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 individual. 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 slightly. 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.