While many people enjoy using our digital collections from anywhere they are, as you would imagine, not everything we have in the Cambridge Room is available online. As with most archives and special collections, many of our materials are only available during the Cambridge Room’s regular hours while an archivist is on duty. There is an intermediate category of access, however, and that’s for the materials that we have on microfilm.
Cambridge Room microfilm
- Cambridge Chronicle, 1846-2013 (through 1923 also available online; 2014 will be filmed later this year)
- Cambridge Express, 1981-1982
- Cambridge Press, 1887-1889 (also available online)
- Cambridge Rambler, 1975-1981
- Cambridge Sentinel, 1903-1912 (also available online)
- Cambridge Tab, 1981-2006
- Cambridge Tribune, 1887-1941 (through 1923 also available online)
- City Directories, 1847-1972 (through 1910 also available online through the Internet Archive)
- The Fax, Kendall Square Weekly, 1987-1991
- Federal Census for Cambridge, 1920 and 1930
- Sanborn Maps for Cambridge, 1900-1950
- Tax Records for Cambridge, 1837-1900
- Vital Records for Cambridge, 1635-1908
- Voter Lists for Cambridge: Poll Taxes, 1930-1940; Police Listings, 1941-1971; Street Listings, 1972-1990
Microfilming is a photographic process that makes highly reduced copies of original documents. It has been used in libraries and archives for over 100 years as a method for saving shelf space, reducing handling of fragile materials, and increasing access for on and offsite researchers. Microfilm was for the standard for preservation for decades and is still a very durable format as long as the film is maintained in appropriate storage conditions. Because of the small size of the images and the sometimes inconsistent process by which they were made, it’s not always a thing of beauty, but microfilm does greatly enhance access to large, bulky, and fragile paper materials like our newspapers, in addition to being an eminently useful format for scanning purposes as the difficult work of preparing and photographing the original has already been done. In fact, most of the materials we have online were digitized from microfilm reels, rather than the originals.
The Main Library of the Cambridge Public Library has one microfilm reader/scanner, which now resides in the second floor reference area. The Cambridge Room microfilm is available anytime the Main Library is open, not just during the Cambridge Room’s hours. (Though if you want specialized historical reference assistance, we still encourage you to come when the archivist is on duty.) To use microfilm during hours when the Cambridge Room is not open, please show an ID to the staff member at the reference desk. He or she will retrieve the relevant reel for you and set you up at the microfilm reader/scanner. Library staff are always available to help, but if you want to learn more about how to use our machine, a ScanPro 3000, there are a number of YouTube videos that explain the process. For example, here’s a video on loading film (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbiFyBc-WCY), and another on navigating it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiksVh7rDsI) from the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, Vermont.
Microfilm reader/scanner station on the second floor of the Main Library
You have two options for getting output from the microfilm using this machine. We particularly encourage you to bring a USB flash drive and save your scans in PDF format as you go. You can also print a limited number of pages to the reference desk printer. Please see the staff person at the desk to retrieve your printouts.
We hope that you too will learn to appreciate microfilm and the ways it can aid and speed your research. And if you use the Cambridge Room’s microfilm when we’re not here, please drop us a line about your discoveries!