Handling Aerial Film and Aerial Film Scanner Box

General Guidelines

Researchers will adhere to the below guidelines, all research room policies, procedures, and staff directions.

Equipment Protocols:


  • must be approved yearly by Conservation and Cartographic supervisors prior to use. Any changes to equipment need to be approved by Conservation. >
  • must be safe for the records and not damage the records in any way.
  • must be secure, sturdy and stable. Winders should be level with each other at either side of the frame.  
  • should not have parts that move easily or are wobbly. 
  • must not have sticky residues, adhesives, or tape on surfaces.  
  • must not make contact with the records by being placed directly on top of the records or rolled or pushed across the records in areas other than the rollers.
  • should be clean. Use only NARA approved cleaners provided by Conservation to the research room on the equipment. Make sure no film is present during cleaning and all equipment is dry before film is placed on equipment.
  • should fit on the dedicated stable surface with adequate room for safe record handling.
  • should not have exterior light sources of any kind. An exception is made for the handheld light provided by the research room.

Records should be returned to their container for any break longer than 10 minutes. Otherwise, records should only be removed from their container and placed on equipment if they will be actively worked on.

Only one piece of equipment is permitted to be used at a time.

During adjustments to equipment, records should remain in their containers on a research room cart, or separate table. This does not apply to adjusting the tension of the winders. 

Protocols for Record Handling:


  • must be kept horizontal for imaging.
  • tension must be adjusted with the winders to prevent dragging of film across the scanner.
  • should not be slipped inside of equipment (i.e. film holders) for imaging.
  • should not be backrolled or backfolded for imaging.
  • should not be advanced while the lid is down.

Report any tears, issues with the film to the research room staff or NARA archival unit consultants.

  • Gloves must be worn at all times during the handling of film.

  • Researcher may only have one can of film open at a time. 

Specific Requirements for Equipment:

  • The scanner must have a hinged lid with stops / spacers to prevent the full weight of the lid from resting on the film.
  • Scanner needs to be secured to the frame using positional blocks or other appropriate means to prevent movement during imaging of rolled aerial film. The dedicated scanner must be aligned properly, so that the film spans only above / across the scanning (i.e., glass) portion of the bed.
  • There must be smooth rollers attached to the frame on either side of the scanner for the film to roll across. Metal rollers should be replaced with smooth plastic rollers if at all possible.  If the metal rollers cannot be replaced, they must be examined periodically to ensure that no metal rubs off onto the film.
  • Adjustable film winders should be attached to the frame on either side of the scanner.
  • Winders must have the capability to lock the spools in place and adjust tension.
  • Take-up spools must match the size and length of the film being used.
  • Spools must be clean (free of tape or adhesive residue) and straight (not bent or warped).
  • The scanner must not have auto‐feed capability.
  • The scanner must be elevated within the frame to allow for an approximate clearance from rollers to scanner glass of at least 1 mm.
  • The frame must have good support due to the torquing effect of the weight of a full reel of film.
  • If there are sharp, rough edges or painted surfaces, then an acrylic coating must be used to create a smooth, even surface before equipment may be used around records. The following sealants are approved for coating the wood: Sancure 878, AFM SafeCoat AcriGlaze, TriCoPolymer VOC Free Non-Toxic Lumber Seal, or Eco Advance White (dries clear) Siloxane Waterproofer.
    • These sealants contain no or low VOCs and are approved by Conservation for the specific purpose of creating a smooth, non-transferable surface that should minimize the risk of damage to the holdings.
    • The sealant should be dried thoroughly over a minimum period of two weeks and manufacturer's instructions followed. A minimum of two applications are required.
    • The coating should not be applied to the rollers, take-up spools, or other parts that may come in direct contact with the records.
  • Any equipment fabricated from wood showing evidence of pests or mold cannot be used around records.

Specific Requirements for NARA’s “Expression EPSON 11000XL” Aerial Scanner Equipment that is available for use in the Cartographic Research Room:

  • Only 5” and 9.5” spool sizes may be used.
  • Researchers should not make any equipment adjustments. Ask for staff assistance in adjusting the distance between the winder arms.
  • Ask for staff assistance with corona photography, duplicate positive film, and KH- satellite film.
  • should only be used to scan aerial film (no GX prints or other records).