New Frames for Old Masters. An overview of the British Library's Acetate Transfer programme

Sandy Ryan


After the second International Round Table on acetate microfilm, the British Library decided to top slice from its annual preservation budget, £200k every year for five years to address its cellulose acetate problem. We did this by instigating a programme of base transfer, transferring the frames from the old acetate masters onto new polyester stock. It proved to be quite a challenge and this paper reproduces largely the presentation given at CAMF, which was an overview of the background to the project and its progress. Twenty three million feet. Not a centipedes' picnic, but the amount of acetate microfilm the British Library has in its collections. A sobering statistic. But what does it really mean? Well, if we rolled it all out, it would be enough to stretch all the way from New York to Moscow. Or, for the more vertically minded, if we piled it all up, it would be taller than not just 1 Mount Everest, but 809. That represents a pretty huge problem whichever way you look at it and my first thought when it was handed to me was, 'where on earth do we start?'

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