Blast from the Past
Photographed here is Ryan Collins, Archives Technician at the National Archives at Philadelphia, performing preservation tasks on a collection of records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
It is not uncommon for Archivists to come across gems from bygone eras while performing preservation tasks. Sometimes NARA staff come across items as prestigious as a signature from a US President or Founding Father! Other times we discover objects from the not-so-distant past, evoking our sense of nostalgia. This is particularly true with the various, now-obsolete, media formats used throughout the years. From VHS tapes and vinyl records to monochrome and nitrate film, archivists uncover numerous media formats that are no longer in production. While processing a collection of records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Ryan, one of our Archives Technicians at the National Archives at Philadelphia, came across disc film. After a few minutes of bemusement, he brought the film to our senior archivist who explained its use during the 1980s.
Disc film was released by Kodak in 1982 after 10 years of production. The advent of this new film technology would replace existing negative strips with a compact, convenient disc of negatives. This particular film required a specific camera to use, as well as specialized equipment to develop. Disc film would not be the “next big thing” however, and production was stopped in 1988 as a result of the poor picture quality on the film.
The formats on which the past is documented are ever evolving. Coming across obsolete media formats present challenges to archivists across the field.
This post was written by Ryan Collins, Archives Technician at the National Archives at Philadelphia.