Vinegar syndrome is the destructive condition sometimes known to inflict microfilm collections. Acetate-based film, with a life expectancy of 100 years, can quickly be destroyed when exposed to elements such as humidity, fluctuating temperatures and pollutants.
Once exposure occurs, the film’s base may undergo the chemical degradation known as vinegar syndrome. This process cannot be stopped or reversed once it begins, it can only be slowed to allow for eventual replication before all images are lost entirely.
Learn more about how we helped Racine Public Library save their local newspaper collection.
- Nitrate Microfilm, 1920’s to 1930’s
- Early microfilm had a base layer made of cellulose nitrate, which is unstable
- Nitro groups are harmful substances, strongly acidic and oxidizing in nature
- Nitrate film, especially when deteriorating, is a fire hazard
- Acetate Microfilm, 1920’s to 1980’s
- Cellulose triacetate was used as the base layer for microfilm between 1923 and 1980’s
- Was originally thought to be highly stable; however, proved to be unstable
- Is not as toxic as nitrate film
- Polyester Microfilm, 1970 to Present
- Very stable with a 500-year expected lifespan
- Nitrate & Acetate film have a 100-year expected lifespan, with most at or nearing the end of that lifespan
NA Publishing Can Help!
- NA Publishing can provide a test kit of A-D strips to help your library identify potential Vinegar Syndrome problems in your collection.
- For film exhibiting evidence of Vinegar Syndrome, molecular sieves can absorb moisture and acetic acid and slow down the rate of deterioration.
- Scan the acetate-based film to create a digital record.
- Transfer your acetate-based film to modern, polyester-based silver duplication film.
In April of 2015, the Racine Public Library noticed our microfilm had a strong smell. We researched problems and discovered that our acetate film was affected by vinegar rot syndrome. We looked for solutions and contacted many companies in regards to replacing our microfilm. NA Publishing, Inc. was one business that replied and agreed to provide samples of film by making duplicates of our film. While there were a few other companies that offered samples, we felt that the quality of the reels received from NA Publishing and the price they were offering to duplicate our film was the best choice. Working with Dana Ouellette, the Sales Manager of NA Publishing, we were able to determine what needed to be done with our film, the cost, and a relatively quick time line of two months to complete the project. We were very satisfied with the results of this project as it was done in a timely manner, and with a quality that our patrons appreciate. Our experience with Dana and Joe Mills, the Managing Director, was enjoyable because they were willing to work with us and were prompt to respond to our concerns. We would recommend NA Publishing, Inc. to any library or company dealing with microfilm issues, especially those affected with vinegar rot syndrome. It was a wonderful experience with this company.”
– Racine Public Library, 2015