WHAT: For several years, microfilm that contains copies of recorded documents has been deteriorating with something called Vinegar Syndrome. In addition to emitting a significant odor, Vinegar Syndrome is a chemical reaction that causes the deterioration of acetate-based microfilm. Over time, Vinegar Syndrome renders affected documents unusable and unsalvageable. The acid released from this chemical reaction can spread to other microfilm that was not previously affected by Vinegar Syndrome. In order to preserve the integrity of microfilm unaffected by Vinegar Syndrome, our office is in the process of removing microfilm that has been affected by advanced levels of Vinegar Syndrome. It is important to note that the microfilm being removed contains DUPLICATE copies of documents from the period of 1871-1959. The originals documents are contained in deed books located at our warehouse.


WHY: Our office is removing the microfilm with advanced levels of Vinegar Syndrome for several reasons. First, many of these records are unusable and unsalvageable, as seen when microfilm becomes warped or stuck together. Further, affected microfilm, even if the microfilm appears to be in good condition, will emit acetic acid into the air, which can spread to other microfilm that has not been previously affected by Vinegar Syndrome. All of our microfilm has been tested, and only microfilm that has been identified as having advanced levels of Vinegar Syndrome will be removed from the microfilm vault. By removing the damaged film from our vault, it will help to preserve the document film from 1959 and beyond, which actually contains the original copies of the documents recorded during that time period.


CONCERNS: Our office is aware of concerns raised by customers that the removal of the book and page microfilm will prevent customers from gaining access to the records necessary to perform tract searches and other services relating to real estate transactions. The Recorder’s retrieval team will be working with these customers to ensure that they are able to obtain copies of the records they need. In addition, the Recorder’s Office is pursuing other resources that would make the retrieval process more seamless in its administration.


PLAN: Customer requests for documents not contained in our microfilm vault should be made by completing a Warehouse Document Request Form that can be obtained in the Microfilm Library. After receiving a request for a document, the document will be retrieved from the warehouse and will be sent to the Microfilm Library electronically where the customer can then pick up the requested document. In addition to this process, the Recorder’s Office is currently working on establishing an accelerated process for obtaining customer-requested documents that are housed at the warehouse. Our ultimate goal is that customer-requested documents will be retrieved from the warehouse and provided to customers within a matter of hours. Once the accelerated process is implemented, the Recorder’s Office will continue to remove additional damaged film from the Microfilm Vault.


If you have further questions contact our office at (312) 603-5179.