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Microfilm scanning services are vital in the 21st century. For much of the 20th century, businesses, libraries, banks, and hospitals used microfilm to store large amounts of records. River City Data can help you convert your business’s stash with their microfilm to digital image services.

Before you convert your microfilm, you may be interested to know its history. Where does microfilm originate? What is it made of, and when was it invented?

microfilm bobbin

What is Microfilm?

You or your business, agency, or organization might have a lot of microfilm to convert, but technology changes quickly. You may have never seen microfilm before, or you may wonder what precisely microfilm is.

The answer lies in the two words that make up the name: micro and film. Microfilm is tiny film negatives, around 1/25th of a document’s original size. Specialized equipment allows users to blow up the document on the film negative to a large scale for viewing. 

A Microhistory of Microfilm

Microfilm is like cloud computing’s great-grandfather. Before the cloud, businesses and organizations needed a way to store all their records. Traditional paper filing became too cumbersome for entities that needed to save a lot of information.


John Benjamin Dancer invented microfilm in Liverpool, England, in 1839. His family ran an optical shop as the science of daguerreotype photography was emerging. Luckily for history, Dancer was a dabbler who developed a way to shrink images onto film negatives.

Dancer also invented the first way to blow up small images to larger sizes. He figured out a way to make a six-inch daguerreotype of a flea.

René Dagron patented improved, standardized microfilm technology in France in 1859. The timing of this development proved fortunate. The Franco-Prussian War started a few years later in 1870, and folks needed to send information quickly and imperceptibly. 

Obviously, the internet and telephones did not yet exist. The first permanent transatlantic telegraph cable system was only developed a few years earlier in 1866. To get information in and out of Paris, the military dropped carrier pigeons transporting information out of hot air balloons.

Dagron pitched microfilm to the French government as a way to quickly transmit a lot of military information. He proposed that the military attach microfilm documents to the carrier pigeons. The carrier pigeons faced harrowing danger to bring the microfilm into Paris once the Prussians figured out the ruse.


Microfilm did not enjoy widespread use until the early 20th century. In 1906 a pair of Belgians- Goldschmidt and Otlet, wrote an essay arguing libraries could save space by using microfilm. 

After Goldschmidt and Otlet gave a demonstration at the 1913 meeting of the American Library Institute, the practice caught on. Within the next couple of decades, microfilm use was widespread among libraries, even the New York Times and Harvard.

man studying microfilm

Microfilming initiatives continue into the present day.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) still funds microfilming projects. In 1980 the NEH began supporting microfilming of old books whose information was more important than their physical form. This initiative was the Brittle Books Program.

Microfilm vs. Microfiche: What’s the Difference?

Many of us are familiar with microfiche from movies. A hero or heroine in a film has to solve some mystery and goes through old newspapers to find answers. You know the scene: the protagonist labors silently in a dark room. To set the mood, the only light comes from the machine illuminating the concentration on his face.

Is microfiche separate from microfilm? People may be surprised to learn that microfiche is microfilm. The difference is one of format.

Microfilm is a roll of film, which you may be familiar with from traditional cameras and photography. All microfiche is, in essence, is flat microfilm. You may find microfilm rolls in cassettes, cartridges, or reels.

Microfiche can contain fewer documents than microfilm. Their flatness, however, makes them easier to store. 

Now That I Understand More About Microfilm, How Should I Store It?

While microfilm was the most convenient form of document storage for decades, technology has clearly outpaced it. If you want to keep the documents stored on your microfilm but free up space, you need microfilm scanning services.

It is possible to physically preserve microfilm and microfiche. Polyester-based (as opposed to cellulose-based) film correctly stored can last up to 500 years. Correct storage for film means low-humidity, low (but not too low) temperatures can preserve your microfilm and microfiche.

Low-humidity usually means less than 50 percent humidity, and low-temperature is around 70 degrees or lower. Fortunately, microfilm has been polyester-based since the 1970s.

If You Prefer Microfilm Scanning Services to Physical Storage

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While there are certainly instances where businesses or organizations may still want to physically house microfilm, yours may not. If you can’t or won’t deal with the demands of proper microfilm storage, you need microfilm scanning services. Even if you want to maintain your microfilm physically, digital versions back them up in case of an emergency.

Microfilm scanning services let you preserve the information of the past in an up-to-date format. You need an adaptable scanning service that will allow your record storage to change with the technology of the times.

Currently, the two most widespread digital formats for digitally-scanned documents are PDF and tagged file format (Tiff). The National Archives and Records Administration of the United States endorses Tiff 6 as the standard digital document format. PDFs are gaining acceptance within the record storage space, however.

River City Data for Your Microfilm Scanning Needs

If you are ready to digitize your microfilm, River City Data’s Microfilm to Digital Images service can help. River City Data works with clients to develop a tailored approach to their business or organizational record-storage needs. 

Our user-friendly scanning service creates indexed, searchable digital versions of your old records. We can also preserve old photographs that may be valuable to your organization, or to you personally.

Contact River City Data to begin the process of long-term, secure record preservation. Reach out to our qualified team with your microfilm scanning questions or for information on pricing.

Businessman holding stack of files in storage room

Customer, financial, and legal data may as well be hard currency, just like dollar bills. If you’re running a business, no matter how large or small, your viability depends on your ability to store, sort, and access data. 

If you’ve got blended data formats, you have to efficiently perform data conversion so as not to lose valuable person-hours. It’s better to spend time growing other essential parts of your organization.

The quality of your document storage and retrieval systems can mean the difference between a stress-free year and weekly data headaches in many of your projects and procedures.

So, what happens when you need to transport raw or paper documentation to different CRM platforms, archival systems, vendors, reps, or other company collaborators? Can you trust the data hand-off to deliver accurate information to the people who need it to help make your business go?

At River City Data, Data Conversion is all we do. Your data integrity is our meat and potatoes. 

In this article, we’ll help you discern when to outsource professional data conversion services. Outsourcing this service can assure the accuracy of transferred information for continuous and consistent access and reliability in all your business operations.

When you’re ready to outsource your data conversion, contact us. We partner with you in data integrity, no matter where or how you need to store it or send it.

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To convert or not convert: sample scenarios for nimble decisions

Here three sample scenarios that may warrant a helping hand when switching from hard-copy court docs, medical records, list serves, and more.

Your business may mirror these examples. If so, it may be time to outsource your data conversion. 

 3 Reasons to Outsource Document Scanning Services

Close up of business documents stack on desk , report papers stack

Conversion case #1: Paper to online storage transition in a healthcare office

As more of our business operations become digitized, your file management may need to change with your software. 

For example, say you run a dental or chiropractic office. Depending on how long you’ve been in business, you may have a blend of paper and online patient charts. Both need to be retained and archived. How do you integrate them all for easy access and better patient care?

That’s easy. Hire a data conversion company specializing in high-quality document scanning and storage. You’ll get a complete and organized compilation of all your patients’ info first gathered in manilla folders.

After conversion, you’ll be able to store patient info on your portable drive. You can download into your CRM software for ease of access in the future. Be sure to check that your data conversion partner complies with HIPAA regulations, so your patient info remains protected.

Having a data outsourcing partner in this situation benefits you in several ways:

  • Efficiently delivering documents stored under newer digital patient files
  • File formatting consistency in the transfer of records
  • Compiling, downloading, and storing original databases in ways that seamlessly translate to your new system, with no lost information.

Further, you still have to run your business while the transition roles out. Outsourcing your data conversion means you can service your clients and market your products. Let the experts do all the heavy lifting of data conversion for you. 

Data conversion from paper to digital systems is a temporary challenge. Outsourcing data conversion provides a no-brainer solution within your operating budget without hiring additional staff.

Judge hammer and documents on room background

Conversion case #2: Litigation

It’s a wonder most courts aren’t drowning in paper. From wills to trusts, divorces, and child custody, there’s no shortage of documentation. All that paper must be accounted for in every case, regardless of the specialty.

Having a trusted, high-quality scanning partner means you’ll free up storage space and reduce the need for special equipment and extra staff. 

Leaning on a data conversion specialist gives you a simple solution for storing and archiving all your data within digital systems. Once converted, you’ll be able to attach digital documents to your existing clients inside your CRM systems. 

Be picky when you’re selecting a partner for this kind of conversion task. Make sure you can receive your converted documents in a format that will dovetail seamlessly with your existing software for secure archival and retrieval.

Your data conversion partner should be able to take time to meet and strategize with your IT department. Together, you’ll formulate the best delivery format for your converted files.

Conversion case #3: Insurance

Claims management is the perfect storm in which to have an accurate and reliable data conversion “navigation” system. 

With clients, medical providers, and repair professionals needing quick access to documentation, digitizing your paper files increases your responsiveness and enhances claims service.

Having a trusted data conversion partner enables you to collect claims information and policy orders in both paper and digital formats. You can also compile and store them within your claims management systems for secure and reliable access.

When you strategically delegate document management to an outside partner, you can generate more new business and more adeptly manage your existing client and claims load.

Stay on top of your insurance customer needs, claims compliance, and more with outsourced data conversion services.

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River City Data: When your data needs to come of age.

With state-of-the-art scanning equipment and Kofax Document Conversion Certification, we’ll build a long-lasting and secure relationship with your organization. Our employees are each vetted, put through background checks, and BCA Certified optimizing security unmatched in the industry. 

Our primary goal is to deliver the data conversion services you require reliably, securely, and at competitive pricing that fits your budget. From general office document transfer to the most stringent compliance requirements, we will ensure a smooth transition of your paper documents into your existing digital storage and CRM systems.

We’ll work diligently with you to deliver your converted docs into the formats required within your software. We ensure uninterrupted customer service and business operations, on time and on point.

Contact us today to build out your data conversion strategy in any scope from small to large. We know the value of accurate, readable data you can access and use with ease. We’re your partner in data conversion services that delivers outstanding operational results and saves you time and money.