Eastman Kodak President Kay Whitmore presented LDS Church officials with a plaque Wednesday that commemorates a business relationship that spans the church's 50 years of record-microfilming activity.
That relationship continues as approximately three exposures each second are added to the church's microfilm catalog of what Elder Boyd K. Packer called "the human family.""We at Kodak have been very pleased to serve the church over these 50 years and look forward to serving it in the future," said Whitmore, a Utah native and former LDS stake president.
Whitmore presented the plaque from Kodak to Elder Packer, a member of the Council of the Twelve.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began filming pre-1900 documents in 1938, said Richard W. Elbert Jr., director of acquisitions for the church's Family History Department. Twelve rolls of film were processed that first year by one operator in the United States.
The church now has 200 operators filming records in 40 countries - from the jungles of Latin America to China and other countries behind the Iron Curtain, Elbert said. More than 1.6 million 100-foot rolls of film are now stored in the church's Granite Mountain Records Vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The vault was put into service in 1966.
Copies of those films are duplicated and distributed to the church's 1,400 family history libraries around the world where church members use the records to research their genealogy so vicarious baptism and other church ordinances can be performed for deceased ancestors.
In 1988 alone, about 8,400 miles of film was duplicated from the mountain vault for distribution.
Ebert said some of the Kodak Model E cameras put into service in the 1940s are still in use.
While the information industry shifts toward the support of office automation technology, Kodak also remains committed to helping the church meet its microfilming needs.
Elder Packer said the church spends tens of millions of dollars each year finding and recording documents around the world because genealogy work is "anchored in our theology." It is also a task no one else on the Earth has undertaken, he said.
"We have that obligation that really is a labor of love," Elder Packer said.
The church is also watching the development of new technology that would help make gathering and storing records more efficient. "If you can do it with glass, or lasers, or light or whatever, we'll be standing there waiting to use it," Elder Packer told a number of Kodak company representatives attending the Wednesday presentation in the church office building.