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Course & Subject Guides

Research Writing - Oakland Campus: Microforms

This support guide was created for students in ENGCMP 0450: Research Writing and the Professional Writing Program

What are Microforms?

Microforms are made of either film or paper and contain reproductions of documents too small to be seen by the human eye.


(35mm and 16mm reels of film)


(small sheets of film)

Microprint (also called Microopaque)

(large paper sheets)


(small paper sheets)

Why Do We Use Microforms?

In the mid-20th century, libraries and archives began using microforms as a way to preserve decaying newspaper collections. Deteriorating books and newspapers were preserved on film in order to maintain accessibility and use.

There are still many advantages to microforms today:

  • Microforms are compact and inexpensive, allowing libraries to expand collections, while reducing storage and other costs.
  • When produced properly, microforms have a life expectancy of up to 500 years and are easy to maintain.
  • Access to rare, valuable, or fragile items is enabled and there are very few incidents of microform theft.

Mircroforms Holdings

Due to the large number of items in our microforms collection, we haven't been able to fully catalog it. The documents below list titles available in our collections but which do not appear in PITTCat. Please email our microforms team for assistance. 

Popular Collections

Papers of the NAACP on Microfilm

As the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, the NAACP produced papers documenting a century of civil rights activism. The University Library System's collection of Papers of the NAACP contains several sections, including, but not limited to, personal correspondence, staff files, and campaign information. 

Opie Microfiche Collection

The Opie microfiche is a collection of children's literature began by Peter and Iona Opie in 1944. Over the next forty-four years the collection grew to nearly 20,000 titles, including chapbooks, battledores (two or three-page primers), card-covered toy books, comics, children's magazines, penny dreadfuls and bound volumes. Some titles are individually cataloged. 

Adams Family Papers

The Adams Family Papers are a comprehensive collection of family papers spanning the years 1639 to 1889. The papers consist of official records and writings of three generations of Adamses, including the papers of John and Abigail, John Quincy, Charles Francis, and their extended families. The papers provide a unique view of major historical events from before the Revolution to the end of the 19th century.

Underground Newspaper Collection

Spanning 476 reels of film, the Underground Newspaper Collection is a compilation of hundreds of alternative publications produced from 1963-1985. A major example of sixties and seventies counterculture, the collection contains various newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and bulletins concentrating on a variety of topics ranging from Vietnam War protests to vegetarianism.