Microfilm vs Microfiche

Microfilm and microfiche…maybe it’s the digital age we find ourselves living in, maybe it’s the fact that the English language is crazy and has no rhyme or reason (they both start with micro so they must be the same), or maybe it’s just that microform is a subject in which not many are well-versed, but these two are always getting mixed up.

I’m here to set the record straight.

Though microfilm and microfiche are often thought of as interchangeable terms, the two are actually very different. From formatting to storage to reading the images, microfilm and microfiche are not the same.

Format                                                                                                                                         Microfilm: Comes on a long strip of film that is wound into a reel. This makes it a bit harder to update images on microfilm because it requires you to cut into your microfilm and then tape the new section you want. Not impossible, but definitely time-consuming.                                                                                                       Microfiche: Comes on flat sheets of photographic film paper. Each sheet can store multiple images. Microfiche is much easier to work with when it comes to updating images, as you can just place whatever sheet with images you want to the collection and move on.

Storage                                                                                                                                                     Microfilm: Normally stored on spools (either plastic or metal) that are then placed in boxes that protect the material from dust or other external factors.         Microfiche: Come on sheets of thin film material. Usually microfiche is  put in protective sleeves and then cataloged within a file box to again protect from dust and such.

Reading                                                                                                                                             Microfilm: Microfilm readers usually have a spooler mechanism that allows you to thread the spool into it. This allows for potentially quicker and more efficient reading.                                                                                                                                 Microfiche: Microfiche readers are similar to microfilm readers, in that it will magnify the image onto a larger screen for viewing. It just differs in the fact that there won’t be an automatic feeder or spooler mechanism for the microfiche.

Consider the record set straight!

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One response to “Microfilm vs Microfiche

  1. Reblogged this on Roots to the Past and commented:
    This is an interesting article comparing microfilm to microfiche. It’s often part of genealogy we don’t pay attention to, yet many of us (at least before the Internet) used these two forms to do our research.

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