The Barbara Tunnels

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The Barbara Tunnels

John Richards of the Santa Barbara Co. Genealogical Society shared this information at my presentation at SBCGS on Saturday. The German National Archives is using microfilm and tunnel storage for the long-term preservation of their records, 855 million images to date, including Bach’s handwritten manuscripts, blueprints of the Cologne Cathedral, and Hitler’s certificate of appointment as Chancellor. 

Red vault sealing the entrance to the archives ©
The Barbara Tunnels method may seem unbearably old school in today’s digital world, but I couldn’t agree more with their analog strategy. Read about it here.

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”


  1. Liz Haigney Lynch 21 September 2010 at 8:35 AM

    Great link … Extremely interesting, especially about the longevity of microfilm. And I had to laugh at the idea of the vault being a disorganized place — terribly un-Teutonic!

  2. Sassy Jane Genealogy 21 September 2010 at 9:47 AM

    That part amazed me, I must say. Take the retrieval system with you!

  3. clairz 22 September 2010 at 5:38 AM

    And here I am, busily working to transfer family movies from film to DVD! Finding a way to store records in the most modern format is the challenge for me. We have shifted our movies, originally taken in the 1940s, from 8 mm. film to videotape and now to DVD and YouTube.

    I once worked in the Microforms Division (microfilm, microfiche, microcard) of a large university library. We all marveled back then (in the 1970s) that the entire main library would, if all on microfiche, fit into a single shoebox. Now, it could be stored digitally and accessible to all researchers everywhere.

    Back to the Barbara Tunnels–I hope they have some microfilm readers stored in there as well!

  4. Sassy Jane Genealogy 22 September 2010 at 1:29 PM

    I think it’s a great idea to transfer your home movies from film to digital. You’ll have to stay on top of how the digital motion picture format evolves, but home movies on film are vulnerable.

    What I like about the German approach is that they’ll always have film to work from and that leaves their options open. Something even more miraculous than digital may lie ahead that we certainly can’t envision now.

  5. clairz 22 September 2010 at 1:35 PM

    I just discovered that the historical archive where I volunteer prefers microfilm over any digital approach. Of course, they have yet to trust any computer operating systems beyond DOS. Yikes!

  6. Sassy Jane Genealogy 22 September 2010 at 8:28 PM

    Yikes is right – seriously, they’re still using DOS?

    But I think I should have been clearer in this post: I’m not anti-digital. It’s just that I’m not anti-analog either.

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