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Combustible Film Forces Evacuation at LDS Church History Library

The following was posted on the Deseret News website yesterday:
SALT LAKE CITY  —  Two floors of the LDS Church History Library were evacuated Wednesday afternoon as a precaution because of decomposing film that posed an explosion risk. Salt Lake Fire Capt. Michael Harp said an alert archivist noticed deteriorating 72 mm film inside a canister at 2:30 p.m. The film contained an unstable element called cellulose nitrate, which Harp says can be flammable or even create a small explosion. Patrons on the third and fourth floors of the library were escorted out while the film was contained in an archival room. From there, a company specializing in the removal and transport of such materials picked up the film. After several hours when downtown traffic had tapered off, Harp said the film was taken to the local landfill where where it was detonated.
As soon as I read this many questions started popping into my head. What was on the film? Do they have a backup copy of the film? How does this situation affect other possible instances with other film? What else could happen to these rolls of microfilm that have been stored for many years? To me this just shows the importance of digitizing all of the microfilm the LDS Church has in the Granite Mountain Vault. It is hard to say what some of the condition of the film is like in the Family History Library, Church History Library, as well as any other library in the world that has old documents stored on microfilm and microfiche. Digitization of these documents is critical in order to ensure their preservation for future generations.

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  1. Thanks for sharing I had not heard that. My thoughts were similar to yours.

  2. Wow, that’s incredible! Thanks for letting us know, and keep us posted!

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