Some time ago, the SMDPA Board was shown the original membership ledger. It was in bad condition although it had previously been restored. It was judged that no further treatment would be possible. The book was fragile, and further routine handling of it was not suggested. It was determined that it had to be copied, preserved and the data put in a readily accessible form.
It became apparent that digital records systems relying on technical manipulation of electronic data were subject to mechanical and technical failures as well as obsolescence of equipment. As an example, think of BetaMax, 8-track tapes, 8 and 5 inch floppy disks, 78 rpm records, etc.
What was chosen was microfilm. Over time, microfilm has proven to be the best means of preserving and transporting data as it has a projected life of about 500 years. The microfilm is duplicated twice so that for security it can be stored in three distinctly different locations. The microfilm is then scanned and digital images are produced. These images are not for preservation, but convenience of use.
Once the ledger project was completed, attention turned to our applications. Applications are not stored by the Historian but in a repository in Philadelphia which, depending on the residence of the Historian may require a lengthy trip to retrieve an application and a second trip to return it. Thus it was determined to also microfilm the applications.
The requirements of GSMD are that all applications be on acid free paper. Supporting documentation, however, was not. Some of the documentation was chemically active and having a deleterious effect on the applications: the supporting documentation had to be separated. The applications were then placed in certified acid free envelopes. Also quite a few applications were found to be missing, and replacements had to be secured. After about a year of searching, one application matching each SMDPA number had been secured. This brought us to some 12,000+ sheets of paper. All were sent off for microfilming.
When completed, the images on the microfilm were scanned into Tagged Image File Formats (TIFFs), one image per page. This produced 44 DVDs. These were then converted into Portable Document Files (PDFs). The PDFs were recorded consecutively by our SMDPA # from 1 forward: this data filled about 3 and one half DVDs.
Again we have some level of protection should something happen to the PDFs, or should the format become obsolete. New PDFs, or the replacement equivalent, can be made from the TIFFs on the 44 DVDs. Should the DVDs become unreadable, or the format obsolete, the microfilm can again be scanned into the new format or technology. For a more pragmatic approach, all of the PDFs of our data come to about 13 GB (gigabytes), which fill several single layer DVDs. This data fits easily onto a 16 GB memory stick, which currently costs about $40-$50.00. This small stick can be worn with a lanyard around the neck, is readily mailed and can be copied onto a hard drive. What is significant is that we employ no digital technology in the preservation of our data: We use it only for convenience in daily operations.
It is believed that ours is the only State Mayflower Society to preserve its records this way, giving us a long lasting microfilm copy in storage that can be used to generate any future technological recorded system and at the same time our records easily usable such as on today’s memory stick.
This project could not have been completed without the dedication and the many hours contributed by Assistant Secretary Valerie Cullen and Historian Mimi Connelly.
Editor’s note: Those requiring further information should contact the SMDPA Secretary.