temperature or humidity, are still very much present in the industry. The loss of non-digitized copies is further heightened with the increased frequency of seasonal forest fires, flash flooding, and hurricanes. And while many governments and businesses make efforts to transport records during such events, the unpredictability of many climate-related episodes still leaves much of the industry at risk of losing their irreplaceable inventory.
The Future of a Digitized Archival & Microfilm Industry
Two prominent barriers face the industry today as it tries to digitize their inventory in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. At e-ImageData, as leaders in the industry, we have developed software systems that make the transition from physical to digital easy and affordable.
The archival and microfilm industry is unique as their services are reliant on the physical copies of their records. In order for a business or government to digitize their records, in-person processing is still an essential component in this transition. The challenge lies in how to digitize records, many of which contain personal or sensitive information, when access to facilities and offices are severely restricted.
By understanding the unique circumstances of the industry, itself as well as the demand for remote work, our team and partners have worked directly with our customers to ensure both needs are met. Our digitization software, the ScanPro All-In-One™ microfilm scanner, allows for the scanning, processing, and quality assurance of a business’ records to be completed in any setting. Our in-house conversion scanner ensures that all conversions, no matter the amount, can be completed with limited personnel to better protect the health and wellbeing of our customers' employees.
A common barrier cited by businesses and governments in digitizing their records has been due to the large size of records they manage each day. For example, a single city government may have centuries of censuses, property documents, and resident information held in a single facility. For much of the last decade, the time and cost associated with digitizing these records has resulted in many industry members simply avoiding the process altogether.
Technological advancements have helped develop systems such ScanPro All-In-One that makes the previously tedious task of converting reels of microfilm or documents much more efficient. High-performing software platforms like these not only allow businesses to digitize large inventories faster but also limit the risks of rescans or quality assurance oversight without massive financial or time commitments.
In conclusion, digitization has long been promoted within the archival and microfilm industry but up until last year, the industry has delayed the process that was traditionally a long and costly investment. However, with new technology and current customer demand to access records online, we are prepared to help this essential industry adapt to the rapidly changing world of 2021 and beyond.
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