Australian Joint Copying Project microfilms affected by vinegar syndrome

Not all the articles on this blog are good news stories…

Unfortunately, some of our Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) microfilms have had to be removed from the Genealogy Centre because they have developed vinegar syndrome.

The Australian Joint Copying Project began way back in 1945 when an agreement was made between Australia and the United Kingdom to copy material relating to Australia and the Pacific held in libraries and archives in the UK. Microfilming began in 1948 and the project continued for almost 50 years. In all, over 10,000 microfilm reels were produced. The type of information to be found on these microfilms includes Governors’ despatches, convict records, captains’ logs and other material relating to the early days of life in the colony. They are a very useful source of information and here at the State Library we held a collection of about 3,000 reels.

Modern microfilming is done on polyester film, but early microfilm was produced on cellulose acetate and proved to be unstable. Once it begins to deteriorate, it gives off acetic acid which has a distinctive vinegary smell; this is known as vinegar syndrome. Unfortunately, the process cannot be reversed and, eventually, the image disappears. The affected microfilms have had to be removed and will be destroyed. In all, about 1,000 reels, or a third of our collection, have been affected.

If you find that the microfilm reel you’re looking for has been removed, please see library staff at the Information Desk where you will be able to request a copy on inter-library loan.

Please note that the AJCP reels relating to Western Australia, which are housed in the Battye Library on the third floor, have not been affected.

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