Placing History...

...At Your Finger Tips

At Advantage, we understand that preservation is only 1/2 of the equation. Once your materials are safely archived on microfilm, you need to consider accessibility to the valuable content those reels contain. What good does it do to keep all of that history in a drawer?

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Digitization Services

Create A Digital Archive From Microfilm

Microfilm digitization is the key to unlock the content that is not currently accessible in a practical way. Patrons that visit your institution will have a powerful tool can save time by searching through your community’s history by name, date-range, keywords, publication, or location…and not limited to a reel at a time, or if a microfilm reader is occupied (or operational!). Advantage Preservation offers a user friendly digital solution to research your materials via our Community History Archives hosted solution.

After we digitize the newspaper microfilm, we use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to create a searchable database, create an index and host the images on a portal where your patrons can browse, search, view, clip, and share articles and pages from your community’s history. This literally puts your community’s history at their fingertips.

Just ask Melinda Krick, editor of The Paulding Progress: “I’ve used it several times already, and it’s truly amazing what you can find. I’ve searched some personal family history/genealogy items as well as information for work. It’s helpful that there’s different ways to narrow a search, such as choosing specific newspapers or choosing a particular decade. The matches by decade can be interesting because you can see the time frame where your search item has the most “hits.” So many times we’ve tried to research something, and it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack unless you had a date to go by. This makes research so much easier and productive. I have the site bookmarked on my computer!”

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Why go digital?

A Digital Archive Will Save Time: 

Keyword searching allows library staff and patrons to find information within seconds of typing in a name or search term. Less time spent thumbing through pages of newspapers or microfilm is more time spent assisting patrons & working on other projects or programs for the library.

Library Director Angela Scales of the Ida Grove Public Library sums it up nicely:  “The digital archives will be a fantastic resource for library staff, patrons and visitors” . “Having a searchable online database of newspapers allows us to quickly find information that would have normally taken hours of searching microfilm rolls, we can now do this in a matter of minutes.”

For example: Patron A calls the library looking for “John Smith’s” obituary believing “John Smith” passed away between 1910 – 1920. Reference staff spends two weeks flipping through one page at a time finding every John Smith that passed between 1910 – 1920. Patron A calls back and says I’m sorry it was between 1900 -1907. Three weeks have been lost to researching an obituary. Keyword searching allows phrase searching for every newspaper page containing the phrase “John Smith”. Once that term has been searched, reference staff just has to click through each indexed year in their database from 1910 – 1920. Those years will be filtered by the search term “John Smith” (only the articles containing the term “John Smith” will appear for that year once searched). Three weeks of research via microfilm is now an hour of research on a computer.

Like many of our partners, Bossard Memorial Library director Debbie Saunders knew the limitations of the microfilm at her library in terms of accessibility. “While it was great that patrons could come in and search the microfilm in house, it wasn’t searchable in a real efficient way,” said Saunders. “We now have an online searchable index of every paper since 1895…We just believed in the value of it and what it will do for people in terms of their research capability, even if you’re not doing real in-depth research you can learn a lot about local history or family members.”

Melinda Krick, editor of The Paulding Progress agrees with Debbie, “So many times we’ve tried to research something, and it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack unless you had a date to go by. This makes research so much easier and productive.” BUT…you might WANT to spend a bit more time on your research. “It is easy to get lost browsing through the archives,” Paulding’s Ali McCauley. “I can get lost looking at old ads, community events, crime stories and more.”

Research becomes much more efficient when you employee traditional time saving search practices your patrons are familiar with when using other search tools online (as can be found in our Search Concepts section of our Resources page on our website). You will also find additional “Tips & Tricks” that will help you discover ways to both speed up your research, and uncover even more results.  To help educate your patrons, we have developed very easy to follow Tutorials and our blog “Read All About It”  and Social Media channels also offer articles and updates as to “best practices” that will help you and your patron’s research more efficient and effective.

A Digital Archive Will Improve The Accuracy Of Research: 

Keyword searching & indexing of archives assures staff of a higher percentage rate return on finding information their patrons need. Computer searches can find people, phrases, places and events people can overlook after hours of researching a newspaper page by page. Once your newspaper is digitized, each newspaper page will be keyword searchable. It is much more efficient than the “old way”.

Without a searchable archive, to locate a name, an event, or anything else of significance, you first need to know a date, or at least a fairly narrow date range. Once you find the right cabinet, drawer, and finally the reel, containing that date range of the newspaper you were looking for…then the work begins. Thread the microfilm reader…now rethread it correctly, change the lens…then realize the one you had initially was the correct one…then start scrolling. Then scroll some more. Keep scrolling. Scroll a bit longer… until you find the single page you want out of the 900 or more on the reel. Now locate the article. Now find the name, place, or event that started you on this journey in the first place. Then rewind the reel, and put it back, so you can repeat the process for the next item on your list.

Is there any question that things will be overlooked, or instances missed? How complete can one’s research be utilizing this method? Wouldn’t it be a lot more convenient to just search for “John Kennedy’s” name and have every instance of it presented to you to begin with. Then (equally efficient), have it highlighted on the image if “John Kennedy” appears in that newspaper page? Searching within newspaper pages also allows for researchers to uncover information they would otherwise have overlooked.

To research historical newspapers and be successful, it helps to be educated about the characteristics of old newspapers; how OCR impacts your research, and how to best search for the articles that you are seeking. The Tips, Tutorials, & basic Search Concepts found in our Resources section of our website will aid you and your patrons in making the research performed in your Community History Archives even more accurate. There are also a multitude of independent genealogists and researchers like The Ancestor Hunt, who have compiled their own resources on the most effective practices they employ when searching historical newspapers.

Are You Looking For A Solution To Make History More Accessible? Call Us! We Want To Hear About Your Potential Project.

A Digital Archive Will Help Preserve The Original Content:

We stand by our convections: Microfilm is for preservation, digitization is for access. Hard copy newspaper, microfilm, & microfilm readers wear down with every year and every use. Researching digitally is not only a more efficient way of searching, it also helps further preserve the preservation copy from deteriorating over time with use.

Oils from the skin is acidic can damage film. Oil from fingerprints also collect dust, which is abrasive and can cause scratches. If your microfilm readers are not properly cleaned and maintained, or covered when not in use, it too can be a source of damage. Dust, oils, and particulates settle on the glass, and becomes abrasive.  Your microfilm will deteriorate from the normal wear of use.  Digitization allows for the reels be handled only by your staff.


A Digital Archive Can Protect Your Previous Investment In Microfilm: 

Have we mentioned that we think the microfilm reels should be considered a preservation medium? Due to the wear and tear on your microfilm service copies, you will find yourself periodically replacing damaged reels, or losing the content because the replacement costs become too high.

We believe the film should be purchased once, and handled as little as possible. The more it is used the higher the chance of scratches, tears, and other forms of deterioration caused by oily fingerprints, contact with the hard (and often unclean) reader surfaces, improper storage, and careless handling. Another thing to consider is how long will you be able to source parts for, or find someone to service, the microfilm readers in your institution.

Microfilm is still the only acceptable archival standard for long term preservation. 500 years from now, any content captured to film will be viewable with only a candle and a magnifying glass. Purchasing replacement duplications of the microfilm is a viable option, however, our position remains…you should only have to replace at risk film suffering from vinegar syndrome or redox. All other factors can and should be mitigated by limited handling and proper storage.

A Digital Archive Provides Valuable Patron & Community Service:

The most important reason as to why your institution should consider a digital Community History Archive created from your existing microfilm collection, may be the most obvious: To provide a valuable service that meets or exceeds its patrons & community members needs. The faster you can find the information they need, the more you and your staff can be devoted to other projects, allowing for those resources to be directed towards other meaningful projects.

Interested In Learning More? Do You Have Any Questions? Give Us A Call!

A Budget Friendly Solution

Our Digital Archives Strike The Perfect Balance Between Quality, Quantity, & Value: 

Preserving our cultural heritage often falls to local communities and groups, with small staffs and even smaller budgets. Cities, counties and community organizations collect records, vital statistics and transactional data that, over the years, tell the story of an era. Previously this data was the purview of a few local historians and government types but, more and more, citizens are recognizing the importance of preserving historical documents for the long term and making them accessible to anyone, anywhere.

We understand the painful condition and trends in the budgets of our state governments… and we are extremely conscious of the fact that one of the hardest hit areas has been in newspaper and historical preservation services in our libraries.  The cuts have been deep, and in many cases, these institutions have been left behind. Funding for digital conversion projects is scarce and the competition is tough, but it is out there. Our goal is to ensure that a model exists to make those limited funds as impactful as possible.

To achieve our goal, we have embraced the idea that preserving history is a shared responsibility. We partner with local community publishers, libraries, and other like minded individuals to make local content more accessible, now and in the future.

Typically we find our partners are interested in getting the best return on the funding that is available to them. More specifically, the best balance of quality and quantity that can stretch the budget. We have a “3 legged stool” approach: Quality, Quantity, & Value. If any one of these three factors is given more priority than the other two, the stool becomes wobbly, and can tip over. Decisions must be made as where to make concessions, and either image quality, the number of images produced, or the ability to keep the project under budget will suffer. Our process ensures that you don’t have to sacrifice when building your digital archive.

The newspaper microfilm will be scanned in the manner best suited to providing volume and cost effectiveness, while retaining an image quality that allows for access. The Advantage scanning process is intended to accurately render the content of the original newspaper if the source material in respect to its completeness, appearance of original text and correct sequence of pages. The reproduction of photographs and accurate tonality are not the intent of this process, but available if funding allows for it.

Newspaper microfilm will only be scanned for access, not as a preservation method in keeping with the Advantage philosophy that digitization is an enhancement to make the content more practically accessible, and not as an archival solution. The original microfilmed newspapers will remain the preservation copy after digitization.

Our approach results in a keyword searchable Community History Archive, that provides a high return rate on keywords, a browse-able index, online (or in-house) availability, and the tools to explore, discover, and share content in ways not possible when it only existed as microfilm… all at a per image cost that allows archives to be built within almost any budget.

Do You Want To Explore Building Your Own Community History Archive? We Would Love To Discuss It With You!

We are in this together!

Utilizing the Community History Archive as a research tool allows for information such as birth and marriage announcements, obituaries, advertisements, cartoons and news coverage to provide a glimpse of the past viewing it through a lens of time and place. Zack Kucharski, the Executive Editor for the Cedar Rapids Gazette shares his view on our approach:

“Our archives are an important part of community history. They help us understand events in our community’s history, help us understand contributions of generations past from a truly unique vantage point: as they were happening. We believe this approach is scalable and can lead to a comprehensive project for Iowans across the state We’re appreciative of Advantage’s approach and understanding for the value of the archive and their willingness to work as true partners.”

The digital availability of a publication is always at the discretion of the newspaper publisher or the right’s holder, and we work directly with them as to how and where their content can be viewed. We believe strongly in the newspaper publisher’s rights regarding their intellectual property. Although works published prior to 1924 are in the public domain, we will always work with the library or institution to ensure the publisher fully aware. We want and need the community publisher’s full support when building a Community History Archive .

The Community History Archive is user friendly, and easy to learn. We focused on making it as simple as possible, so that everyone…from students to grandparents (and everyone in between) can browse, search, view, clip and share articles, headlines, pages, and stories recorded in the pages of the community newspaper.. Just type a search and hit “enter” or browse to a specific year, month, day or page in any (or all) publications contained in the archive. Often a better value than a single microfilm reader! Advantage Preservation has developed a tailor made solution to meet the preservation needs of libraries across the country.

  • We will work with you to inventory your materials and provide a comprehensive listing of your collection.
  • We will provide you with an accurate estimate of cost associated with the digitization service.
  • We will assist in the secure shipping and tracking of your materials

Our team will work with you every step of the way in the creation of you Community History Archive – delivering you a valuable asset that you are proud to share with your patrons and community. We will help guide all the parties in finding funding, ensuring all copyright laws are being followed, the content is properly preserved, and the collection properly reflects the community’s commitment to preserving the past. Upon completion of website our team will provide you with access to tracking tools so you can track the usage of your database for your end of the year reporting. Our team will continue to improve and update your database as technology changes.

Beyond Microfilm

Historical Document Scanning

We love old newspapers. Providing access to the “first rough draft of history” is a privilege, and we value our partnerships with libraries across the county to provide their community’s history online or within the walls of their institution. The stories contained within those pages give a firsthand account of the history that shaped not only their community, but also their state, and the nation…from a local perspective. Although historical newspaper digitization is our specialty, we have equal passion for all historic documents, including vital records, family Bibles, transcripts, journals, and more. Advantage will convert not only historical newspapers, but also ship manifests, muster rolls, yearbooks, plat maps, journals, photos, rare books, and much any printed work in between and beyond. But…what if it is not on microfilm?

We offer document scanning, but always encourage our partners to ensure everything is microfilmed prior to scanning, so it is truly preserved for future generations. Scanning of the microfilm is the preferred, and most economical combination encompassing both the preservation and accessibility to these materials. That being said, there is no “right answer” for every project, so we also provide additional avenues to aggregate your documents into a Community History Archive, or your own content management solution.

All valuable and fragile papers are evaluated and processed to assure proper care and accurate conversion. Our experience covers a broad range of historical document types. All phases of the archival document imaging process, such as preparation, document scanning, document indexing, PDF conversion, OCR / ICR, etc. are managed effectively by the experienced team at Advantage. We work closely with our clients through the entire lifecycle of the project utilizing proven project management methodologies.

We do not have an “out-of-the-box” approach to digital conversions. Our experience substantiates the commonsense premise that every client’s needs are somewhat different, even within the same institution and application area. As a result, every Advantage project is customized and tailored to specific client requirements.

The director of the Brown County Public Library in Mount Sterling, Illinois seems to agree: “The Advantage Preservation Company is well versed in transforming historical paper documents from many sources such as yearbooks, historical annals, organizational anniversaries/celebrations, newspapers, record books; virtually any historical paper source can be preserved by Advantage.”

Interested In Learning More? Do You Have Any Questions? Give Us A Call!

Microfiche Digitization

In addition to roll microfilm digitization, we offer many options for conversion of microfiche to digital image, placing us in a unique position to handle any microfiche of historical documents you may have.  We have experience with newspapers, books, maps, blueprints and almost any other microfiche documents needing digital conversion. Although similar to microfilm roll scanning, microfiche images must be individually scanned, and the conversion requires more time than roll film. Each microfiche card can vary in format, and number of images. We convert jacketed fiche filmed at various reduction ratios in both simplex and duplex modes.  Multiple reduction ratios can exist on one fiche. We process large single-image fiche containing maps or other large graphic images in grayscale, color or black and white.  We process Computer Output Microfiche and film (COM) containing standardized grids including ultra high reduction ratios.

Large Format Document Scanning

Older governmental records, such as birth certificates, death records, marriage related documents, land deeds, etc. were often recorded in large permanently bound archival libers. At Advantage, we convert fragile archival documents and bound volumes with meticulous professional handling to maintain document integrity.   We have worked with county officials to scan large plat books that were hand written and often the only record available.

While it may be physically possible to guillotine or disassemble bound materials to scan using lower-cost automatic page feeding, there are important archival and legal reasons that vital documents may have to be individually handled. Depending upon the condition of the documents, we scan directly to digital form or microfilm the items and then scan the film. Our services are utilized by leading libraries, archives and universities.

Our processes align to ANSI/AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) standards for archival microfilming, as well as specifications developed by the Research Libraries Group (RLG) & by the Library of Congress. This requires stringent adherence to our internal guidelines in the care of your microfilm and historical documents. To ensure that the history of each community is properly preserved the content is easy and practical to access, Advantage has adopted strict Practices & Policies for Newspaper Collections.

Call Today And Speak With One Of Our Preservation Experts.

Who Does Advantage Preservation Partner With?

Combined, the Advantage team has been partnering with Libraries, Colleges, and Historical Societies to preserve their local history for over a century. We take great pride in converting local historical newspapers, record books, public records, and photos onto 35mm Silver Halide Microfilm to protect the valuable content from the ravages of time. Our Microfilm meets all ANSI/AIIM Standards for microfilm preservation and we only use archival-quality 35mm Silver Halide produced in our FujiFilm Certified Lab for true 500+ year preservation!


We give community newspapers a clear Advantage! Publishers partnering with Advantage will be working with a team that has over 50 years combined experience in the newspaper microfilm and digital archive industry. We meet or exceed all ANSI/AIIM Standards for microfilm preservation. The Microfilming will be done at no cost to our publishing partners. The only cost you will have is shipping the papers to our facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Your master negative copy can be stored in our secure facility at no additional charge.

The Advantage team has been closely monitoring the painful condition and trends in the budgets of our state governments… and we are extremely conscious of the fact that one of the hardest hit areas has been in newspaper and historical preservation services in state libraries.  The cuts have been deep, and in many cases, these institutions have been left behind. We work closely with these institutions to find affordable or alternative funding solutions to overcome these challenges.

Advantage is extremely proud of the unique relationship we have with the state libraries and historical societies across the county. We have provided these institutions a comprehensive solution tailored to their individual needs, ranging from preservation microfilming, archival microfilm storage, digitization, microfilm duplication, up to and including storing several thousand historical bound volumes of newspapers and other historical documents.

In addition to the educational applications of our historical newspaper archives and yearbook scanning, and university microfilm and document collection, we offer educational institutions a solution for more “modern” problems as well. Institutions of all sizes, public and private, are burdened with more paperwork than ever before. Dealing with paper-based business processes while struggling to comply with regulations such as NCLB, FERPA and HIPAA is tough for any administrator. Converting paper and microfilm student files (e.g. attendance documents, report cards, transcripts) to secure digital files can help your organization provide instant record access from any education system.

 We Would Love To Hear From You!