Microfilm in the archives: past use, present sustainability and future transformation

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Kaur, Preeti
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Up to the middle of the twentieth century, microfilm was a cutting-edge recordkeeping technology, much like digital technologies today. Commercial use of this technology changed the face of recordkeeping, ultimately affecting archival practice as well. The use of microfilm by archives has brought losses and gains in terms of materiality, access and preservation. Microfilmed records of the Department of the Interior demonstrate the importance of information being held in this particular medium, as these reels communicate the history of the dispossession of Indigenous communities, and the lack of Indigenous perspectives in the management of the records and the telling of their own story. Understanding the histories of recordkeeping practices of records containing Indigenous experiences allows archivists to update archival theory and practice to include Indigenous perspectives and decolonize records about the colonization of the West, which is achieved through the incorporation of Indigenous memory traditions into the records, and by digitizing the records and reordering them to reflect Indigenous perspectives. Records microfilmed in the early and mid-twentieth century are now prime candidates for digitization, a tool being used for preservation and access. Microfilm digitization projects, such as The Alberta Land Settlement Infrastructure Project and Canadiana Online are creating a new foundation to preserve records of the past and those being created now and in the future. This thesis will link microfilm’s past with its future, while discussing its current status in archives in relation to archival theory and practice.