Goal of the Project

The main goal of our project was to engage with Carleton College’s collection of microfiche and learn about the medium of microfiche in the process.

As we learned about Carleton’s fiche collection our project took a few different directions.

An Index of the Project

This website represents the output of our work on this project. It includes several pages which house the various directions our project took as we explored Carleton’s fiche collection.

  • What is Microfiche? – This page gives some background information on microfiche as a medium.
  • Simulator – We created this page to simulate a microfiche scanner. The simulator allows viewers to interact with images of microfiche that we scanned from Carleton’s fiche collection. Viewers can also see information about each scan, in particular, they can see text that we extracted from the scan through manual transcription and OCR from four different programs.
  • Sentiment Analysis – This page analyzes the content of some of the fiche which we scanned using sentiment analysis. Carleton College’s fiche collection contains a lot of random material, but we wanted looked for a few so that we could perform a small humanistic analysis on as much of a corpus of information as we could muster. In the end, we used the sentiment analysis program Monkey Learn to analyze a collection of Carleton scans containing promotional information about various United States colleges and universities. Our findings and process are described on this page.
  • OCR – This page explains our process using OCR to extract text from our microfiche scans. We’ve devoted a page to describing this process because our varying degrees of success with this process significantly influenced the direction our project was able to take.

Humanistic and Technological Significance of the Project

Here are some conclusions and questions which our project highlights. These point to the broader implications of our project.

  • Our project highlights the gap between modern and dated technologies for storing information. Once we identified interesting microfiche material in Carleton’s collection which we wanted to analyze using sentiment analysis, we learned how difficult it was to take the fiche’s content and make it compatible with the modern analysis tool Monkey Learn. We spent a large majority of our time on this project struggling to bridge the gap between the outdated medium of microfiche and modern technology. This struggle essentially entailed a long and thorough foray into OCR text-extraction. Should people today be more conscious of creating information-storage technologies which will still be accessible to future generations? Is there value in going to great lengths to extract (somewhat random) information from outdated storage methods and make this information usable, as we did in this project?
  • Our project provides a look into Carleton College’s microfiche collection and demonstrates how this fiche can be read and understood. Carleton’s fiche collection is extensive yet super random. Why does the college have so much fiche, and why does the college keep it? Why does Carleton have microfiche about certain topics in particular? Should students learn how to use Carleton’s microfiche as we did, or is this knowledge useless?
  • Our project analyzes 1990’s promotional writing from an HBCU, Public University, Community College, and Liberal Arts College, comparing the sentiments expressed in each pice of writing. Is this analysis interesting or helpful? Maybe it is, maybe not … either way it demonstrates a humanistic analysis of content found on Carleton’s microfiche.


This project was created for DGAH 110: Hacking the Humanities at Carleton College. Contributors are Darryl York III, Henry Koelling, Eric Gassel, James Brink, and Luisa Cichowski.