Microfilm & Microfiche
Anyone visiting the Family History Library on level 2 will see the rows of microfilm readers. The library has millions of items in microfilm and microfiche formats. We understand why you might ask, “Why not just use digital resources?” It’s a fair question. There are a couple of reasons. First, not everything is available online. We know there is an amazing amount of material you can access through your computer, but there is still an amazing amount of material that no one has scanned. Time, money, and copyright issues all play a role in what is scanned.
Second, despite the overwhelming convenience of digital resources there isn’t any guarantee that those files will last very long. Electronic records have bad habit of disappearing when a site closes or a disk goes bad. File formats change, computers are replaced before their drives are copied, and sometimes entire companies quit doing business. Film on the other hand is expected to last up to 500 years if stored in favorable conditions. And, if you want to read it in 500 years you just need a light source and a magnifier (you can learn more here). Something to think about when you come across a 5.25 floppy disk that may have someone’s journal saved on it.
By the way, microfilm comes in long strips and microfiche are usually rectangles the size of a file card. These images are from a small microfiche collection in our science library.