Friday, June 8, 2007

Microfilm Scanning at the FHC

My post on "Heard at the FHC Today" elicited several comments inquiring about putting microfilm images on a thumb drive. I posted about this last year when I struggled to figure it out, but I will describe the process below because it has been improved.

At the San Diego FHC in Mission Valley, the microfilm reader/printers failed last summer from use and abuse. Rather than repair them again, or replace them, the FHC invested in two microfilm/microfiche reader/scanners hooked up to Windows computers. I haven't been to other FHCs or the FHL recently, but my guess is that many centers have a similar setup.

The process for capturing an image from a microfilm and putting it in your computer is (assuming the machines are turned on):

1) Load the microfilm or microfiche into the microfilm reader/scanner machine and advance the film to the image(s) you want to capture. You may have to select 16 mm or 35 mm on a dial on the takeup reel.

2) Adjust the image to fit the page margins. There is a rotational dial, a magnification dial and a focus dial on the machine below the lens. If you can't get the right sized image, you may have to exchange the lens (my FHC has two of them).

3) The computer has a program called Image Wizard + (see details at for the microfilm/fiche image capturing. Bring that program up. Click on the "Scan from Microfiche/film" tab. Note the "Scan" button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

4) With your image on the microfilm reader/scanner screen, press the "Scan" button on the computer. The microfilm reader/scanner will activate and your image will appear on a portion of the computer screen. A thumbnail image will also appear on the left margin of the computer screen.

5) The image may need to be adjusted. After the image loads, you can modify the "Brightness" and "Contrast" using slide scales. Play with this until you are satisfied with the image quality - the image on the screen will change as you play with the slide scales. When you have an acceptable image quality, then press the "Apply Changes" button next to the scales. The modified image will be saved. If you don't move the scales, you don't have to apply any changes. There is a "Settings" button in the lower left hand corner if you need to change the scanning parameters.

6) Advance to the next image on the microfilm or microfiche that you want to capture, and repeat the process. The captured images appear in the left-hand panel on the computer screen.

7) When you have captured all of the microfilm images into the computer program, click on the "Finished Scanning" button in the lower right hand corner of the screen.

8) Click on the "Save" button on the computer program screen. You will get a series of questions to answer about file format (I use .TIF files), file names (I just put in a short source title and let it number each image), the folder where you want to save the images (the computer at my FHC won't let me save them directly to the flash drive, so I save them to the computer hard drive to a folder in My Pictures).

9) Minimize (don't close it!) the scanning computer program. Open the computer hard drive folder with the images and check that all of the images you want are there. Leave that hard drive file folder open on the screen.

10) Install your flash drive into the USB port and click on the "My Computer" icon on the Windows screen. When the list of drives comes up, your flash drive letter should be shown. Click on it and select a folder where you want to put your captured images. Leave that flash drive file folder open on the screen.

11) Now copy the captured images from the hard drive folder to the flash drive folder. Click on the hard drive folder, go to the [Edit] menu and click on "Select All." All of the captured images should be highlighted. Go to the [Edit] menu and select "Copy" (or press Ctrl-C to do the same thing). Then click on the flash drive folder, and go to the [Edit] menu and select "Paste" (or press Ctrl-V to do the same thing). The files should copy to the flash drive one at a time. Click on one or more of them to make sure that they show what you want.

12) After the image files have been put on the flash drive, you can disconnect the flash drive from the USB port (use the icon to "Safely Remove Hardware'). Put the flash drive where it belongs so you don't leave it there.

13) Click on the hard drive folder on the screen, and delete all of the files you saved there. The captured image files should still be highlighted. If they aren't, highlight them again. Then click on the big X to send the files to the Recycle Bin. They should disappear from the hard drive folder. Close the hard drive folder.

14) Back on the computer, bring up the Scanning Program screen again (the one you minimized). It should still show all of the captured images on the left hand margin - they are still saved in the program. You need to delete them so that the next user can use the program. Click on the "Delete" button on the program screen. You will get a list of the thumbnail file images - click on each one and they should appear on the list of images to be deleted (I couldn't find a way to delete them all with some sort of shortcut).

15) Leave the Scanning computer program up on the computer screen, or close it.

16) Rewind the microfilm on the Scanning machine, and put it back in the box and put it where it belongs.

17) Take the flash drive home, and install it on your computer. Copy the captured image files to a file folder on your computer hard drive. Rename them as you wish. Print them as you wish. Email them to your friends. Save them to your backup computer system.

That's it! Only 17 steps - I wrote them out in some detail for clarity (BG). Frankly, it is a difficult process to do the first couple of times, but it gets easier as you do it more frequently. If you are confused, go to the FHC staff and ask for help.

You could also transfer these images to a CDROM using a similar process for Steps 10 through 12.

My FHC requests $1 for each hour of use on the microfilm scanner/computer system. I captured 53 images yesterday in about 40 minutes using the above process. It cost me $1. I will print them out on my home computer and printer.

There are some pitfalls. Some of the image files may be large. I have captured 12 mb files of some dark images with lots of handwriting. You need to know how large the image files are - you find out when they show up in the computer hard drive file folder. If they are too large for the size of your flash drive, then copy only enough to stay within the capabilities of the flash drive.

Be sure that you have emptied your flash drive before you try to copy the captured images to the flash drive (you can do that on the FHC computer, of course, if necessary).

It amazes me that, every time I go to the FHC, so few researchers are using the microfilms and microfiche resources - and even fewer are using the scanner/computer systems. This is now the only way to capture these images - although you could take a digital picture of them from the microfilm reader, or abstract or transcribe them from the microfilm reader.

If hard copy printers are unavailable at your FHC, then researchers will have to use this method to obtain document images until the LDS program to digitize and index the available microfilm and microfiche resources is completed.

UPDATE 6/9, 4:30 PM: I added the name of the scanning program and modified some of the descriptions in the 17 steps after working with it today.

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