Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links


Information Management - Information Matters

Guidelines for Microfilming Records of Archival Value

Table of Contents




  1. Standards
  2. Glossary
  3. Forms


The National Archives of Canada acquires, preserves and makes available records of national significance. The Archives also provides a comprehensive program that helps federal government institutions and ministers' offices manage their records.

The program includes advice on standards and practices for the management of information management and protection of government information through a national network of records centres; and, finally, direction and assistance in planning the disposition of institutional records.

To ensure there is a consistent approach to information management within the government, the National Archives investigates the impact of emerging technologies, develops standards and practices, and produces technical handbook.

Guidelines for Microfilming Records of Archival Value is one of a series of handbooks on records and information management. The principal author is Susan Hall, who benefited from the advice of experts in the image management field, particularly that of Wayne McCorrister. Any comments or questions about this handbook or about other information management issues are welcome. Please address your remarks to:

Government Information Management Office
Library and Archives Canada
Telephone: 819-934-7519
Fax: 819-934-7534

1. Introduction

This document provides guidance to government institutions on microfilming records of archival value to achieve archival film(1) and on the quality control and archival storage conditions necessary to achieve stable images and media permanence. These guidelines can also be adopted by organizations wishing to retain microfilm for lengthy periods of time.

Government institutions should implement these provisions and processes when producing micrographic records in-house or when contracting for microfilm services from private sector service bureaux. Federal departments operating micrographic production offices should also refer to the National Standard of Canada CAN/CGSB-72.28-M88/BS 6660-1985 Setting Up and Maintaining Micrographic Units.

While this document provides guidance about common requirements, each microfilm application should be customized to suit its particular characteristics. The National Archives has a vested interest in preserving historical records of the Government of Canada and provides advice on developing micrographic applications in government institutions.

Government institutions using microfilm for records which may be required for evidential purposes should refer to the National Standard of Canada CAN/CGSB-72.11-M93 Microfilm and Electronic Images as Documentary Evidence in addition to applying the microfilm system specifications in these guidelines. Institutions contracting for microfilm services from the private sector should apply the principles described in the National Standard of Canada CAN2-72.19-M85 Criteria for the Evaluation of Micrographic Service Bureaux.

These guidelines do not include specific procedures to microfilm books, bound material, or engineering and cartographic records. You may, however, contact the National Archives for advice on microfilming any type of record.

Similarly, these guidelines do not cover the use of diazo, vesicular, colour or computerized microfilm systems or discuss the construction or properties of various microfilm. This information is available in other publications and micrographic standards.

Guidelines for Microfilming Records of Archival Value focuses on micrographic applications created and maintained in roll film format. Many microfilm applications require constant updating and are often converted from roll form to a unitized microfilm format to simplify filming, filing and film distribution or because of privacy requirements. Some examples of unitization include 16 mm and 35 mm microjackets for documents, aperture cards for maps, plans and drawings and updateable microfilm systems.

In a unitized system, information is updated or replaced on an on-going basis, and the film is regularly used and maintained in an office environment. Regular handling of the silver microfilm and its storage in an office environment shortens its overall life expectancy. However, a variety of options are available which should be assessed and implemented for each application. If you have, or are contemplating, a unitized microfilm system for archival records, contact the National Archives of Canada for advice.

Definitions, procedures and technical requirements in this guideline are based on National Standards of Canada (CAN), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the American National Standards Institute / Association for Information and Image Management (ANSI/AIIM) standards. A glossary of terminology is available in Appendix B.

2. General Requirements

The creation and long-term preservation of microfilm requires exact controls during film manufacturing, microfilming, film processing and film storage. Should any of the technical processes not meet minimum requirements or should proper storage conditions not be met, then the life expectancy of the microfilm is jeopardized.

For descriptions of the life expectancy of film not explained in this guideline, refer to ANSI IT9.11-1991 Imaging Media Processed Safety Photographic Film Storage.

Microfilm applications that capture records of archival value should meet the requirements below to ensure film life and guarantee the long-term preservation of the information. Details about each of these processes are explained in subsequent sections of these guidelines.

  • Technical and procedural requirements for the specific micrographic application should be developed, documented and applied during microfilm production.
  • Silver-halide polyester film is the preferred film for generating archival microfilm.
  • Conventional wet processing is recognized by Canadian, international and American standards organizations as the most stable processing method to achieve microfilm permanence.
  • All films (camera microfilm, print master film and reference copies) should be inspected to ensure image quality, stability and usability.
  • The camera microfilm (first-generation) negative roll film should be stored under ideal storage conditions at all times.

The camera microfilm should be placed in proper environmental storage to ensure its preservation and to ensure the information is available and usable in the future. A negative or positive silver duplicate print master film (second-generation microfilm) should be made from the camera film to generate the required reference copies (third generation) for reference by users. Since the third-generation reference copy will be used as the working copy, its quality should faithfully reproduce all the record detail of the original documents.

3. Information Needs Analysis and Systems Planning

This section describes elements of systems planning crucial in developing technical specifications for the microfilm application. Other aspects of the systems development life-cycle ae outside the scope of this guideline.

A complete information needs analysis and system design study should precede implementation of any micrographic application. Gather information about the program and activities to which the records belong, work flows, information uses, growth rate, etc., and completely assess and describe the documents (condition, age, colour, volume, security classification, etc.). These factors form the basis for the microfilm application and system specifications.

During the systems planning study, a decision on the retention and disposition of original or source documents should be made. When archival records are to be converted to microfilm, these archival microfilming guidelines should be employed. The National Archives of Canada Act requires government institutions to seek the consent of the National Archivist to destroy or otherwise dispose of records. This applies to both the original paper (source documents) and to microfilmed records.

Documentation resulting from information and systems planning should be recorded and maintained for the life of the microfilm application. Changes made to the application should also be documented and retained.


To ensure continuity and legal acceptance of microfilming programs and of individual microfilm applications, operating procedures should be developed to cover:

  • initial testing
  • document preparation
  • microfilming
  • processing
  • inspection
  • duplication
  • storage
  • disposition.

Generic requirements for each of these processes are explained in the remainder of this guideline.

4. Initial Testing

Initial testing is done to obtain information and make decisions on the final technical microfilm specifications necessary for the particular record collection. It involves several processes.

First, analyse the information gathered during information and systems planning. The, select a random sample of files and documents representing the various document characteristics (stapled, bound, old, two-sided, ink used, etc.) for microfilm testing. Process the sample through the operating procedures and document the test results.

Base the microfilm system specifications on the quality requirements of the reference generation (third-generation) microfilm. The camera microfilm (first-generation) should be produced to achieve the quality necessary to read and use the third-generation microfilm.

Next, process or develop the film and test for image resolution, density, legibility, reduction ratio and exposure latitude. Make the necessary duplicates, test image resolution and density, view the film and make a paper print.

From this process, technical specifications can be developed to implement the microfilm application. These specifications should include:

  • type and size of film
  • filming reduction ratios
  • density requirements for the first-generation print master film and reference microfilm
  • resolution requirements for the first-generation print master film and reference microfilm.

Keep a record of all tests and test results. Also, document conclusions and decisions taken about the microfilm application.

5. Document preparation

Document preparation is done to ensure documents are in the proper files and sequence and in a condition that will permit orderly and accurate microfilming. Determine document preparation requirements in advance and document procedures as part of information and systems planning.

Microfilm records should be an accurate representation of the original or source records. To prepare documents for microfilming, first examine the records collection to ensure all files are in the correct order established by the record identification or classification system.

Identify misplaced files, folders or other file units and, as these are located, place them in correct sequence. Verify file content to ensure all documents to be microfilmed are in the file. To ensure the microfilm represents the complete record, make every effort to obtain missing items. If missing items

cannot be found, insert a "missing" target (file, document or folder) in the correct place in the record collection.

Document size or physical form may prevent certain items from being microfilmed (e.g., exhibits in legal files, folded diagrams, artifacts). If this is the case, there are several acceptable approaches. Create a microfilm target to identify each item, explaining its omission and location, or take a picture of the item and microfilm the photograph or microfilm the item using two or more frames of film. For the latter, a target or sign is normally used to indicate multiple images. Place targets in the appropriate sequence during document preparation. While photographs should be placed in the proper sequence, operational constraints may require they be spliced to the appropriate roll of microfilm later.

As document preparation proceeds, cull the collection by removing copies and documents not to be included in the microfilm application as described in the information and systems planning specifications. Examine individual documents for imperfections and carefully remove staples, paper clips and other document fasteners.

Document Quality

A damaged document should be placed in a clear, non-glare plastic folder or sleeve or pieced together on the camera flatbed during microfilming. Never tape or glue a torn document and do not remove adhesive tape. These repair methods can destroy underlying information or cause further damage to the document.

If a page is so mutilated that some information is lost, back it with black paper. Backing paper should be at least the size of the document being backed. When necessary, use white backing on documents that could cause print bleed through (e.g., onion-skin paper). This procedure increases the contrast and provides a clearer image on film. Do not attempt to remove stains.

Microfilming poor quality documents often results in microimages that lack clarity and detail. If documents are so severely damaged that an acceptable image is not guaranteed, prepare and insert a notice explaining that the problem in image legibility lies with the quality of the original document and not with the quality of the microfilm.

Certain photographic methods may improve the legibility of the documents. Selective use of colour filters can reduce discolouration, increase contrast and improve reproduction of some colours. Only photographic methods should be used to enhance information (writing, printing, seals, etc.) found in legal or historical documents. Procedures for enhancing source documents are referenced in CAN/CGSB-72.11-M93 Microfilm and Electronic Images as Documentary Evidence.


A variety of targets are normally necessary to provide quick information retrieval, or they are specified by the operating procedures or the information and systems planning study. Some targets are inserted during document preparation, others during microfilming.

The microfilm information and systems planning specifications identify which eye-legible images to prepare and insert during document preparation. These normally describe the records, such as the start or end of file, volumes or pockets, significant documents, or they can comprise other targets (bibliographic and / or biographic information or standard forms) needed for the microfilming application. These could also include targets for corrections, quality of originals, enhancements performed and missing documents. Targets used during microfilming are explained in section 6.


There are many approaches to indexing and information classification. Each organization should select a system which best suits its need. Often the index is already available as a part of the record collection. If this is the case, it can be microfilmed and made available with the microfilm. If an index to the record collection does not exist, create one during document preparation.

Indexes provide a complete inventory of the information microfilmed and permit quick access to the records by users and researchers. During filming, verify the microfilm against the index to confirm complete capture of the record collection and, after inspection, identify file number or titles on the film storage containers. Maintain the index in hard copy or electronic form and, if possible, on the roll microfilm for the life of the microfilm application.

6. Microfilming

Microfilm specifications are highly dependent on the documents being filmed, the equipment being used and the requirements specified in the information and systems planning study.


Planetary cameras offer maximum flexibility in image arrangement (format), reduction ratios and exposure settings and are traditionally preferred for microfilming archival records that are old in poor condition.

Technological advances in rotary cameras have made them more useful than they were previously. Standardization of paper size and composition and of ink colours and the introduction of forms to record information are added reasons to use rotary cameras. However, very old, brittle or damaged collections or collections with a mix of document characteristics (size, colour, weight) are not normally microfilmed using a rotary camera.

Before microfilming, inspect and calibrate cameras according to the manufacturer's specifications and unique requirements and decisions made during the initial testing phase. Inspect the lens and other camera parts (counters, exposure controls, lights, etc.) daily to ensure the equipment is operating and calibrated properly. As a further precaution, clean and check working parts when changing rolls of film. To ensure an acceptable quality of output, conduct resolution tests using standard processed film strips.

Install dividers between cameras to stop stray light which may affect exposure. Use a voltage stabilizer to maintain constant illumination during microfilming and duplication. Keep the area free from dust, food, smoke and other contaminants and restrict the camera area from general admittance and use.

Microfilming Reports

Microfilming reports should be maintained and updated to control microfilm job numbers, film roll number and the number of exposures on the roll. A description of the records microfilmed (subject, file range, client, security, etc.), the date of filming, the date of processing and testing, and the operator's name should also be recorded. Microfilming reports should be retained for the life of the micrographic application. Other microfilming reports required during film production are explained in subsequent sections of this guideline. See Appendix C for a sample Microfilming Report.

Microfilming Format

Microfilming format refers to the arrangement of document images on the microfilm. A simplex format for microfilming is recommended for archival records. This means that the film is run through the camera once, and a single row of images is photographed. This format accommodates documents of various widths and lengths and offers the best versatility in information retrieval. The horizontal mode (comic mode) of image orientation, where information is read in sequence from left to right, is preferable to the vertical mode (cine mode), where information is read along the length of the film (see graphic on the following page).

Loading Film and Testing

Load the first-generation silver-gelatin microfilm into the camera under subdued lighting conditions. Darkroom loading is preferred. Silver-halide polyester AHU (antihalation undercoating) microfilm is recommended. The film leader and trailer should be a minimum of two to three feet (60 to 90 cm) long to avoid fogging from light during loading, to provide a methylene-blue test area and to allow for reader / duplicator threading.


All microfilm applications require the use of targets. The following paragraphs describe targets needed to microfilm records of archival value.

START AND END-OF-ROLL TARGETS provide an eye-legible image indicating where filming begins and ends.

ROLL IDENTIFIERS describe basic information about the records contained on the roll. This can include information about the department and subordinate organizational unit(s); protect/record name, security classification and other identifying information about the record collection; the date filmed; the first filmed (at beginning of roll); camera make/model; technical targets describing the microfilm specifications and other information such as roll number and the camera operator's name.

CERTIFICATES OF AUTHORIZATION/AUTHENTICITY indicate that microfilming has been performed during the regular and ordinary course of business, thereby lending credibility to the microfilming program. The certificate of authenticity should include the name of the camera operator, date of microfilming and authorizing signature. See Appendix C for sample Microfilm Certification Forms.

RESOLUTION/DENSITY TARGETS are used to measure image resolution and density. Use the Applied Image Incorporated.(2) MT-2 target or equivalent. The MT-2 target comprises an ISO No. 2 resolution test chart in the centre and four corners of the filming area, a 90 percent reflectance target and various sizes and styles of fonts.

Resolution and density targets are microfilmed to evaluate the photographic system. Film the resolution and density targets at the film reduction ratio chosen for the application. Always indicate the reduction ratio on the microfilming report and at the start and end of each roll of film. See section 8 - Inspection and Appendix C - Forms.

All targets should be bilingual and oriented in the same direction as the documents to which they relate. Targets should also be kept clean and spotless at all times.

Film Sequence

Filming should take place in the following sequence:

  • leader (length is dependent on camera manufacturer's specifications)
  • methylene-blue test area (30-37.5 cm or 12-15 inches)
  • space (15-20 cm or 6-8 inches)
  • start-of-roll target
  • space
  • MT-2 target or equivalent
  • space
  • roll identifying information (roll number, reduction ratio, job number, etc.)
  • space
  • certificate of authorization/authenticity
  • space
  • file cover or start-of-file target
  • film documents (insert any indexing aids or spaces as determined and documented in the information and systems planning study)
  • end-of-file target
  • space
  • roll identifying information
  • space
  • MT-2 target or equivalent
  • end-of-roll target.

Film the end-of-roll target with sufficient film remaining to unload without causing unwanted fogging of the documents. The amount of unexposed film should comply with the manufacturer's specifications (normally 2 to 3 feet or 60 to 90 cm). After filming, send the exposed film for processing.

Filming the Documents

Documents should be filmed flat to avoid losing information to shadows or creases. Where necessary, use glass plates (or clear plexiglass for safety) to achieve desired results. The entire document should be displayed on the photographic field of the planetary camera. Sometimes multiple images may be required because of oversized documents. If, for instance, three images were required, the camera operator would place a sign 1 of / de 3, 2 of / de 3, 3 of / de 3 on the photographic area.

If the application is automated or to be automated, the photographic field should provide sufficient area for a document mark or blip encoding. A blip can be mounted on the planetary board, below the document. Refer to ANSI/AIIM MS-8-1988 Image Mark (Blip) Used in Image Mark Retrieval Systems.

The integrity of the original records and the order of the record collection should be maintained during microfilming. Microimages of the records should be arranged, identified and indexed so that any individual document or component of the records can be located easily at any time during microfilm production.

It may be useful to prepare a sign or header with the appropriate file name or number to be microfilmed in each frame. The cover of the file folder can be microfilmed, but the resulting image quality may suffer due to the colour of the folder. Other applications may require bibliographic targets as specified during the systems design study.

7. Processing

The latent image microfilmed on the first-generation silver film is developed by conventional wet processing using a microfilm processor. Specific technical requirements on processing can be referenced in ANSI/AIIM MS23-1991 Practice for Operational Procedures/Inspection and Quality Control of First-Generation, Silver Microfilm of Documents.

Conventional wet processing involves the following basic steps:

  • film development, which causes the exposed image to appear;
  • stop bath or rinse, which arrests development, prevents stains and helps preserve the life of the fixing bath;
  • fixing, which removes all undeveloped silver halide from the film emulsion layer;
  • washing, which removes residual chemicals from the film; and
  • drying, which removes moisture from the film. Drying needs to be carefully controlled to ensure the film is neither damp nor brittle.

Operate and maintain the microfilm processor according to the manufacturer's specifications to obtain the chemistry control, temperature and water flow necessary to achieve stable microfilm. Chemicals used in the processing system should be compatible with the specific type of microfilm and the processor. Use processing control strips to monitor equipment performance regularly.

8. Inspection

After processing, a qualified technician should inspect the microfilm to ensure technical specifications are being met. Film inspection, should occur as soon as possible after film processing and conform with procedures established by national standards. Use an Inspection Report Form (see Appendix C) to record the results of the inspection and the film's adherence to the pre-determined specifications.

Film inspection is accomplished by measuring resolution and density, by conducting a residual thiosulphate ion (methylene-blue) test and by inspecting the film to determine image legibility. Microfilming processes should comply with or exceed requirements stated in national standards for microfilm and, in quality control and assurance, with ANSI/AIIM MS-23-1991 Practice for Operational Procedures/Inspection and Quality Control of First-Generation, Silver Microfilm of Documents. Maintain testing procedures and inspection results for the life of the application. Refer to Appendix C - Format Check (Quality Assurance Report).

Conduct inspections in minimum ambient light. Avoid overhead fluorescent lighting. Visually inspect the film using a hand-held photographic measuring magnifier (6 to 15X loupe) and a light box (tungsten specular light source) while advancing the film on rewinds. Slowly advance the roll of film over the light box to observe the images. About every 3 meters (10 feet), examine the film carefully for defects according to standard test criteria in ANSI/AIIM MS23-1991 Practice for Operational Procedures/Inspection and Quality Control of First-Generation, Silver Microfilm of Documents.

Maintain all inspection equipment (densitometer, microscope, light table, rewinds) used to evaluate the quality of the film in good operating condition according to the manufacturer's specifications. Clean, inspect and calibrate the equipment regularly according to operating instructions.


The camera microfilm and the second-generation microfilm can be damaged through improper handling. Wear clean, lint-free white gloves to handle silver microfilm. Load and unload film from equipment with care. Film that has been scratched or otherwise damaged is more susceptible to deterioration later. Do not leave silver film exposed to overhead lighting or direct sunlight because they fade the image.


Resolution is defined as the ability of a photographic system to record fine detail distinctly. This is also expressed as resolving power: a numeric expression of the ability of a photographic system to distinguish or separate two closely spaced lines.

A quality, 100X magnification microscope and the filmed image of ISO Test Chart No. 2 are used to measure image resolution. Determine the smallest resolution pattern resolved on the test chart as described in ISO 3334-1989 Microcopying - ISO Test Chart No. 2 - Description and Use in Photographic Documentary Reproduction (ANSI / AIIM MS51).

The determination of the minimum resolution target to be resolved should be in accordance with ANSI/AIIM MS23-1991 Practice for Operational Procedures/Inspection and Quality Control of First-Generation, Silver Microfilm of Documents. A deviation of more than one pattern below the specified pattern to be resolved is considered a major defect. See Appendix C for sample of ANSI and ISO Test Chart No. 2.


Density is defined as the light-absorbing or light-reflecting characteristics of a photographic image (i.e., how dark the filmed images are). Control of density and contrast is most important to achieve high quality film.

A densitometer is used to measure background and image density. It should be a transmission type, designed to measure diffuse transmission density according to ANSI photographic standards. The densitometer should be capable of reliability measuring, within specified tolerances, densities on a control calibrated step tablet during set-up. Protect the densitometer and tablet from dirt, fingerprints and scratches.

The density of imaged documents on a microfilm roll will vary depending on the type, age and condition of the original documents. Some poor-quality, low-contrast documents may require a density range of 0.70 to 0.85, while high quality high-contrast printed documents could be filmed at 1.30 to 1.50. The maximum allowable difference between highest and lowest density across a document of even background or between different documents of identical background should be 0.08 on the density scale.

Measure the background density of document images with a densitometer in three areas that are free of information. The emulsion side should be facing up or down according to the densitometer manufacturer's instructions.

ANSI/AIIM MS23-1991 Practice for Operational Procedures/Inspection and Quality Control of First-Generation, Silver Microfilm of Documents provides examples of the most commonly encountered microfilming defects and explains possible causes. Report microfilm defects and deviation from specifications and take necessary corrective action. Note a probable cause of the defect on the Inspection Report Form and identify affected documents on the Refilming Log Form (see Appendix C) following procedures specified in ANSI/AIIM MS-23-1991 Practice for Operational Procedures/Inspections and Quality Control of First-Generation, Silver Microfilm of Documents.


Mistakes or omissions may occur during filming that will require refilming and subsequent splicing of corrections or amendments to the camera microfilm (first-generation). Always splice corrections in the proper sequence to achieve greater file integrity. Remember to film only at the beginning of the roll should the information be needed for documentary evidence. No more than three splices (six cuts) per roll of film should be accepted. Ultrasonic splicing is preferred. Tape, glue ad heat splicing are not recommended for archival film.

The correct splicing procedure is to refilm two images or frames before the correction, the correction itself and the two images following the correction. There should not be any splices between the technical targets and the first or last 10 images on a roll.

Methylene-Blue Testing

The amount of residual thiosulphate (fixer) remaining on the microfilm after washing is determined by methylene-blue testing on a clear portion of processed film. The test is to be completed within two weeks of processing and according to processes identified in ANSI IT9.1-1989 Imaging Media (Film) - Silver-Gelatin Type - Specifications for Stability. The test should be performed on every batch of film processed, when film type is changed or when processing chemicals are replenished.

The maximum level of residual thiosulphate is 1.4 micrograms per square centimetre as per ANSI IT9.1-1989 Imaging Media (Film) - Silver-Gelatin Type - Specifications for Stability. Report results of methylene-blue testing immediately and certainly no later than 48 hours after testing. Residual thiosulphate test materials, instruments, glassware, reagents and methods of measurement are described in ANSI PH4.8-1985 Determination and Measurement of Residual Thiosulphate and Other Chemicals in Films, Plates and Papers.


After microfilming, processing and technical inspection, verify the microfilm for completeness of information, retrievability and legibility. This can vary from a quick scan of the index to verify if its is the correct material or a visual scanning of the film at 10-foot intervals, to a page-by-page comparison with the original document to ensure complete capture of the information in its proper sequence. Identify and document these requirements during the information and systems planning study. Locate, refilm and splice, in their correct position, documents that require refilming.

9. Duplication

Each successive generation of microfilm loses resolution or image clarity, which may cause legibility problems. However, with good quality-control practices during microfilming and processing, duplicates should be of acceptable quality.

Direct duplicating film (silver halide) is recommended to create a printing master. Reference or duplicate copies can be created from silver, diazo or vesicular film. The type of duplicate will depend on the quality and polarity requirements of the reference copy as determined in the information and systems planning study.

10. Storage

First-generation silver microfilm should be placed in environmental storage to ensure its preservation and to guarantee that images will remain stable. Environmental storage is necessary to retain the archival properties achieved during microfilming and processing and validated by film inspection. Store the microfilm using storage conditions specified in ANSI IT9.11-1991 Imaging Media - Processed Safety Photographic Film - Storage. Government institutions can store their original silver microfilm with the National Archives of Canada which maintains an environmentally stable microfilm storage vault.

Silver microfilm should be stored at a maximum temperature of 18°C and at a relative humidity of 25 percent. Roll microfilm reels and containers should be constructed of inert and non-corrosive materials. Non-ferrous metals such as anodized aluminum or stainless steel are acceptable. Stable inert plastics that are free of peroxides can also be used. Moisture-resistant tape should be used to seal containers. Contaminants can damage microfilm stored in untaped cans.

Only industry-approved conservation materials (paper, glues, labels or other adhesives) should be used to store the microfilm. The microfilm containers should be stored in inert metal cabinets that have teen treated with non-corrosive, non-staining and non-combustible paint. Wooden cabinets should not be used to store film.

Specifications for microfilm storage facilities and containers, and for handling and inspecting stored film, are described in ANSI IT9.11-1991 Imaging Media - Processed Safety Photographic Film - Storage. Regular inspection of stored microfilm is strongly recommended to ensure it is not being adversely affected. Refer to specifications in ANSI/AIIM MS45-1990 Recommended Practice for Inspection of Stored Silver-Gelatin Microforms for Evidence of Deterioration.

11. Disposition

Disposition is the process that determines what happens to records which are no longer needed by government institutions. In the Government of Canada, the disposition of records of government institutions and ministerial records is guided by the National Archives of Canada Act (1987). This Act requires government institutions to do two things: (1) obtain the approval of the National Archivist before disposing of their records; and (2) transfer the records, that in the opinion of the National Archivist, are of historic or archival importance to the National Archives.

The National Archives coordinates these two activities with each government institution through the development of disposition plans and Records Disposition Authorities. Information and records management staff should ensure that their institution's microfilmed and source records are included in disposition plans. This helps achieve the integrated disposition of government information, in all media, that is related by program, function or activity.

To find whether an approved Records Disposition Authority exists for your records, contact the information management office in your department or agency. If you need more information concerning disposition and microfilming records, contact the National Archives.


A. Standards


The following is a list of Canadian microfilm standards.

Manual Drafting Requirements for Drawings to Be Microfilmed

Microfilm and Electronic Images as Documentary Evidence

Computer Output Microfilm (COM) Microfiche

Computer Output Microfilm (COM) 16 mm Roll

Microfiche Enclosures

Microfiche Enclosures

Criteria for the Evaluation of Micrographic Service Bureaux

Micrographics - Diazo and Vesicular Films - Visual Density - Specifications

Flowchart Symbols and Their Use in Microfilming

CAN/CGSB-72.28-M88/BS 6660-1985
Setting Up and Maintaining Micrographic Units.


Provisional standards are documents that have been published without passing through all the procedures required for CGSB standards or National Standards of Canada. They may be issued if there is a clear and urgent need for a published standard and when time does not permit all the steps required to issue an approved standard.

The provisional standards that existed at the time of publication were as follows:

CAN 72-GP-17P
Performance of Readers

CAN 72-GP-23P
Graphical Symbols for Use in Microfilming

CAN 72-GP-100P
Provisional Glossary of Micrographic Terms.


For a complete list of international standards for microfilm, refer to AIIM Resource Report - Imaging Standards, 1991 by Marilyn Courtot.

ISO 3334.1989
Microcopying - ISO Test Chart No. 2 - Description and Use in Photographic Documentary Reproduction (ANSI/AIIM MS51).


The following is a list of ANSI and ANSI/AIIM standards referenced in this guideline. For a complete list of ANSI/AIIM standards refer to AIIM Resource Report - Imaging Standards, 1991 by Marilyn Courtot.

Image Mark (Blip) Used in Image Mark Retrieval Systems

Practice for Operational Procedures/Inspection and Quality Control of First-Generation, Silver Microfilm of Documents

Recommended Practice for Inspection of Stored Silver-Gelatin Microforms for Evidence of Deterioration

ANSI IT9.1-1989
Imaging Media (Film) - Silver-Gelatin Type - Specifications for Stability

ANSI IT9.11-1991
Imaging Media - Processed Safety Photographic Film - Storage

ANSI PH4.8-1985
Determination and Measurement of Residual Thiosulphate and Other Chemicals in Films, Plates and Papers.

B. Glossary

Unless otherwise indicated, glossary definitions are based on definitions in CAN72-GP-100P Provisional Glossary of Microfilm Terms. For definitions not found in this glossary, refer to CAN72-GP-100.


The reduction of halation (light scattering or reflection) within a film. Four common methods are used to reduce halation: (1) Tint the film base with a light-absorbing dye. (2) Coat the back of the film with a light-absorbing material. (3) Introduce a layer of light-absorbing dye between the base and the emulsion. See also "antihalation undercoat." (4) Tint the emulsion layer.

Archival Film

A photographic film, suitable for preserving records having permanent value, achieved when the film is properly microfilmed, processed, inspected and stored under archival storage conditions, provided that original images are of suitable quality. See also "archival quality" and "archival storage conditions".

Archival Master

An archival master is a copy held by the National Archives that has been designated as the record that most closely approximates either the original record or the creator's original intent. While archival masters may have the same preservation priority as original records, they always have a higher priority than conservation and reference copies.

Archival Quality

The ability of a processed print or film to permanently retain its original characteristics. The ability to resist deterioration.

Archival Storage Conditions

Conditions suitable for preserving photographic film having permanent historical value. Archival storage conditions will prolong the useful life of both archival and non-archival films. (3)

Bleed Through

The undesired appearance of information from the back of a document when its front is photographed.

Blip Encoding

See "retrieval mark."


To determine the relationship between measured values and true values for any apparatus. See also "step tablet."

Camera Microfilm

First-generation microfilm; frequently called master film.

Chemistry Control

The process of replenishing chemical in the microfilm processor, which involves using control strips to determine when chemical agents need to be replenished. (4)

Cine Mode

See "vertical mode."

Comic Mode

See "horizontal mode."

Contact Printing

A method of copying in which raw stock is held in contact with film bearing the image to be copied. See also "diffuse transmission density."


An expression of the relationship between the high and low brightness of a subject or between the high and low density of a photographic image.

Control Strips

Strips of a stable film exposed to a photographic step wedge under rigidly controlled sensitometric conditions. They are processed and evaluated to measure normality of a process, material or technique. Synonymous with "sensitometric strips."

Darkroom Loading

The requirement, capability or act of placing light-sensitive material in a camera, cassette, etc. under safelight conditions to prevent unwanted exposure of light-sensitive material.


A device used to measure the optical density of an image or base by measuring the amount of incident radiant energy (light) reflected or transmitted.


Light-absorbing or light-reflecting characteristics of a photographic image, filter, etc.

Density scale

A measure of the density range of a photographic image obtained by subtracting the minimum density from the maximum density.


To subject to the action of chemical agents or physical agents (as in electrophotography) to bring to view the invisible or latent image produced by the action of radiant energy on a sensitized surface.

Diffuse Transmission Density

A measure of density that simulates contact printing. It is obtained when the incident radiant energy (light) is perpendicular to the plane of the sample and all the transmitted radiant energy is collected and evaluated. It provides the same density value as a projection density measurement, when the film consists of a non-scattering material, e.g., diazo. See also "contact printing."


The scattering of light rays which cause light falling on a surface or passing through an aperture to come from all directions, in contrast to the radiation of light from a point source. Diffusions may be introduced by reflection from a matte surface, transmission through a frosted or opal glass or use of an integrating bar. When diffusion is complete, a sharp image of the light source can no longer be formed.

Direct Duplicating Film

See "direct-image film."

Direct-Image Film

A film that will retain the same polarity as the previous generation or the original material; that is, tone for tone, black for black, white for white, negative for negative or positive for positive with conventional processing. See also "polarity."

Document Mark

An optical mark on a roll of microfilm used for counting images or frames automatically. It is usually rectangular and within the recording area below or above the image or both.


A copy of a microfilm made by contact printing or optical means.


A single or multilayer coating of light-sensitive materials in a thin layer of a film base.

Emulsion Layer

The layer containing image-forming, light-sensitive substances or photoconductors in a photographic material.

Emulsion Side

The side of a photographic film, plate or paper on which the emulsion is coated. In silver film, it is typically the dull side; the converse of base side.


(1) The act of exposing a sensitive material to radiant energy. (2) The time during which a sensitized material is subjected to the action of radiation. (3) The product of radiation intensity, and the time during which it acts on the photosensitive material.

Exposure Latitude

Permissible change in camera exposure without significant effect on image quality. The change is affected by the definition of image quality, the usable extent of the sensitometric curve and the subject luminance range (contrast).

Exposure Settings

The camera shutter speed or light level used to control the quantity of light or radiant energy received by photosensitive material.

Eye-Legible Images

Images readable without magnification.


The area covered or "seen" by the optical system of a camera.

First Generation

See "camera microfilm."


See "image arrangement" and "image orientation".


One of the successive stages of photographic reproduction of the camera microfilm (original first-generation microfilm). Copies made from this first generation are second generation, etc.

Horizontal Mode

A method of recording images on roll microfilm in which lines of print or writing are parallel to the length of the film for horizontal script and perpendicular for vertical script.

Image Arrangement

The placement of microimages within a given microform. See also "duo," "duo-duplex," "duplex," "multiplex" and "simplex."(5)

Image Orientation

The arrangement of images with respect to the edges of the film. See also "horizontal mode" and "vertical mode."

Latent Image

The invisible image produced by the action of radiant energy on a photosensitive material. It may be made visible by the process of development.


(1) The length of film at the beginning of a roll used for protection and for threading into equipment such as cameras, processors and readers. (2) An unused or blank length of magnetic tape at the beginning of a reel of tape. The leader precedes the text or the recorded data. See also "trailer."

Life Expectancy

The length of time information is predicted to be retrievable in a system under extended-term storage conditions.(6)

Light Box

A device in the form of a box containing a translucent light-dispersing material that evenly illuminates the viewing area.

Long-Term Film

A photographic film suitable for preserving records for a minimum of 100 years when filmed, processed, inspected and stored under archival conditions, provided the original images are of suitable quality.(7)

Master Film

Any film used to produce further reproductions, such as intermediates or distribution copies.

Medium-Term Film

A photographic film suitable for preserving records for a minimum of 10 years when stored under medium-term conditions, provided the original images are of suitable quality.(8)

Methylene Blue

A chemical dye formed during testing of archival permanence of processed microimages using the methylene-blue method.

Methylene-Blue Method

A method of chemically testing the archival permanence of processed microimages.

Planetary Camera

A type of microfilm camera in which the document being photographed and the film remain in a stationary position during exposure. The document is on a plane surface during filming. Also known as "flatbed camera."


The change or retention of the dark-to-light relationship of an image, i.e., first-generation negative to a second-generation positive indicates a polarity change, while a first-generation negative to a second-generation negative indicates the polarity is retained. See also "direct-image film."


A series of steps for treating exposed photographic material to make the latent image visible and ultimately usable, e.g., developing, fixing, washing and drying.

Quality Assurance

An assessment of all the quality control activities of a micrographic program to verify that all applicable technical standards and recommended industry practices are being followed and that overall control of the operations is being carried out effectively at all stages. It includes regular review of the micrographic program goals and objectives and a series of audits done periodically by an independent group or person.(9)

Quality Control

Techniques and procedures designed to measure and maintain clarity of the photographic image and stability of the media in accordance with predetermined quality levels and applicable standards.

Reduction Ratio

The relationship (ratio) between the dimensions of the original camera microfilm or master and the corresponding dimensions of the microimages; e.g., reduction ratio is expressed at 1:24.


The ratio of luminous flux reflected from a surface to the luminous flux incident on the surface. See also "spectral reflectance."

Reflectance Target

A test target with a known fixed reflectance.


The ability of a photographic system to record fine detail. See also "resolution test chart," "resolving power" and "spurious resolution."

Resolution Test Chart

A chart with several increasingly smaller resolution test patterns. The pattern is a set of horizontal and vertical lines of specific size and spacing. ISO Test Chart No. 2 is generally used in micrographics.

Resolving Power

The numeric expression of the ability of an optical or photographic system to distinguish or separate two entities spaced closely together. In micrographics, it is the product of the number of the standard test patterns resolved in the image multiplied by the reduction and expressed in line pairs per millimetre.

Retrieval Mark

A line, blip or other mark recorded adjacent to the microimage and used for automatic retrieval on appropriate equipment.


(1) A support and a device consisting of a spindle geared to a crank used in pairs to wind film from one reel to another. (2) The act of transferring film from one reel to another.

Rotary Camera

A type of microfilm camera that photographs documents while they are being moved by a transport mechanism. The document-transport mechanism is connected to a film-transport mechanism, and the film also moves during exposure so there is no difference in the rate of relative movement between the film and the image of the document.

Rotary Filming

A method of microfilming in which the document and the microfilm are in synchronized movement during exposure.

Second-Generation Microfilm

A microfilm copy made from the camera film.

Silver Halide

A compound of silver and one of the elements known as halogens: chlorine, bromine, iodine and fluorine.

Simplex Format

(1) A method of recording images in which a single microimage occupies all or a major portion of the usable width of the microfilm. (2) Format on microfilm using the technique in (1). See also "image arrangement."

Source Document Microfilming

Conversion of documents, usually paper, to microimages.

Spectral Reflectance

The ratio of radiant flux in a narrow wavelength interval reflected from a surface to that incident on the surface. See also "reflectance."


A joint made by cementing, taping or welding (heat splice) two pieces of film or paper together so they will function as a single piece when passing through a camera, processing machine, viewer or other apparatus. Cemented splices are called "lap splices" because one piece overlaps the other. Most welds are called "butt splices" since the two pieces are butted together without any overlap.

Spurious Resolution

A false indication of resolving power that may be recognized by counting the number of lines in a pattern that appear to be resolved. See also "resolution" and "resolving power."

Step Tablet

(1) A length of film containing gradations of density, which may or may not be calibrated. (A calibrated step wedge is used as a standard in the calibration of a densitometer.) (2) A grey scale. A series of tones in steps of regularly increasing known densities from white to black on a film base or glass plated used for processing and printing control. Synonymous with "grey chart," "grey scale," "grey wedge," "modulator," "photographic wedge" or "step wedge." See also "calibrate."


Any document or chart containing identification information, coding or test charts.

Technical Target

An aid to technical control that indicates the reduction and resolution of the film. See also "target."


The portion of film beyond the last images recorded. See also "leader."

Ultrasonic Splicing

See "splice."


(1) To separate a roll of microfilm into individual frames or groups of frames and insert them in a carrier, e.g., aperture cards, jackets. (2) To microfilm on one or more of the same type of microform, a unit of information such as a report, specification or periodical.

Vertical Mode

A method of recording images on roll microfilm in which lines of print of writing are perpendicular to the length of the film for horizontal script and parallel for vertical strips.

Wet Processing

Processing done using chemicals in liquid or vapour form. See also "processing."

C. Forms

1. Microfilming Report

2. Inspection Reports

2.1 Microfilm Inspection Report
2.2 Inspection Report Form
2.3 Format Check

3. Microfilm Certification Forms

4. Image Evaluation Test Target (MT-2)

5. Microcopy Resolution Test Chart (ANSI and ISO Test Chart No. 2)

6. Refilming Log


Camera number ______________ Photographer_______________

Date Film number Title of record Volume number Years Exposures Work order number

Forms Table of Contents


X = Reject
PX = Partial reject
F = Fault not in image area

PROGRAM ______________
INSPECTOR ______________
DATE INSPECTION______________


Forms Table of Contents

Roll/fiche number


1. Summary              
2. Leader              
3. Fogged start              
4. Targets
  1. Start
  2. Roll/fiche number
  3. Identification
  4. Date filmed
  5. Reduction ratio
  6. Certification
  7. Resolution
  8. Density
  9. End
5. Fogged center              
6. Fogged end              
7. Density              
8. Base plus log              
9. Resolution              
10. Process damage              
11. Splices              
12. Scratches              
13. Spacing              
14. Fingerprints              
15. Object in frame              
16. Skewing              
17. Foreign matter              
18. Contractions              
19. Centering              
20. Overlap              
21. Blips              

Forms Table of Contents


Roll number __________________________
Control number _______________________
Job _________________________________
Camera number _______________________
Operator _____________________________
Date ________________________________

Physical Defects

Defect Major Minor Comments
Film mottle      
Pressure marks      
Residual dyeback      
Water spots      

Photographic Defects

Defect Major Minor Comments
Blank Film      
Dark streaks      
Double exposed      
Edge fog      
Folded documents      
Light streaks      
Pressure marks      
Static marks      

Forms Table of Contents


Item Checked




Test Requirements Results
Reduction ratio    
Resolution or QI    
Background density    
D min    
Residual thiosulphate    
Practical test    


Inspector _______________ Date _____________

Forms Table of Contents


Microfilm Certification Forms

Microfilm Certification Forms - Notes

Forms Table of Contents

Start - Microfilm Certificate

Forms Table of Contents

End Microfilm Certificate

Forms Table of Contents

Retakes - Microfilm Certificate


Image Evaluation Test Target

Forms Table of Contents


Microcopy Resolution Test Chart

Forms Table of Contents


Refilming Log

Forms Table of Contents

1. Glossary terms (Appendix B) are in boldface the first time they appear in the text

2. The MT-2 target is available from Applied Image Inc., 1653 East Main Street, Rochester, New York, 14609, telephone: (716) 482-0300.

3. ANSI IT9.1-1989 Imaging Media (Film) - Silver-Gelatin Type - Specifications for Stability.

4. National Archives of Canada definition.

5. Only simplex format is defined for this document. Refer to CAN72-GP-100P Provisional Glossary of Micrographic Terms for the definition of "duo-duplex", "duplex" and "multiplex".

6. ANSI IT9.11-1991 Imaging Media - Processed Safety Photographic Film - Storage.

7. ANSI IT9.1-1989 Imaging Media (Film) - Silver-Gelatin Type - Specifications for Stability.

8. Ibid

9. National Archives of Canada definition.