Sunday, November 6, 2011

Photographing Microfilm Records

Bk08-f145-orig (Large)
Original Photo of Microfilm Record
After spending over 12 hours in the Family History Center looking through a single roll of microfilm, I had found some 200 pages of family information, but I was still finding records I had overlooked. This is great since it means that there is a lot of information to find, but I have a long way to go.  I have ordered a total of 5 rolls from them but can only spend about 3-4 hours per week at the center.  How can I possibly go through them all?  Then I had an idea.  What if I photograph the roll quickly and review it at my leisure at home?  So, I have begun experimenting.
For my first experiment, I took my digital SLR and tripod to the FHC and photographed the entire Lutheran Church record roll (1797-1822).  It took about an hour to photograph the 598 images.  I used the microfilm table, where the film is projected onto a white table, about 2’ by 2’.  I set the camera on a tripod and took some test shots to set focus and exposure.  Then I switched the camera to manual so that I new the settings would be the same throughout the roll.
Bk08-f145 (Large)
Corrected for Perspective and Color
The images showed keystoning (the perspective effect where the top is smaller than the bottom), as a result of the angle of the table.  I corrected it in Photoshop and converted it to B&W. Since all the images were taken at the same position, I used an automated process to readjust them all in Photoshop. There is still a pincushion effect but it is small so I left it alone.

All in all, I called the experiment a “qualified success”. To see the quality of the photos, I compared a page from the photo with the same page I had previously scanned, using the microfilm scanner at the FHC.  You can see the scanned image is definitely better, but the photo is pretty usable.
Bk08-f145-corrected (Large)
1840-Confirmation Sophia Andersen(Bk08-f145) (Large)
Photographed and Corrected Image

Scanned Image
The big difference is in the time it takes to make the image.  To scan an image takes several minutes, scanning, saving, naming, and transferring.  When scanning facing pages, like in a baptismal register, it takes two scans, plus reconstruction of the facing pages in Photoshop.  Maybe a total of 10 minutes per scan, half of which must occur at the FHC. I photographed 598 images, two pages each, in less than an hour.  This is an average of 6 seconds per two-page spread. This allows me to go through the collection at home (in my pajamas).  Once I find something I want, I can still go back and get a scan if I like.

One of the big reasons I am going through the experiment is because while the FHC has a microfilm scanner, the NARA at College Park doesn’t.  They have about 200 rolls of Virgin Islands documents (Record Group 55). I will have to print or photograph what I want there, and printing is $0.50 per page.

This experiment was using the microfilm table. Next, I’ll talk about photographing on the microfilm reader screens.

1 comment:

  1. Hello!
    I have never thought that there people that have the same thoughts about Microfilm Equipment with me and share them on the web as it is awesome and makes others overlook their personal point of view.
    Thanks for great information!!