I love microfilm. There, I've said it. I know, it's not flashy, but there's something about it... One of my first research projects in college involved scrolling through reels of the 1850s Times of India. That physical paper would have been off limits to me, the paper so fragile that it would fall apart if breathed on wrong. The beauty of microfilm is that "unlike its digital counterpart, microfilm is the product of a nearly static, tested technology that is governed by carefully crafted national standards. When created and stored according to these standards, microfilm boasts a life expectancy of 500+ years." (Dalton, Steve. "Microfilm & Microfish", Northeast Document Conservation Center) Don't get me wrong, there's wonder in digital formats, in the ability to search using keywords and to access these collections from your own home. But physically browsing through microfilm reels, creates a tangible sense of discovery and anticipation.
You never know what you're going to find. It feels like you are accessing ancient scrolls outlining secret histories. You're seeing the news as it happened. Look at the front pages of the Kitsap Sun for July 4th over the last 50 years. Each article, each picture, each advertisement, reveals something about the culture and mindset of the day. But back to microfilm. It's basically a group of pictures of a document that has been shrunk to a tiny size and placed on a strip of polyester plastic. A whole newspaper on a few inches of space. Great for storage, but not for reading, so microfilm reading machines essentially provide magnification and light. The newest models allow you to view the images on your computer screen, manipulate the image (make it bigger or smaller, straighten it, etc...) and scan and save them to a USB drive.
Here at Kitsap Regional Library our Sylvan Way and Bainbridge Island branches both house microfilm machines and collections (The Kitsap Sun at Sylvan and the Bainbridge Island Review at Bainbridge). With a quick tutorial from one of our librarians on the machines and collections you'll have access to a door into the past that will last into our futures.