The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Microfilm Goes High-Tech!

We've recently acquired three wonderful new microfilm reader/scanners, and they're receiving rave reviews from staff and readers alike (research fellow Matt Bahar, pictured here, has been making good use of one in recent days), and other library visitors have been tossing around some pretty impressive superlatives about them (by which I mean positive superlatives, which was not usually the case with the previous readers).

The new machines, called ScanPro 2000s, allow readers to scan images from microfilm as PDF or image files onto a flash drive, to their email account, or to a printer in the library. The quality is significantly better than the printouts made from our older machines, and the ability to create zoomable, enhanceable image files and high-quality PDF documents is definitely an improvement.

When we first saw a demo of one of these, staff picked a reel of microfilm that we knew was just about impossible to read on our other machines (too dark, too smudgy, &c.). With the ScanPro, a couple of quick clicks resulted in a clear, easily-readable image (I confess, I was shocked at the level of detail we could pick out by adjusting the settings just a little bit). There's even a "spot-edit" feature, that allows you to lighten up that dark corner of a page or highlight a signature by increasing the contrast. Just about every time I use one of them (usually before we open since they've been pretty popular during the day!) I find another nifty new feature.

Researchers who cannot visit the library can request digital files to be e-mailed to them by the library staff. Please see details here at under "low resolution digital files."

The purchase of the ScanPros was made possible thanks to a grant from the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation, and to fundraising efforts led by MHS Fellow Frederic D. Grant, for which we (and our readers) are exceedingly grateful.

Next time you visit, be sure to ask for a "test drive" of one of the new machines!

permalink | Published: Thursday, 26 August, 2010, 10:35 AM