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Microfilm is 16mm or 35mm film (sometimes perforated) that is used for storing newspapers, books, cheques and other documents. The small images need to be magnified to make the pages readable, which was initially done under a microscope, but special microfilm equipment is mostly used now.

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Second World War

Microfilm can still be found in libraries and abbeys today, but was also used for exchanging military correspondence in the Second World War. The war accelerated the use of microfilm for storing archives and collections because people were afraid they could be lost otherwise.


Until the 1930s, microfilm was made from nitrate, a highly flammable material that releases nitric acid as it decomposes. Nitrate was then replaced by cellulose acetate, but this gave rise to a new problem as this carrier is susceptible to vinegar syndrome.

Any microfilm on nitrate or acetate film should therefore be digitised as soon as possible.

You can find a detailed guide at that will help you to identify nitrate film. Filmcare can also help with nitrate, cellulose acetate or polyester film identification.

Did you know …

… microfilm can last up to 500 years in good storage conditions! You can find more information about how best to store photographic film here.

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