Thursday, January 20, 2011

Combustible Microfilm Forces Evacuation at LDS Church History Library

Microfilms do not last forever. In fact, older microfilms can self-destruct in the best "Mission Impossible" manner imaginable. Yesterday, a microfilm from the LDS Church History Library in Salt Lake City was taken to a landfill and detonated after patrons had been evacuated from the building.
NOTE: This happened at the LDS Church History Library, not at the nearby LDS Family History Library that is used by tens of thousands of genealogists.
Two floors of the LDS Church History Library were evacuated Wednesday afternoon as a precaution because of decomposing film that posed an explosion risk.

Salt Lake Fire Captain Michael Harp said an alert archivist noticed deteriorating 72 mm film inside a canister at 2:30 p.m. The film contained an unstable element called cellulose nitrate, which Harp says can be flammable or even create a small explosion.

Patrons on the third and fourth floors of the library were escorted out while the film was contained in an archival room.

From there, a company specializing in the removal and transport of such materials picked up the film. After waiting several hours for downtown traffic to taper off, Harp said the film was taken to the local landfill where it was detonated.

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