Cellulose Acetate Microfilm Database


About CAMD

The Cellulose Acetate Microfilm Database has been built to help libraries and archives in assessing the danger posed by acetate in their holdings of microforms.

CAMD has been designed

CAMD is relying on data contributed directly by its users. It is open universally for your direct input, commenting on data already present or adding new information about microform collections or distributors.

CAMD is a service maintained by

EROMM Secretariat at SUB Göttingen

Platz der Göttinger Sieben 1
D-37073 Göttingen

Tel. +49 / 551 / 39 95 25
Fax +49 / 551 / 39 34 68

The EROMM Secretariat is represented by
Dr. Werner Schwartz,


Acetate or Polyester?

When cellulose acetate replaced nitrate as a film base in the 1940's it was called "safety film" because it was comparatively more stable and less inflammable than its predecessor, the nitrate based film. The subsequent use of acetate as a film base was almost exclusive up until the early 1980s. However, acetate is itself not chemically stable, deteriorating under normal conditions slowly at first and then with accelerated speed.

When libraries and archives started systematic microfilming for preservation purposes, acetate film was still the predominant product. It began to be replaced with stable polyester in the 1980s, but the legacy it leaves behind – large parts of film collections on an unstable film base – is a serious one. It is generally accepted that the only way to slow the deterioration rate – thus buying more time to assess more interventive options such as duplicating, scanning or refilming – is cold storage. There is not much time left to take urgent action.

Today acetate has largely, though not entirely, been replaced by polyester, which has been proved to be a durable film base. Still we are bound to recognize the acetate question as a major problem in preservation microfilming, the number of films on acetate is far from neglible. Even when an institution's master films are polyester based, acetate films are sure to have entered its microform holdings in the form of service copies acquired from a variety of distributors (publishers, libraries and others).

More detail and background information is available on several websites. If you want to add to the list below, please contact CAMD giving the site name and URL.

The CAMF site now offers valuable information and links to institutions worldwide that are cooperating for finding answers to the problem.

The contents of CAMD

Information in the database is being contributed by its users via direct input. If you do not find a particular item, we ask you to enter any information you have yourself.

CAMD's main aim is to identify microform acetate base that may be present in library collections, the first focus is on collections of service copies instead of preservation masters. The latter are recorded in the EROMM Database in great numbers and detail with reference to the titles of individual books and periodicals. The other focus is on producers of microfilm (e.g. Kodak) and on publishers, libraries and any other agency, which have distributed microforms in the past or are still doing so.

Thus there are two types of records in CAMD: Microform collections and microform distributors.

  1. Collections or series of microforms

    Microform collections or series containing from a few dozen titles to thousands of titles have been published from the late seventies onwards. We want to determine the dates when these collections were produced, whether on acetate base or on polyester. The date when a collection/series was first offered for sale is less important than the date of acquisition by a library, since distributors tend to produce only limited numbers of copies at one time but wait for orders from customers. Thus the same collection may have come on acetate in 1982 and on polyester in 1985.

    Ideally the DISTRIBUTOR of this collection should record in CAMD whether the collection was produced on acetate and whether polyester was used from a determined date onwards. However, it is not necessary to provide information related to any such collection, if it is possible to give information on the precise periods during which acetate film has been used; see below for records of distributors.

    Any LIBRARY holding such a collection or part of it is asked to record the date of its acquisition in CAMD. This will help to establish contact between libraries and to discuss possible ways of a cooperative solution to the problem (cold storage, duplicating, scanning, refilming or other). It shall be noted in particular whether the collection has been checked and whether acetate has been found or not.

    It is not conceivable that users of CAMD record individual works. This would mean to duplicate the EROMM database, which records more than 2.5 million master surrogates with full bibliographic information on each item.

  2. Microfilm distributors

    Producers of primary microfilm (e.g. Agfa) as well as publishing houses, archives, libraries and other agencies that produce service copies are classed as distributors of microfilm.

    They are asked to provide information on the precise periods during which they used and distributed acetate film. A clear distinction shall be made between preservation master films, printing master films and service copies (film non reels, fiche or other). The latter may or may not have been produced following customer orders only.

    Information on microfilm distributors clearly is the most important type of record in CAMD. Any kind of microform produced and distributed by one agency will follow the same characteristics of production recorded here. If a distributor cannot give complete information about its practice and use of acetate film he should still feel encouraged to provide preliminary information. This can be supplemented at a later date.

    It is not rare that distributors have ceased to exist or that their assets have been taken over by some other agency. This may or may not continue the production or distribution of microfilm. In such cases it will be more difficult to determine the former distributor's practice.

Expected benefits

Some libraries have already suveyed part or all of their microfilm holdings. They shall record in CAMD at least some of the most important collections and add specific data gathered in their survey. This will help other libraries to assess the possible magnitude of their acetate problem. They may then start to treat well defined parts of their holdings and report this in CAMD. At the same time they will be able to establish contact to others, who hold the same collections and enquire about a coordinated approach in searching a solution.

Distributors can report on their capacities to help their customers and others to replace acetate film. New companies with the required qualifications can offer solutions to holders of acetate film. CAMD shall not be used for outright advertising but there is nothing wrong in giving the URL leading to the company's web site.

CAMD wants to encourage open discussion amongst its users as well as the exchange of information, experience and expertise.

The acetate base and EROMM

CAMD is a service of the EROMM community. Registered users of EROMM will be able to retrieve basic information on series and distributors in the EROMM Database. From there links will bring them to more extensive information in CAMD.

While the basic set of records has been created by EROMM, now all new and more detailed information must come from CAMD users.

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