By Jennifer Kotila
With more than 300 reels of microfilm in its collection, the Cokato Museum did not want to lose the ability to access this important historical material.
For the past 12 years, the museum has had an analog microfilm reader and printer, which allowed users to read and print what was captured on the microfilm.
The microfilm reader served its purpose well over the years, but when the replacement parts and maintenance began to be a problem, the museum staff and members of the Cokato Historical Society had to begin planning for its replacement.
“Microfilm is still one of the primary information storage mediums in use,” said Cokato Museum Director Mike Worcester. “The next generation of microfilm reader out there is a digital reader.”
Knowing that digital microfilm readers were rather expensive, the Cokato Historical Society began to dedicate funds toward the purchase about a year ago, as well as seeking out other funding sources.
The Meeker Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round Up contributed funds towards the purchase of a new microfilm reader.
“We’re very fortunate we were able to secure a grant in the amount of $7,000 from the State Arts and Cultural Fund, which is administered by the Minnesota Historical Society,” Worcester said.
The museum now has a new digital microfilm reader, which arrived March 30. The total cost for the new machine was about $10,000.
“This is the type of project the historical society raises money for, and this has just been a wonderful addition to the research capabilities of the museum,” Worcester said.
Better service for museum patrons
The digital microfilm reader offers many benefits over the analog reader, all of which allow the staff at Cokato Museum to serve its patrons easier, better, and faster, according to Worcester.
“This gives people more options in their research abilities,” he said.
On the old analog microfilm reader, a reel is loaded and the image is in front of the user immediately.
On a digital microfilm reader, the microfilm is loaded, and the image is run through computer software before appearing on a computer monitor. This allows the user much more flexibility in what is printed, and how it is printed, Worcester explained.
For instance, images from the microfilm can be cropped, similar to cropping a digital photograph, and saved as its own image.
Multiple sections of the image may be cropped and saved, and areas within the cropped images that the user does not want to save can be blocked out.
Another advantage to the digital reader is its ability to magnify the images from the microfilm so they are easier to read.
Saved microfilm images can be sent by e-mail, saved to a jump drive, or printed to the laser printer, improving the quality of printed microfilm images.
A final advantage of the digital microfilm reader is its large screen. The 28-inch screen allows the user to view nearly an entire newspaper page, making it easier and quicker to scan through microfilm images for information.
“It’s only been a week, but we are pleased so far,” Worcester said. “The more comfortable we get with it, the more we will be able to utilize all its options.”