Since territorial days, the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) has been collecting and preserving area newspapers. And, for the past 60 years, this preservation has taken the form of plastic microfilm – lots of microfilm. In fact, MHS purchased or created 800 spools of microfilm a year, covering about 400 Minnesota newspapers. Each roll includes hundreds or thousands of micro images of newspaper pages. Using a special machine, researchers can read them.
MHS, headquartered in St. Paul, operated a microfilm lab with a $200,000 budget. Five workers (four full-time equivalent workers) copied almost every page of almost every small Minnesota newspaper. Until June 30, 2009.
That’s when the Minnesota Historical Society cut its budget and eliminated its microfilm lab, according to Robert Horton, MHS director of Library, Publications and Collections.
Newspapers, as required by law, continue to send copies to the state historical society. Like most other newspaper preservation efforts, MHS is now considering a switch to digital newspaper preservation. The society hopes to have a plan in place by July 2010, the beginning of its next fiscal year.