Microforms are reduced-size copies of documents used for access and preservation. There are a few different formats of microforms, the most popular being microfilm (film reels) and microfiche (flat film sheets). This post focuses on how we digitize microfilm.

Microfilm reel

 

At the Digitization Centre, we have digitized newspaper microfilms using our flexScan equipment. Although microfilm is a relatively stable format for preservation purposes, digitization increases access to those materials. Thanks to microfilm digitization, the BC Historical Newspapers collection is fully accessible (and searchable) online, without the need for specialized equipment like a microfilm reader.

flexScan equipment and workstation

 

To digitize a roll of microfilm, it must first be installed on the flexScan machine. The film has to be woven through precisely, as shown here:

Then, the digitizer adjusts several settings on a computer connected to the flexScan. These include the width of the film (16 or 35 mm) and polarity (negative or positive). Most of the microfilms we have digitized are 35 mm negatives.

One tricky setting to get right is the “reduction ratio”. The reduction ration is the ratio of the original newspaper size to the size of the newspaper on the film. So, if the original newspaper was 430 mm high, and the image on the film is 30 mm high, the reduction ratio would be 430 mm / 30 mm ≈ 14.5. This means the original newspaper was shrunk by a factor of 14.5 on the microfilm.

The reduction ratio is important because it helps us approximate the “true DPI” of the image. DPI stands for “dots per inch”.  To calculate out the “true DPI” of the microfilm (how many dots per inch on the film itself), we multiply the approximate DPI of the newspaper (300 DPI) by the reduction ratio. Therefore, in this example, the “true DPI” is 300 DPI x 14.5 = 4350 DPI. This number tells the digitizer how to set the height of the scanner’s sensor.

After configuring these settings and adjusting the sensor height, it’s time to focus! Pressing a button on the computer interface begins slow, incremental movements of the film reel.

In between each advancement of the reel, the digitizer adjusts the camera lens, monitoring the image on the screen until it looks crisp.

Focusing the image

 

After focusing, there are a couple more settings to be adjusted related to lighting and exposure. Then, it’s time to scan!

Once scanning has started, the digitizer can monitor the images produced as they scroll by, pausing to adjust settings as needed:

Monitoring the scanning process

 

After scanning is complete, the digitizer opens a program called the “Auditor”. This program automatically detects the boundaries of each page; however, it requires some manual adjustment on the part of the digitizer. The screen looks like this:

Adjusting the boundaries of each page

 

In the image above, the blue boxes represent confirmed pages, and the yellow and red boxes show issues that need to be manually adjusted. Once everything has been adjusted, the portions inside the boxes can be output into TIFF files.

Interested in our digitization processes and equipment? Check out these previous blog posts on our other scanning equipment, as well as many more behind-the-scenes posts under the How We Digitize tag:

Have you ever looked for information on your family history? Whether you are simply curious about a few relatives or embarking on an in-depth genealogy research project, there are many online resources that can help your search. If you have relatives from British Columbia, or relatives who are UBC alumni, UBC Library’s Open Collections can be a rich source for your genealogy research.

Collections

BC Historical Newspapers

Newspapers are frequently used in genealogy research. Obituaries provide information about individuals’ lives, including birth and death dates, details about careers, and information about other relatives. You can also find birth announcements and other news articles about your relatives. The BC Historical Newspapers collection contains 167 different publications from across British Columbia, with over 47,000 individual papers. The newspapers in the collection date from 1850-1995. Specific date ranges depend upon the paper, and you can check them at a glance here.

BC Sessional Papers

The BC Sessional Papers collection contains over 3,700 selected provincial legislative documents from 1865-1982. In particular, this collection includes lists of voters by district, records of land sales, and lists of incorporated companies.

Here is the list of people entitled to vote in the April 30, 1898, election in Vancouver – it even lists their addresses and reported professions:

List of Persons Entitled to Vote in the Vancouver City Electoral District. 30th April, 1898.

UBC Publications

If you have relatives affiliated with UBC, you might find relevant material in the UBC Publications collection. You can explore UBC yearbooks from 1911 to 1966, and look through back issues of The Ubyssey, from the inaugural October 1918 issue to the present. Other publications may also be of interest: you can see the full list on the collection page.

Check out this issue of the Annual from 100 years ago – it even includes brief profiles of each member of the senior class:

The Third Annual of the University of British Columbia, [1918]

Other Collections

The BC Historical Documents collection contains selected documents from the forestry, fishing, and mining industries in British Columbia, education development in the province, and British Columbia’s early history. If your relatives attended the Provincial Normal School between 1918 and 1936, you may find them in the selection of digitized yearbooks in the collection.

Many of our collections include photographs and correspondence (both handwritten and typed). Depending on your family history, you may want to explore the Japanese-Canadian Photograph Collection, the UBC Archives Photograph Collection, and BC Historical Documents for photographs and correspondence.

 

Searching

Keyword searches can go a long way in Open Collections. To perform a general keyword search, start with the search box on the Open Collections home page:

Because all of our text collections have optical character recognition (OCR) applied, keyword searching allows you to search the full text. This applies to newspapers, other publications, and most typed documents, but not handwritten documents.

The above search yields 984 results across Open Collections. There are several ways to narrow your search. For genealogy research, the Collection and Date range filters on the left are particularly useful:

  

To use the Collection filter, you can start by selecting any of the collections featured above, or other collections that might be relevant to your relative’s life.

For the date range filter, note that the end date is January 1st of that year. For example, if you want to bring up results from 1890 through all of the year 1920, you would enter 1890 to 1921 in the date range, pulling up results from January 1, 1890 to January 1, 1921.

If you know your relative’s full name, as in this example, you will want to use quotation marks. When using quotations, it is important to try several variations, since the full name may not always be printed. For example, Hannah MacMillan could be referred to as “H. MacMillan”, or her husband’s name could be used – as in, “Mrs. John MacMillan”. You may also want to try a common misspelling, like “McMillan”.

For this name, using quotation marks narrows our pool down to one result, from the BC Historical Newspapers collection:

Clicking on the result opens up the newspaper.

The search box can be used to search within the newspaper text itself, and is automatically populated with your original query. The highlighted pages contain your search term(s). If you click on the à arrow, it will bring you to the first occurrence of your search term:

You can zoom in using the buttons on the right to read the section containing your search.

The search turned up an obituary for Hannah MacMillan. From this short obituary, you can learn her date of death, how old she was when she died, where she lived, her husband’s initials, and where she was buried. In addition to being key information about Hannah, this information can help you continue your search.

Have you used Open Collections for your own genealogy research? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear from you!

Resources

 

We are pleased to present the Digitization Centre Impact and Activity Report for 2016-2017!

This report highlights the Digitization Centre’s key projects, partnerships and user engagement trends for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

In 2016-2017, Open Collections accounted for 15% of the Library’s unique pageviews. That 15% totals 3.9 million pageviews on Open Collections alone!

The breakdown of where those 3.9 million pageviews were spent.

Other highlights detailed in the report:

  • Our work with Archivematica and our continued contributions to UBC Library’s digital preservation program
  • News about our web archiving work, including updates on some of our new collections
  • The Digital Himalaya Project being done in collaboration with Mark Turin (Chair, First Nations & Endangered Languages Program; Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology)
  • Our ongoing partnerships
  • Our efforts on metadata updating and cleaning

 

  

New additions to our digital collections included:

BC Sessional Papers

Phase IV of the BC Sessional papers was completed, adding material from the Legislative Council of British Columbia from 1933 to 1952. Phase V began in May of 2017.

Hawthorn Fly Fishing & Angling Collection

A selection of 23 titles from the Harry Hawthorn Fly Fishing and Angling Collection housed at Woodward Library.

Rainbow Ranche

An archival collection from the Lake Country Museum and Archives, chronicling one of the first independent fruit ranches in the Okanagan.

The Pedestal

Canada’s first feminist periodical was fully digitized in partnership with SFU Archives and will be available through Open Collections soon.

Journal of a voyage to the Pacific and American Shores

UBC Library acquired and digitized the journal of Susannah Weynton, wife of the captain of the Hudson’s Bay Company supply ship Cowlitz.

BC Historical Newspapers

The BC Newspapers collection was completed this year. Encompassing 163 titles, these newspapers are utilized by researchers around the world. All pages have been run through OCR (optical character recognition) and are full-text searchable.

To learn more about what we’ve been up to over the past few years, check out all of our Impact Reports dating back to 2011 under the “Reports” section of our website’s Documentation page. Many thanks to all of our partners over the past years. We look forward to continued collaboration on all of our current and future projects!

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