The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 15, Number 3
May 1991


Condition Survey of Master Microfilm Negatives, University of Florida Libraries

by Erich J. Kesse
Preservation Officer, University of Florida Libraries

The P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, part of the Department of Special Collections at the University of Florida Libraries (UFL), is the repository for primary and secondary historical source materials documenting all periods of Florida's history. As such, it supports not only the teaching and research fractions of the University of Florida community, but of many other institutions and investigators as well. It is the oldest and most comprehensive collection of Florida history materials in existence.

The Library holds more than 22,000 printed works, 3,000 manuscript boxes, 2,300 maps, small collections of photographs and postal cards, and more than 7,000 positive microfilm reels of Florida newspapers. The 7,ODC)--reel microfilm collection often represents the only microfilm and, frequently, the only extant copy of many Florida newspapers.

Microfilming operations at the UFL began in the late 1940s and continues to the present day. Until 1987, UFL policy was to produce two, rather than the standard three, generations of microfilm, i.e., the camera master and a use copy. Bo generat3 were stored in the P.K. Young Library of Florida History. Be in 1988, as a result of a physical condition survey of 1794 master microfilm held in the Library, all master microfilm was r from the Library to archival storage.

The Florida newspaper master microfilm collection is one of two major master microfilm collections owned by the UFL. The larger collection, comprised of approximately 13,000 master microfilm reels of Caribbean materials, is stored under archival conditions by a commercial micropublisher. Arrangements are now being made to survey the condition of this collection.

Condition Survey

The physical condition survey was initiated late in 1987 after the UFL Preservation Office received reports that UFL collections contained highly unstable nitrate-based films. Some 35 mm nitrate-based whom picture film were used early in the microfilm industry, and such films were suspected in the UFL collections because of their age (1).

At the time the survey was being planned, reports of the physical condition of stored acetate negatives came to the attention of the UFL Preservation Office (2). Acetate-based films continued in use by the UFL under the bid and purchase provisions and requirements of State of Florida until early 1988. It had also been observed as early as 1982 that acetate-based films in the collection were deteriorating, as evidenced by efflorescence (crystalline or powdery deposits) on film and storage containers (3). The survey was conducted from 6 November 1987 through 28 J 1988.

Item were chosen for survey by of a random sample with a confidence level of 95% ±5%. To assure confidence levels, four sample groups of at least four hundred reels each were chosen. Avoidance of duplication required a certain level of aver-sampling, so the target size for each sample group was five hundred reels. A total of 1794 reels ,were , almost 25% of the collection of master microfilms. Basic bibliographic information was taken from the box, including: title, place of publication, date, call number, and reel number. The surveyor, wearing lint-free cotton gloves and a non-toxic particle mask, was instructed to remove the film from its box and record evidence of corrosion on or deterioration of the box, obvious chemical odors, polarity, swelling or curl, efflorescence or crystalline deposits, mold or other infestation, and redox blemishes. Finally, surveyors were requested to take a sample for chemical tests from an unexposed area located before the initial target, using procedures described by Steven Puglia (5) and the National Fire Protection Association (6).

Environmental survey

Concurrently with the physical condition survey, the environment of the storage vault was also studied. The environment survey entailed multiple daily temperature and humidity readings using a sling psychrometer. A recording hygrothermograph, on a seven-day cycle, was also placed in the storage vault both to verify psychrometer readings and to record after-hours conditions.

Findings

Survey of the 1794 master negatives found no films on nitrate base. 80%. of film (i.e., 359 reels) were on polyester base.

Surprisingly, 52 of the master "negative" reels (2.9% of the total) were positives. There was no evidence of the reasons for the substitution of positives for negatives. Further examination of the entire master negative collection revealed a distressing fact. 12% of master negatives were acetate- and polyester-based diazo copies. Another 40%. of the masters, while silver-gelatin emulsion, were not first generation film. Because this information was not collected at the time of initial survey, a cross tabulation, involving emulsion type and other factors, was not done. Evidence pointed to collection maintenance policies involving regeneration of deteriorating masters as a reason for a compromised master negative collection, Though records were not kept, there were indications that some films may have been regenerated without regard for quality or optical techniques to minimize loss of resolution, as many as three times so that, in sane cases, masters are third generation film.

Almost three quarters (71.9%.) of the film in the collection was found to be deteriorated. Mold was the primary or partial cause of deterioration in 64% of cases. While temperature was probably a factor in its occurrence, mold often took the form of finger prints, evidence of unguarded quality control and use procedures. Since 1987, quality control procedures have required the use of cotton gloves. Efflorescence was symptomatic of deterioration in 59% of cases. While temperature may have resulted in volatilization of plasticizers in film leading to efflorescence, washing and fixing procedures also may have been at fault. There is no evidence of procedures, adequate or inadequate, prior to 1987, which could suggest the cause of efflorescence. One would, however, expect a greater occurrence of redox blemishes (2.3%. of the occurrence of efflorescence; 1.8% overall) with unsatisfactory processing procedures. Survey verification indicated that efflorescence was occasionally misreported as mold/mildew. Nevertheless, mold was the greatest single symptom of deterioration (46.1%) that could be associated with the occurrence of efflorescence.

Environmental conditions seem to have contributed to deterioration. Both average temperature (71ºF ± 08ºF) and relative humidity (RH) (66%. ± 34%.) in the storage vault exceeded recommended levels. For storage of preservation master microfilm, the recommended temperature is 71ºF (21ºC) and the recommended relative humidity is between 15% and 40% (8). Temperature exceeded the recommended level by 3-29ºF, and often exceeded 70ºF, a commonly accepted threshold for mold bloom. RH occasionally fell to 35%, but usually far exceeded and was occasionally more than twice the recommended maximum level. These swings were recorded within the -2½ months during which the survey was conducted. Environmental controls within the storage vault were often apparently shut down during off-hours.

Where deterioration of the film base alone is considered, deterioration seems almost entirely limited to acetate-based films. The occurrence of mold aside, symptoms of deterioration were in evidence only with acetate-based films. A word of caution about interpreting results: little can be said about the stability of polyester based film from this study. Polyester came into common use at the UFL only after 1987. Though polyester-based films represented 20% of surveyed films, they were recent additions or regenerations and replacements for deteriorated acetate-based films. Finally, statistics concerning acetate-based films can be interpreted only in light of their particular non-archival storage environment. Almost 90% of all acetate-based film had deteriorated to saw degree. Deterioration of acetate-based film in this study was characterized by chemical odor (6.8%), swelling and curl (4.3%), and redox blemishes (2.2%), in addition to mold (56.7%) and efflorescence (53.4%). While overlap of characteristics was somewhat common, there was no single pattern of overlap typical of acetate-based films.

Evidence does not point to a relation between deterioration of the boxes or corrosion of the reels and deterioration of base of film. Almost 12% of all boxes and metal reels bad either deteriorated or corroded. While 73.5% of all deteriorated boxes and corroded reels held deteriorated films, only 11.8% of deteriorated films could be associated with deteriorated boxes and corroded reels. Deteriorated boxes and corroded metal reels did not appear to be strongly correlated with deterioration of films, though those films held with deteriorated storage containers or on metal reels were more likely to be damaged. Deterioration of the box, rather than the existence of metal reels, was most likely to be symptomatic of the damaged film. Subsequent pH testing of 100 randomly selected boxes found an average 5.5 pH value. Associations between pH of boxes, environmental conditions and deterioration of films could not be made from compiled data.

Deteriorated storage containers included boxes which had been contaminated by metal or chemical residues or which had become dysfunctional either through use or embrittlement. Survey notes indicated that MW of the metal reels had corroded. Because all metal reels found in the collection were of the same manufacture and some had corroded, all metal reels were considered suspect and subsequently replaced with inert plastic reels. Since completion of the , boxes throughout the entire master negative collection have been replaced with those conforming to ANSI IT9.2-1988 (7).

Ties used to secure film reels were not examined. Use of ties began in 1987 after the creation of the UFL Preservation Office. Ties have met specifications of ANSI IT9.2-1988. Previously, film was not secured on reels by any means.

These findings attempt to explain only the most meaningful data. Less meaningful but nevertheless important information generated through cross-tabulate of statistics (Tables 1-3) represents a wealth of heretofore unpublished data. This data, within the context of former UFL microfilm storage conditions, begins to characterize the deterioration of older, primarily acetate-based microfilms. A larger survey and additional minutiae (e.g., production dates, processing data, etc.) could have made this data more meaningful.

Actions

Since the completion of this survey, beginning in 1988, the University of Florida Libraries have acted responsibly to preserve and protect this microform resource. In addition to minor actions mentioned above, a massive program of evaluation, preservation, archival storage and description has been undertaken. The UFL Preservation Office has evaluated the condition of Fare than 7,000 reels of master negative film. Where necessary, optimal quality replacements have been produced in three generations: one copy designated "principal master"; another, "printing master"; and the third, "we copy". Replacement (i.e., regeneration) was considered necessary when film had either deteriorated or, because of its base material, was likely to deteriorate even under archival conditions. Principal and printing masters were then moved to archival storage in separate locations.

Conditions of this archival storage are defined by a host of standards, prescribed by the UFL's Request for Proposals (RFP) for storage of master microforms (9). Environmental conditions conform to ANSI IT9.2-1988 (7) and ANSI PH1.43-1985 (8). The RFP also cites ANSI/NFPA vault construction, fire protection and suppression, and heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) standards.

In addition to physical treatments, the FILMLOG database and management tool was designed for the Preservation Office. microfilms, and information about them, have been logged into FILMLOG , which produces technical reports in the form of USMARC fields, for data entry into OCLC, RLIN, and the UFL's NOTIS-based online public access catalog (OPAC). Automated cataloging, together with other FILMLOG products (inventories, union lists, and finding guides, targets, etc.), now makes these microfilm more accessible to patrons. The minutiae of statistical data, most of which is automatically generated by "expert systems" programming and retained in FILMLOG records, will make future analyses more meaningful.

Costs associated with the and subsequent projects have not been fully reported or analyzed yet. Most of these costs were supported by library material funds distributed by the State of Florida as endowment from lottery revenues. The greatest cost, however, was the loss of optical integrity in copying the n-asters regenerated prior to 1987. Despite employment of photographic techniques to minimize or, where possible, counter loss of resolution during regeneration, the quality of these films has been further compromised to sane degree. No attempt bas been made Yet to analyze differences between quality of deteriorated "originals" and that of project regeneration replacements.

Table 1. Cross tabulation: Deterioration

TYPE OF FILM DETERIORATION

TYPE OF DETERIORATION

FILM BASE

Deterioration of Base

Chenical Odor

Efflorescence

Mold / Mildew

Redox Blemishes

Swelling / tight curl

DETERIORATION OF STORAGE COMPONENTS

Deterioration of box

Metal Reels

ACETATE

Polyester

Deterioration of Base

1290

98

766

821

32

62

114

102

57

1283

7

% of column

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

% of total sample

71.9

5.5

42.7

45.8

1.8

3.5

6.4

5.7

3.2

71.5

0.4

                       

Chemical Odor

98

98

54

20

1

29

43

38

32

98

0

% of column

7.6

100.0

7.0

2.4

3.1

46.8

37.7

37.3

56.1

7.6

0.0

% of total sample

5.5

5.5

3.0

1.1

neglig

1.6

2.4

2.1

1.8

5.5

0.0

                       

Efflorescence

766

54

766

353

18

25

35

33

6

766

0

% of column

59.4

55.1

100.0

43.0

56.3

40.3

30.7

32.4

10.5

59.7

0.0

% of total sample

42.7

3.0

42.7

19.7

1.0

1.4

2.0

1.8

0.3

42.7

0.0

                       

Mold/Mildew

821

20

353

821

10

21

59

52

13

814

7

% of column

63.6

20.4

46.1

100.0

31.3

33.9

51.8

51.0

22.8

63.4

100.0

% of total sample

45.8

1.1

19.7

45.8

0.6

1.2

3.3

3.0

0.7

45.4

0.4

                       

Redox blemishes

32

1

18

10

32

0

3

1

3

32

0

% of column

2.5

1.0

2.3

1.2

100.0

0.0

2.6

0.9

5.3

2.5

0.0

% of total sample

1.8

neglig

1.0

0.6

1.8

0.0

0.2

neglig

0.2

1.8

0.0

                       

Swelling/tight curl

62

29

25

21

0

62

33

31

29

62

0

% of column

4.8

29.6

3.3

2.6

0.0

100.0

28.9

30.4

50.9

4.8

0.0

% of total sample

3.5

1.6

1.4

1.2

0.0

3.5

1.8

1.7

1.6

3.5

0.0

 

 

Note: Percentages may add up to more than 100% because reels were reported in one or more categories.

2. Cross tabulation: Storage components and deterioration

TYPE OF STORAGE-COMPONENT DETERIORATION

TYPE OF DETERIORATION

FILM BASE

DETERIORATION OF BASE

Chemical odor

Efflorescence

Mold / mildew

Reox blemishes

Swelling / tight curl

DETERIORATION OF STORAGE COMPONENENTS

Deterioration of box

Metal Reels

ACETATE

POLYESTER

Deterioration of Storage Components

114

43

35

59

3

33

208

160

144

NC*

NC

% of column

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

NC

NC

% of total sample

6.4

2.4

2.0

3.3

0.2

1.8

11.6

8.9

8.0

NC

NC

                       

Corrosion of Box

102

38

33

52

1

31

160

160

96

NC

NC

% of column

89.5

88.4

94.3

88.1

33.3

93.9

51.0

100.0

66.7

NC

NC

% of total sample

5.7

2.1

1.8

3.0

neglig

1.7

8.9

8.9

5.4

NC

NC

                       

Metal Reels

57

32

6

13

3

29

144

96

144

NC

NC

% of column

50.0

74.4

17.1

22.0

100.0

87.9

69.2

60.0

100.0

NC

NC

% of total sample

3.2

1.8

0.3

0.7

0.2

1.6

8.0

5.4

8.0

NC

NC

 

*Not calculated

Note: Percentages may add up to more than 100% because reels were reported in one or more categories.

Table 3. Cross tabulation: Base of film and deterioration

FILM BASE

TYPE OF DETERIORATION

FILM BASE

DETERIORATION OF BASE

Chemical odor

Efflorescence

Mold / mildew

Reox blemishes

Swelling / tight curl

DETERIORATION OF STORAGE COMPONENENTS

Deterioration of box

Metal Reels

ACETATE

POLYESTER

ACETATE

1283

98

766

814

32

62

NC*

NC

NC

1435

NC

% of column

89.4

6.8

53.4

56.7

2.2

4.3

NC

NC

NC

100.0

NC

% of total sample

71.5

5.5

42.7

45.4

1.8

3.5

NC

NC

NC

80.0

NC

                       

POLYESTER

7

0

0

7

0

0

NC

NC

NC

NC

359

% of column

1.9

0.0

0.0

1.9

0.0

0.0

NC

NC

NC

NC

100.0

of total sample

0.4

0.0

0.0

0.4

0.0

0.0

NC

NC

NC

NC

20.0

*Not calculated

Note: Percentages may add up to more than 100% because reels were reported in one or more categories.

References

1. Adelstein, P.Z. "Preservation of Microfilm." Journal of Micrographics 11, no. 6 (July/August 1978): 3j3-337.

2. Horvath, David G. The Acetate Negative Survey Final Report. Louisville, KY: University of Louisville, 1987.

3. [Letter] Rosati, I. Frank (Eastman Kodak, BIS Customer Technical Service) to C.F. Cochran (Eastman Kodak, Region Technical Specialist), regarding P.K. Yonge Library film samples, Dec. 13, 1982.

4. McCamy, C.S. Inspection of Processed Photographic Record Films for Aging Blemishes. National Bureau of Standards, Handbook 96. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964.

5. Puglia, Steven. A Short Guide to Nitrate Negatives: History, Care, and Duplication. Andover, MA: Northeast Document Conservation Center, 1986.

6. National Fire Protection Association. Cellulose Nitrate Motion Picture Film. Quincy,, MA: the Association, 1982. ANSI/NFPA 40.

7. American National Standards Institute. American national standard for-Photographic processed film, plates, and papers-Film enclosures and storage containers. ANSI IT9.2-1988. New York, NY: the Institute, 1988.

8. American National Standards Institute. American national standard for photography (film)-Processed safety film. ANSI PHI.43-1985 (corrected 1987). New York, NY: the Institute, 1985 (1987). Recorded storage conditions vary, depending upon base of film.

9. University of Florida Libraries. Request for proposals -for storage of master microforms. Gainesville, FL: the Libraries, 1991.

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