Date          Thu, 5 May 1994 18 22 46 -0500                                    
Reply-To:     German History list                        
Sender:       German History list                        
From:         H-GERMAN MODERATOR Dan Rogers       
Subject:      BDC: National Archives' Position                                  
Submitted by:   Dan Rogers                        
Testimony of Dr. Lewis Bellardo, Acting Deputy Assistant Archivist for the      
National Archives before the Subcommittee on International Security,            
International Organizations and Human Rights, Committee on Foreign Affairs,     
House of Representatives, April 28, 1994                                        
My name is Lewis Bellardo.  I am the Acting Deputy Assistant Archivist for      
the National Archives and the Director of Preservation.  The mission of the     
National Archives is to preserve and make available for research the            
permanently valuable records of the Government of the United States and         
other related documentary materials.  The role of the National Archives vis     
a vis the Berlin Document Center collections is to accession [sic] and          
preserve a microfilm copy of the documents, and to duplicate and make           
available a reference copy as soon as possible so that the documents can be     
more widely available than ever before.                                         
Physical Access: In July 1994 the National Archives will receive                
approximately 40,000 rolls of microfilm from the Berlin Document Center.        
This translates into 4 million feet of microfilm since we must duplicate        
both a duplication negative and a reference positive copy, we will be           
producing 8 million feet of microfilm, a distance equal to that between         
Washington and Kansas City.  Duplicating this microfilm will require            
approximately two years.  However, the National Archives will release           
individual series of microfilm for research as soon as they are duplicated.     
We will duplicate first those series that are likely to have the highest        
research demand and that will have no access restrictions.  These series        
include records of Nazi Party members and records of the SS.  By July 1994      
we shall have a duplication schedule for all of the thirty-two series being     
transferred to the National Archives.                                           
Intellectual Access: Once the microfilm is duplicated, access to the            
intellectual content of these records will be greater than ever before.         
Each series will be open for the use of official United States government       
investigatory agencies as soon as it is duplicated.  In addition, we will       
make records available to all categories of non-government researchers on       
an equal basis.  Moreover, all files of the Nazi Party and of organizations     
such as the SS will be open without restriction for research as soon as we      
have completed the duplication of the microfilm.  In all, at least 85% of       
the documents will be open immediately without restriction.                     
National Archives staff will examine and make access determinations for the     
remaining series while the unrestricted series are being duplicated.  Any       
access restrictions will be based on the personal privacy of individuals        
who were neither members of the Nazi Party nor of other organizations such      
as the SS.  The major category of personal privacy in such cases will be        
medical information.  In such cases most of a file may be open for              
research, but it may be necessary to redact the personal privacy                
information.  Even this restriction would lapse with the death of the           
A final note relating to access is that this microfilm is accompanied by a      
computerized index.  The index in conjunction with the microfilm allows a       
researcher to search much more quickly for a selected file than if the          
search had to be conducted using manual indexes and paper records.              
Technical Notes Relating to the BDC Microfilm: I visited the Berlin             
Document Center February 7-11, 1993 to examine the microfilm that was to be     
transferred to the National Archives and to examine the overall                 
microfilming process and indexing system.  The microfilm was produced as        
part of two separate projects.  The first microfilming project consisted of     
several thousand rolls.  Some were 35mm microfilm, but most were 16mm           
produced with rotary cameras.  That projects was begun in the early 1970s.      
I am not certain when this filming project ended.  The second or new            
microfilming project began in 1989 and has continued to the present.  These     
rolls are all 16mm film.                                                        
I spent much of my three days at the Berlin Document Center examining rolls     
that I selected at random from each of the microfilm series or files.  I        
did not examine every roll.  But the rolls I did examine were placed on an      
inspection table, and carefully reviewed in their entirety with a               
magnifying loop.                                                                
New Microfilm: From the perspective of physical preservation the microfilm      
is in excellent condition.  The film base is polyester, and as such is both     
physically strong and chemically stable.  There was no evidence of either       
base or emulsion deterioration of any kind.  Nor did I detect scratches         
that obscured information.  Both microfilm reels and containers are of high     
quality.  It should be noted that the microfilm is for the most part more       
stable than most of the paper records it duplicates, and probably has a         
longer life expectancy.  Many of the original documents were created on         
paper of poor quality that has seriously deteriorated from natural aging.       
If paper records of this quality were transferred to the National Archives,     
our normal policy would be to microfilm the records and provide the             
microfilm, rather than the paper records, for research use.                     
Not only is this microfilm excellent from the standpoint of physical            
preservation; it is also of high technical quality.  The resolution is          
excellent.  The density is acceptable. (Exact density readings were not         
taken, given the amount of work to be done in a short period of time.)  I       
found no density problems that would interfere with legibility or the           
ability to duplicate the film.  All images checked were legible.  None were     
blurred or so faint that they could not be read.  Apparent faint images         
turn out upon closer examination to be the blank reverse side of one-sided      
documents.  The BDC has a policy of filming both sides of every page to         
minimize the likelihood of a camera operator forgetting to turn a two-sided     
document.  In every case where original records were compared with              
microfilm images, low contrast or faint (though readable) text was a            
function of the original document, not the microfilm copy.  Targets, both       
technical resolution targets and targets identifying the documents on the       
film, are more than adequate.  The film contains frame numbers at the edge,     
as well as blip marks for each frame.  The computer-assisted retrieval          
system located the desired image by counting the blips.  The only technical     
problem that I detected in the new film was that one or both leaders on         
most rolls are too short to be duplicated without adding extra temporary        
leader.  This is not a major problem, but it does slow the production rate      
I also had an opportunity to review the filming, processing, and indexing       
operations, and the procedure appeared to be highly professional.  As noted     
above camera operators microfilm both sides of every page, regardless of        
whether there is text on the reverse side.  In this way the likelihood of       
an operator failing to notice that a document has text on both sides and        
thus failing to capture the reverse image is virtually eliminated.  The         
company that does the filming conducts a first level quality control            
review.  The Berlin Document Center staff conducts a second level quality       
control review.                                                                 
The planetary cameras that are used in the operation create two camera          
original rolls.  One set of these rolls will come to the U.S. National          
Archives.  The other camera original set will go to the German National         
Archives.  The two rolls are then developed in two different film               
processors.  In this way if there is a malfunction in one processor, one        
camera original roll survives to be used to make a duplicate copy for the       
second set.  In such rare cases the duplicate is identified.  We have           
advised the Director of the BDC that in these cases the United States           
should receive the surviving camera original.                                   
The documents are indexed via computer prior to microfilming, and at the        
time of the filming the film location information for that document is          
scanned into the computer.  This approach also helps to minimize the            
possibility of missed documents.  As previously noted the index vastly          
increases the ability to search the collection.                                 
Although technical quality is carefully checked, and although there is          
careful random checking for gaps in the filming, neither the contractor nor     
the BDC staff do a frame-by-frame verification to ensure that every single      
page has been filmed.  It is uncommon for archives to do such frame-by-         
frame film to original document verification.  The National Archives, for       
example, almost never resorts to such a detailed level of review.  Since we     
do not normally destroy the original records, we are able to refilm missing     
documents if any are discovered.  In the case of the BDC film, if we            
identified missing pages, we would have the German Archives film the            
missing pages with appropriate authenticity targets, and we would add them      
to our copy.                                                                    
Old Microfilm: The microfilm produced during the first project in the early     
1970's is of much poorer quality than the newer microfilm.  The film does       
not show signs of deterioration.  However, some of the earlier series were      
microfilmed in a very sloppy manner.  There are numerous cases in one           
series where documents became overlapped in the rotary feed mechanism, with     
a resulting loss of information.  A number of documents were folded over in     
the filming process.  Some rolls contain very low contrast images that          
would be difficult to reproduce.  Some rolls are badly scratched, stemming      
probably from camera or processor damage.                                       
Following my visit I informed the Director of the BDC that two series from      
the first microfilm project should be refilmed.  Other series had already       
been refilmed.  This refilming work has been undertaken and will be             
completed by the time of transfer, thus eliminating a major concern that we     
had with the first few thousand rolls of the microfilm.                         
In summary I would stress that the National Archives will duplicate the BDC     
microfilm within two years of its transfer.  We will focus on duplicating       
and making available first those series that are likely to receive the          
greatest research interest.  All duplicated microfilm will be made              
available to United States Government investigative agencies, such as the       
Department of Justice Office of Special Investigations.  The National           
Archives will provide equal access to all non-government researchers.  We       
anticipate that over 85 percent of the records will be available for            
research without restriction as soon as the microfilm is duplicated, and we     
will determine as quickly as possible which, if any, of the remaining           
microfilm series contain restricted information.  We will attempt to screen     
these series as quickly as possible.  My personal examination of the            
microfilm revealed that it is of high quality and was professionally            
produced.  The computerized index and microfilm should result in faster         
searches than would have been possible using the manual indexes and the         
original records.  In short, I believe that the needs of the research           
community will be met once the microfilm has been duplicated.