There are some great research-minded tumblrs out there — I highly recommend JSTOR's — the Muncie, Indiana Public Library is celebrating technology month in February. They asked their local history librarians what they thought the best technology was. They were big fans of microfilm.

Photo credit: Microfilm Reels by University of Illinois Library/flickr/CC BY 2.0

Said the Muncie Public Library:

One of our most valuable pieces of technology are our microfilm machines. Most technologies have a huge throwaway culture surrounding them—smartphones are obsolete after a year or less—but microfilm has staying power. According to "Microfilm is a low-cost,reliable, long-term, standardized image storage medium. The equipment needed to view microfilm images is simple, consisting of light and magnification. The medium has a life-expectancy of hundreds of years."

... Our digital microfilm machine has the added benefit of providing greater control over "cleaning up" the quality of the archived image compared to traditional microfilm readers. The software allows users to control the brightness/contrast/sharpness of individual sections of the page. If a photo on a page is too dark but the text on the page is too light, for example, the user can select the image and text separately and customize the image settings of those sections independently to improve the clarity of the overall image. This is especially useful when trying to read the oldest newspapers.


Allow me to add my personal praise for microfilm on another level: Digitized searching is awesome, it'll get you exactly what you're looking for very quickly. Scanning a paper on microfilm means you can stumble upon things on your way to looking for what you want. It's just fun. I know way more about Manchester's historical wool industry — not what I was researching in any way — because I had to use microfilm for research.

Also, the sound is really soothing.