Microfilming Information

Microfilming or micrographics involves the use of photographic processes to produce reduced size images of textual or graphic material on film. In this process a master is produced from which further copies can be made.

There are several microform formats, including:

  • Roll film - 35mm or 16mm,
  • 35mm aperture cards,
  • 35mm slides and transparencies,
  • Microfiche, and
  • Computer Output Microfilm (COM) - i.e. the downloading of computer information onto microfilm.

The requirements for microfilming differ depending on whether the records involved are of temporary or permanent value. Those of permanent value must be filmed to a higher standard to ensure the longevity and accuracy of the microfilm reproduction.

It should be noted that original records of both temporary and permanent value can not be destroyed after microfilming prior to their stated retention period within an approved Disposal Authority. Permission to destroy original records that have been microfilmed can be sought through the State Records Office and will be assessed on a case by case basis, according to the procedures approved by the State Records Commission.

Microfilming Temporary Value State Records

Temporary value records are those State records that are not deemed to have enduring value and are not to be retained permanently. Temporary value records must be retained for the period specified within the creating agencies approved Disposal Authority.

Agencies may microfilm records provided that they ensure that the film is capable of being read and maintained for the specified retention period. The agency must create and maintain a register of all such microfilming, and provision made for the appropriate storage and custody of the film created.

Microfilming of temporary value State records does not automatically allow for the destruction of the original records prior to the retention period set out in the approved Disposal Authority. Agencies seeking to destroy original temporary value records after such filming will need to apply through the State Records Office for the necessary approvals.

Microfilming Permanent Value State Records

Permanent value records are those deemed to be State archives and identified as such in an approved Disposal Authority. State archives are records that must be retained permanently and should be transferred to the State Records Office at the end of their active life.

Filming of permanent value records normally occurs to ensure the ongoing preservation of the original. Where the original will continue to exist after filming standards should ensure legibility and readability. Minimising the need to repeat microfilming over time is crucial. It is recommended that filming of permanent value records be done in accordance with Australian and International Standards. Where microfilming of archival records is carried out with the idea of replacing the original record then filming must be done in accordance with these standards before permission to destroy the original can be considered. Approval for destruction of microfilmed permanent value State records must be directed to the State Records Office and will be assessed on a case by case basis.

The State Records Office can provide further details on the pertinent standards, and advice on the types of microforms appropriate to each purpose. In addition, access to an archival standard microfilming service, the Government Agencies Archival Microfilming Program (GAAMP), may be available for records which have been assessed as State archives under an approved Disposal Authority. For detailed information on the requirements for archival microfilming see Public Records Standard 3: 'Guidelines for Microfilming Public Records' in the State Records Office Policies and Standards Manual.

Agencies wishing to take advantage of the archival microfilming program should complete the application form below and return it to the State Records Office for consideration.

Applications are generally processed in the order in which they are received, however, delays of some considerable time can and do occur, depending on the resources available.

For further information on archival microfilming please contact the State Records Office's Preservation Program Coordinator on (08) 9427 3616 or via email at sro@sro.wa.gov.au.

Technical Standards for Microfilming Permanent Value State Records

There are a number of ISO and Australian Standards applicable to the reproduction of archival quality records onto microfilm.

Microform which conforms to ISO and Australian Standards has proven to be the best preservation medium after paper. Therefore, under certain conditions, it can be considered as an alternative format for archival records.

Archival quality microfilm must be silver halide on polyester base, and must be filmed and processed in accordance with the following standards:

Microfilming of Engineering Documents (35mm),
Standards Association of Australia.

ISO 5466:1996(E)
Photography - Processed safety photographic films - Storage practices.
International Standards Organisation

ISO 10602:1995(E)
Photography - Processed silver gelatin type on
poly(ethylene telephthalate) base black and white film for
archival records - Specifications for stability.
International Standards Organisation.

To maintain quality control, the processing agency is required to monitor the density and resolution of the film, and to ensure that processing removes residual chemicals in quantities greater than those set in Standard ISO 4332;1986E.

There are other Standards which apply to such things as newspapers and COM (Computer Output Microfilm). Standards are reviewed periodically, so agencies are advised to check Standards before embarking on a microfilm program.

In case of permanent records, failure to film to archival standards will result in a refusal to allow destruction of the original record, regardless of the format of the original record.

Microforms as Evidence

Microfilms and microfiche provide an effective and efficient means of retaining records. They permit savings in storage space and associated costs, ease of access and handling and speedy retrieval of information. However, accountable officers and authorities wishing to retain records on microfilm or microfiche should be aware of the requirements of the Evidence Act 1906 concerning the admissibility in evidence of reproductions of documents. All microfilming must be produced in accordance with the Evidence Act.

Recent changes to the Evidence Act resulting from the passing of the Acts Amendment (Evidence) Act 2000, have substantially altered the rules governing the admissibility of reproductions (including microforms) as evidence. The modifications to the best evidence rule allow for micrographic reproductions of records to be accepted as the best evidence in cases where the original record has been destroyed. Under the new amendments the contents of reproduced records are presumed to have been reproduced accurately, unless the contrary is proved.

If the original records are to be destroyed following microfilming, then an affidavit or statutory declaration certifying to the accuracy of the reproduction will be required.

NOTE: Agencies seeking to destroy original records after microfilming, prior to expiration of the retention period set out in the relevant approved Disposal Authority, will need to apply through the State Records Office for the necessary approvals.

The changes to the Evidence Act also allow for electronic reproductions to be accepted as evidence, although caution is advised in this regard as the new legislation is yet to be tested in the Courts.

Copies of the Acts Amendment (Evidence) Act 2000 are available for purchase from the State Law Publisher.

Further Information

For detailed information on the microfilming of permanent and temporary State records refer to Public Records Standard 3: 'Guidelines for Microfilming Public Records', contained in the State Records Office Policies and Standards Manual.

For advise on matters concerning the microfilming of State records please contact the State Records Office on (08) 9427 3600 or via email at sro@sro.wa.gov.au.