Digitization, Democracy, Accessibility: Microfilm & Archives in 2022


2021 has been another transformative year for the microfilm and archive industries. The continued impact of COVID-19 has been felt across organizations, while technologies and software never cease evolving, and the expectations placed on archival services have drastically shifted.

Reflecting on the core trends that have emerged in microfilm over the past year is essential to forecasting the developments and challenges that 2022 will bring.

Digitization

This year has seen a digitization surge across industries, as the COVID-19 pandemic limited access to physical microfilm records in libraries, archives, and businesses. Yet those forced by the pandemic towards digitization are now realizing the convenience of fully digital, text-searchable records that can be reached from anywhere at the click of a button.

Digitization does not just make microfilm images more accessible and convenient, but it is also vital for preservation purposes. Microfilm deteriorates over time and must be stored in low-temperature and low-humidity environments. Even these ideal conditions, though, cannot entirely prevent deterioration, merely slow the process. Digitization is fundamental to preserving rare and important sources for posterity.

Digitization has an egalitarian and democratizing potential. Without the need to travel to far-flung libraries, those with an interest in virtually any niche are able to explore innumerable sources from the comfort of home. This trend can be seen, for example, in the growing popularity of family history research.

In September 2021, FamilySearch announced the complete digitization of its microfilm collection, opening up an impressive array of resources to the general public and allowing amateur ancestry researchers to make exciting personal discoveries.

All these clear advantages mean that digitization efforts can only be predicted to expand in 2022. Fortunately, the ScanPro® All-In-One™ comes with a free six-month subscription to the advanced AUTO-Scan™ Pro software, which can scan up to 100 images per minute. Digitizing microfilm records no longer has to be labor-intensive and time-consuming.

Software

Cutting-edge modern technology, including machine learning and AI, is being used to upgrade OCR (optical character recognition) software and make the results ever-more accurate.

ScanPro’s PowerScan Productivity Suite offers the fastest and most precise word-searchable OCR software in the micrographics industry. By eliminating the need for interim quality checking, this state-of-the-art software streamlines workflows and makes digitizing microfilm an efficient process.

OCR software is further democratizing research, since amateur enthusiasts do not require the luxury of time to sift through reams of records. Just a few quick keyword searches will yield a curated selection of specific resources relevant to their topic of interest.

In addition, academics can now work with unprecedented volumes of sources at once, mining for keywords and bringing a new big-data perspective to archival records. These techniques have been used to gain insight into subjects as diverse as public health and 19th-century classical commentaries.

Beyond text recognition, technologies are being established that make images searchable too. This year, Facebook unveiled its implementation of AAT (automatic alternative text), which uses AI to label uploaded images with descriptions. The company aims to become more inclusive of those who are blind or visually impaired and use screen readers to navigate the online world.

Image-to-text software will improve the accessibility and navigability of archive sources for those with visual impairments. This technology also promises to enhance the searchability of images in databases, enabling the richness of microfilm records to be utilized.

Social Media Engagement

The digitization of microfilm images allows for vast circulation via social media platforms, from Twitter to specialized blogs. With these platforms, the latest research and resources do not have to stay enclosed by the limited walls of academia but can reach a mass audience. Scholars and amateur researchers are increasingly seeking to build connections and share knowledge through social media.

It has become an expectation that libraries, museums, and archives will have a social media presence. This presence can be leveraged to widen participation, reinforce the organization’s reputation, and enrich teaching and learning experiences. The US National Archives, for example, is taking advantage of social media to promote engagement with its sources.

The social media environment is fast-moving and responsive. ScanPro helps organizations to keep up; its advanced OCR software, database linking, and easy look-up features mean that information is always at your fingertips.

In 2022, the demands that the microfilm and archival industries provide digital, democratized, and accessible resources are set to fully unfold. The ScanPro All-In-One is there to ensure your organization remains at the forefront of these developments, and that working with microfilm continues to be enjoyable, efficient, and intuitive. Request a free virtual or in-person demo today!


Sources

Heather Plaisance, ‘What’s That Smell? Managing Deteriorating Microfilm Collections in Libraries and Archives’

http://journal.acrlla.org/index.php/codex/article/...

Family Search, ‘FamilySearch Completes Digitization of Massive Microfilm Collection’

https://media.familysearch.org/familysearch-comple...

Pit Schneider, ‘Rerunning OCR: A Machine Learning Approach to Quality Assessment

and Enhancement Prediction’

https://arxiv.org/pdf/2110.01661.pdf

Merlin Chowkwanyun, ‘Big Data, Large-Scale Text Analysis, and Public Health Research’

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC63839...

Matteo Romanello, Sven Najem-Meyer and Bruce Robertson, ‘Optical Character Recognition of 19th Century Classical Commentaries: The Current State of Affairs’

https://arxiv.org/abs/2110.06817

Facebook, ‘How Facebook is Using AI to Improve Photo Descriptions for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired’

https://tech.fb.com/how-facebook-is-using-ai-to-im...

JISC, ‘Using Social Media to Promote your Digital Collections’

https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/making-your-digital-...

US National Archives, ‘Social Media and Digital Engagement’

https://www.archives.gov/social-media


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