Skip to Main Content

Hist 301: Historian's Craft (Benes, Spring 2024)

But Why Microfilm?

Why do librarians, historians, and scholars generally love microfilm? And yes, we love microfilm. We have comic books about microfilm.


Put simply: microfilm changed archives, historical research, records keeping, and overall scholarship the same way the internet changed scholarship 50 years later.  

Microfilm last 500 years, is easy to store, easy to ship, and (once you're trained) easy to use. 
Microfilm allowed libraries to scan unique material and share it will millions of people, and for the first time books held only by the British Library or the Library of Congress or Oxford University could suddenly be viewed all over the world.

For historians it's especially important: Many, many local newspapers have never been digitized and only exist in physical form. Many of these paper copies have totally rotted, so they only exist in microfilm. 

Using the Microfilm Readers at WM Libraries.

There are 2 scanners in the main library.

map of microfilm reader locations

Allen (main floor scanner, next to makerspace lab)

  1. Turn on the computer AND the scanner (the Switch in the back of the scanning machine itself).
  2. Follow log-in instructions at the desk.
    1. If the log-in doesn't work, turn off the PC and restart.  The user name should be .\swemicro  and the password is swem@micro@2012
  3. Once logged in, open SL-Touch.
  4. Load Microfilm into reading machine. MAKE SURE the film is going up-and-over, otherwise it will be upside down.
  5. When the software opens, you may have someone else's last scan. No worries. Select "to SCAN mode" in the bottom menu bar.
  6. Select the 35mm or 16mm roll film option (the microfilm box will tell you which. Don't worry about the other options.
  7. use the "previous" and "next arrows" to move the film. Sometimes it doesn't work and you need to do it by hand.
  8. Use the options on the bottom to rotate, change polarity, flip the image, etc.
    1. The "auto Focus" is very, very helpful. 
  9. To Save scans: Go to "output settings" on the right. Select File. Pick a destination and file name. Hit OK. I suggest using a jump drive, but you don't need to.
  10. To scan a page, use "scan to file" or "Scan to USB" Every page will save as a unique PDF.
  11. When you don't, sign out and turn off the machines.

Bruce (Mail floor, near the microfilm cabinets)

This is an older machine, but is good for skimming. The two digital machines require a few seconds to focus every time you move the film, so it can take a VERY long time to skim. Bruce is not digital, so it's very easy to quickly skim. The scans, however, are directly to paper and not very good.

  1. Turn on the machine using the Switch on the front of the view screen.
  2. Pull out the tray and thread in the film. Again, make sure the film is up-and-over, or it'll be upside down.
  3. Pull down the grey mag-lock lever immediately left of the film before pushing the tray back. DO NOT forget this part.
  4. Once the film is slightly under the glass tray, hit the small blue lever in front. It will thread the machine. for you. Now push the tray back.
  5. To move the microfilm forward/backward, use the big wheel knob on the control panel. 
  6. To zoom, focus, and rotate, use the side wheel labeled "control." 
    1. NOTE use the select button to choose zoom, focus, or rotate.
  7. If you do want to make a copy, press the teal button.
  8. When you're done, rewind, pull the tray out, unlock the maglock and you're set!