With the proliferation of information in the Digital Age and the advent of new technologies, digitization and digital preservation are hot topics in the archive and librarian worlds. More and more information, regardless of its form as a book, video, or audio recording, is being born digitally. Joan M. Reitz defines born digital material as “work created from scratch in electronic form, for example, a hypermedia thesis or dissertation, or an electronic journal that has no print counterpart.” This definition includes the majority of the information created in the Digital Age, but what about information not born digitally? Materials that are not born digitally pose several problems for ...view middle of the document...
Identifying the type of film stock: is it nitrate, acetate, or polyester,
4. Identifying the type of film elements present: either a camera original or a collection of elements that make up a film (negatives, A& B rolls, soundtracks, etc.).
These first steps are crucial to novices as well as experienced moving images archivists because their answers will provide vital information about the film and guide the librarian or archivist how to proceed. Each film gauge and film stock has its own peculiarities, which can complicate storage and conversion to digital formats. For example, nitrate based film stock is extremely flammable and must be stored properly to ensure the safety of the film and the storage facility. The National Fire Protection Association has published the NFPA 40: Standard for the Storage and Handling of Cellulose Nitrate Film, which is a guide to the proper storage of nitrate film. The National Film Preservation Foundation has developed the following table to assist librarians and archivists in identifying their types of films and associated dates:
TABLE 1. FILM GAUGES AND THEIR SUPPORT MATERIAL
Support Dates of Use Gauge
Nitrate 1893—early 1950s 35mm
Acetate 1909—present 35mm, 28mm, 16mm, 9.5mm, Regular 8mm,
Polyester Mid 1950s—present 35mm, 16mm, some Super 8mm
After determining the film gauge, the film stock, and the type of film elements, the archivist is ready to proceed to the next stage: determining the condition of the film. Film can experience any number of damage and deterioration, which can limit or prevent digital preservation. One type of damage applicable to all of the film gauges and stock is mechanical damage. Mechanical damage is physical damage, which can be anything from tears to scratches. Depending on the nature of the mechanical damage, preservationists can make repairs to damaged films. Scratches, though, permanently damage film. Another type of damage is mold, mildew, and fungus. This type of harm usually comes from the improper storage of the films. Mold, mildew, and fungus literally eat the film. If caught the problem is caught early and the film is moved to a cold, dry area, further damage from mold, mildew, and fungus can prevented. A third type of deterioration that can plague films is chemical damage. Nitrate decay and acetate decay are two important types of chemical damage, which relate to the type of films tock. The National Film Preservation Foundation identifies the following five steps as the five stages of nitrate decay:
1. Image fading. Brownish discoloration of emulsion. Faint noxious odor.
2. Sticky emulsion. Faint noxious odor.
3. Emulsion softens and blisters with gas bubbles. More pungent odor.
4. Film congeals into a solid mass. Strong noxious odor.
5. Film disintegrates into brownish powder.
Sadly, once a nitrate film reaches the third step in the decay process, the film cannot be duplicated. Similar to the importance of early identification of mold,...