Frequently Asked Questions

How does the Microfilm Sales service work?

  1. Search the catalog for titles that interest you.
  2. Review your search results and select a single title for more details about it.
  3. Check the box next to any reels you wish to purchase and click "Add to Cart."
  4. Review your cart, then go back to search results, start another search, or go to check out.
  5. When you've finished searching and adding reels to your cart, e-mail the copy of the cart to
  6. A WHS staff member will contact you to finalize the order.

How can I contact you? What if I have a problem with my order?

Send email to and a staff member will respond as soon as possible.

Can my institution place a standing order to receive new reels as they become available?

If your library wishes to receive microfilm of a particular newspaper or periodical on a regular basis, you can establish a standing order by contacting the staff. Standing orders require a written commitment to purchase reels as they become available for a fixed number of years. When new reels of the titles you selected are ready, they will be added to the sales catalog, you will be sent a notice that they are available, and you can then order them through the Web site in the usual fashion.

I didn't find what I need in the catalog. What should I do?

We may be able to provide microfilm for some items not in the sales catalog. For example, we may own paper copies that have not been microfilmed yet. Because each case is unique, these custom orders vary in price. Because they necessarily require a great deal of staff time to retrieve, collate, photograph, develop, inspect, and print, they are considerably more expensive than routine orders from the sales catalog. Contact our staff for more information on custom orders.

How long will it take to receive my reels?

We typically fill orders in less than a month, but please allow up to 6 weeks for your order to reach you.

Is rush service available?

No. We operate strictly on a first come, first served basis.

What's a Wisconsin Tax Exempt ID # ?

The state of Wisconsin exempts non-profits and some other organizations from paying state sales tax. For more information, see the Department of Revenue form (PDF).

Why do Wisconsin Historical Society members get a 10-percent discount?

Members of the Wisconsin Historical Society support our activities through their dues and donations and receive other benefits such as discounts on purchases. Learn more about how to become a member.

What if charges appear on my credit card before the reels appear at my door?

This can happen with any online merchant if you place an order near the end of a billing cycle. When your microfilm arrives, compare the charges on your bill with the shipment and contact if you have any questions.

What should I do if I'm not satisfied with the quality of the images on the film?

Our in-house lab has always embraced ANSI standards for the manufacture of preservation-quality microfilm. These include shooting multiple exposures of problematic pages and inspecting every reel closely for completeness, proper contrast, density, etc. In many cases, original paper pages may have been faded, browned, tightly bound, or damaged, and so may be difficult to read on your microfilm. There is no recourse in such cases: the microfilm copy, despite its flaws, is simply the best copy that survives. If you believe, however, that the positive reel you received is somehow defective and that printing another copy would solve the problem, please contact us at

Can I make additional copies of this film, digitize it for use on my website, or publish excerpts of it?


Generally speaking, according to U.S. law only the creator of a work possesses the right to make and publish copies of it. That right has lapsed for works created before 1923 and in certain other cases; exceptions to it also exist for purposes that the law calls "fair use." See the explanation provided by the U.S. Copyright Office. As the person purchasing the microfilm, you are the party legally responsible for obeying this law.

What type of microfilm do you supply? Can I purchase other types?

Prices shown are for silver halide copies. We are not able to make vesicular copies anymore. You may also purchase digital copies of microfilm (image files or searchable PDFs.)

Contact the staff at for details.

I know the Wisconsin Historical Society microfilmed many census records but I don't find them in the sales catalog. How can I purchase them?

Over the last five decades, our census records have been microfilmed in partnership with a number of different organizations that have negotiated a variety of licensing agreements. Send an email to specifying the Wisconsin county, the census year, and the type of schedule you would like to purchase (population, agricultural, mortality, or manufacturing) and we will investigate to see what is available and what conditions may apply to its sale.