I recently learned that the microfilm records of the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) are now available on DVD media. I was very interested in this new media and placed an order right away. After a few trials and tribulations my first four DVDs arrived in the mail. I was very pleased with the results. Each DVD holds the corresponding images that would have been contained on the same numbered microfilm roll, typically approximately 1,500 JPEG image files in a single directory. An example is shown below. The image size of that frame on the DVD was 682 kb. You can use an image editing program such as Adobe PhotoShop to crop the image and make adjustments to the light and dark levels of the image. Without the need to further adjust the image size I found that I could print nearly a full 8 ½ x 11 inch image that looked good when printing with a laser printer at either 1200 or 600 DPI. I have had several conversations this week with a supervisor at NARA who is involved in the production of these wonderful DVDs. NARA acquired an $85,000 high speed microfilm scanner that separates the individual microfilm frames into individual JPEG image files. Originally the JPEG images were exported to a DVD at a resolution of 4800 DPI, however, that created delays in the images loading on slower computers and the resolution was reduced and later production DVDs. I’m going to be doing some trials with NARA in the coming weeks to examine the effects of DVDs produced at different resolutions on various PCs and I will be posting my findings here.
Here’s a link to NARA’s homepage where you can find information about placing orders.
As the DVD media is still undergoing a trial, one needs to clearly mark “DVD” on the order form, otherwise you will end up with 35 mm microfilm. If you have a newer PC with plenty of RAM, you might want to consider ordering the DVD at a resolution of 4800 DPI, especially if you are wanting to use photos with your research project.