New microfilm scanner makes work easier at historical society

Mille Lacs County Historical Society (MLCHS) president Penny Quast uses the new microfilm scanner and connected printer last Thursday at the MLCHS depot center in Princeton. Quast is scanning a portion of an old newspaper from the 1920s to gather information on obituaries and farms.

Mille Lacs County Historical Society (MLCHS) president Penny Quast uses the new microfilm scanner and connected printer last Thursday at the MLCHS depot center in Princeton. Quast is scanning a portion of an old newspaper from the 1920s to gather information on obituaries and farms.

It didn’t take long after the new microfilm scanner and printer arrived last week at the Princeton depot history center building for Mille Lacs County Historical Society (MLCHS) president Penny Quast and others to begin using it.

The equipment cost $7,165, with $6,895 of that being funded by a grant of that amount from the Minnesota Historical Society.

The MLCHS already had a microfilm scanner, but the new equipment has major improvements. One is that the operator doesn’t have to turn a crank to move the microfilm through the scanner like on the old one. Two, the new microfilm scanner has a printer connected to it.

Using a microfilm scanning machine to read copies of old newspapers is one thing. Another is to copy that information, something vital for people working in history projects. Laboriously copying things down by hand gets old, fast, and it may not work well if a person has physical ailments such as arthritis. Quast said she didn’t like having to “crank, crank, crank” the old scanner because of having a “bad arm.”

Now, with the MLCHS’ new microfilm equipment, the operator can not only do the scanning by pressing a button, but they can press another button to have what they are scanning, printed out on paper.

Quast and MLCHS member Wendy Davis were doing that last week.

Quast explained that so much of the work the MLCHS staff does is assembling obituaries to update information on family histories that the MLCHS keeps on file.

The MLCHS is also pressing the new microfilm scanner and printer into service for a big display the MLCHS is planning for next summer’s Mille Lacs County Fair. It will be on the area’s century farms. To prepare for that, the MLCHS staff members are gathering information on area farms through old newspapers.

“Now we can say when was this a century farm,” Quast said. “You get a date (of a newspaper story written about a farm) and you look it up.”

Another important use for the equipment, Quast noted, is being able to quickly look up photos and see the names that go with the photos. Then a person can go to the loose photos at the depot center and attach a name to them, she explained.

Having this equipment makes looking up the information “much simpler” as opposed to going through the hard copies of newspapers, Quast added.

The MLCHS will save the old microfilm scanner just for reading.

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