When rolls of microfilm or sheets or microfiche get wet, their base and emulsion are in danger of separating. This is when the image separates from the plastic backing. Without proper water damage restoration, moisture can spread from wet film to dry film because of the resulting humidity, which could also lead to mold damage. Film has a high susceptibility to the effects of water and moisture, and getting them to a document recovery service in a timely manner is critical.
Identifying the Stage of Water Damage on Microfiche and Microfilm
- Color changes: After the first few days of water and moisture damage, film changes color. It is common for flood damage restoration experts to see film turn a shade of blue or purple.
- Slippery and slimy film: As the gelatin around the edges of the film begins to dissolve, it becomes slippery and has a slimy feel. This also occurs because of mold and bacteria growth. At this point, water damage restoration services can still recover the wet film.
- Thread-like appearance: As the emulsion on the film begins to separate from the base, it will look like threads or filaments. This is a sign that the film needs the help of a document restoration specialist immediately.
- Gray, soupy substance: As the emulsion further decomposes, the film will look like gray soup. While the film is severely decomposed, there is a small chance that you may be able to salvage some images.
- Contact a document or flood damage restoration specialist. The sooner you call, the sooner restoration experts will arrive to salvage, clean and dry the film.
- Turn down the temperature. Cool temperatures slow down film deterioration, especially when it gets wet. As soon as you notice water damage, turn down the temperatures in the room in which they’re stored to the lowest setting possible.
- Keep the film wet. Air-drying or improperly drying wet microfilm and microfiche puts it at risk of blocking. This is when the base layer and emulsion stick together. If blocking occurs, the experts may not be able to salvage the images. Incidentally, it’s best to keep the film wet until the professionals arrive.
- Use a dehumidifier. To prevent humidity from damaging film that didn’t get wet, place a dehumidifier inside the room or just outside of it. As you create an emergency disaster plan, ask a flood damage restoration company about the best type of dehumidifier to use, the number of dehumidifiers needed and the best places to put them.
How to Salvage Wet Microfilm and Microfiche
When a water damage restoration company arrives to salvage the film, it will carefully pack them up and transport them in a special vehicle that will keep the items cool on the way to the company’s drying facility. The technicians will then clean the film and dry it with freeze-drying equipment.
When an organization manages any type of film—from microfilm to X-rays to photo negatives—its emergency disaster plan should include steps to prevent and mitigate water damage. If you’re dealing with wet film, contact Polygon right away to start the drying and restoration process.
[Photo from Deborah Fitchett via CC License 2.0]