Deb Ruth and other genealogy colleagues. This morning I was reading an article from BuffaloNews.com called "No Place Like Home" by Charity Vogel. It's an article about a woman who was an archivist for the Smithsonian and traveled the world only to find that she ultimately wanted to settle in her small home town of Cherry Creek in Western New York. The article goes on to detail all that she has done to transform the historical scene in Cherry Creek.
What popped out at me was this line,
"Researching the history of her own home and other structures and incidents in Chautauqua County -- in part by using old copies of the Cherry Creek News from the 1880s through the 1930s, which she found in the local museum on 17 rolls of decaying microfilm and has since had converted to a digital format."
Ok, I admit, when it comes to microfilm my view of the world is fairly limited. My general sense, though I know it is erroneous, is that all microfilm comes from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
This article sent a shock wave through my body. What if the microfilm in Cherry Creek is unique and copies aren't held by the Family History Library? The thought of decaying microfilm is so scary. How many small historical societies have film that might be disintegrating? Are we losing important resources?
In this particular case Sharon Howe Sweeting, the subject of the story, came to the rescue and converted the microfilm to digitial format.
That makes me wonder too. How did she convert the microfilm? Did she do it herself? Did she have to go to a company that converts microfilm? Is it expense or difficult to do?
I hope that this one historical society with its decaying microfilm is not typical of historical societies in New York or beyond. If it is, I hope that we can save the deteriorating microfilm before it's too late. I can't help but selfishly think of my own New York ancestors and have fear for my ability to solve my brick walls. In this one case, the folks of Cherry Creek were lucky. Their microfilm was saved. But how many won't be so lucky?
Photo Credit: Photo by Deborah Fitchett and used under the creative commons license.