Thursday, July 07, 2016

Who Uses Microfilm Anyway? The Birmingham News and

Hand in Truck
The Birmingham News, May 6, 1979
Imagine you are driving the highway and you see a hand poking out from a closed trunk of a car. This is the stuff of movies, but it actually happened here in Birmingham in 1979. Birmingham News reporters broke this story by following the car, and discovered the person in the trunk had actually been kidnapped. It may surprise you to learn that the media often comes to the Birmingham Public Library to use our microfilmed newspapers and digital microfilm scanners as they research stories.

Robert Clay, a video producer at, has used our new digital microfilm scanners on several stories. “The digital scanners have been used on multiple projects at, including exposing a 62-year-old cover up of a hazing incident that permanently injured legendary quarterback Bart Starr while he was playing at the University of Alabama. High resolution scans were used in our retelling of a bizarre kidnapping story from 1979 when Birmingham News reporters chased down a car with a hand waving for from the closed trunk. These digital scanners have created a unique link to past reporting and have become an incredibly powerful tool in our quest to provide moving and engaging stories for our audience.”

Here are some links to the stories mentioned:
Clay said, “The Birmingham Library’s digital microfilm scanners have become an invaluable tool for reporters and digital video producers at the Birmingham News and As the newspaper continues its transition to a digital online format, the types of stories we are able to tell has opened up dramatically. We are now able to incorporate high resolution scans of microfilm in video documentaries, multimedia slideshows, and other various digitally focused avenues. The digital scanners have allowed our team to efficiently browse through multiple rolls of microfilm. Research assignments that would have taken days now take hours.”

Come visit the Microforms Department and try out our new digital microfilm scanners. The image quality is unparalleled, and you can touch up images to make them even better. Besides printing, you can save your images to a flash drive in the following formats: JPEG, PDF, TIFF, and PNG.  You never know what you might find in this untapped treasure trove of information.

Laura M. Gentry
Southern History Department
Central Branch

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