August 02, 2007
By Andrew Britt
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced last week its plan to make over 200,000 copies of archived video footage available to the public through a partnership with Amazon subsidiary CustomFlix. Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein emphasized that the project will contribute to NARA’s preservation programs and provide open, convenient access to an abundance of visual history for the public-at-large. The media files available include documentaries, newsreels, instructional films, combat footage, research and development films, and more. The NARA claims that the project will “provide an unequalled visual history of the United States.”
Six initial compilations from WWII and the early 1960s were released on Amazon.com in mid-July. Viewers will find a diversity of footage in those newsreels, ranging from the 1960 Kitchen Debate between Nixon and Khrushchev, Madam Chiang Kai-Shek’s 1943 speech in the Hollywood Bowl, the railroad-driven funeral procession of President Roosevelt in 1945, and much more. This wealth of history will grow as NARA and CustomFlix expand production to compilations of footage from the 1920s through the 1960s.
The initial videos are $19 on Amazon.com, but so far it is unclear what market the project will be targeting. The collection may find a proper home in K-12 history classrooms, where primary source media serves both education and entertainment purposes. Collectors and history enthusiasts may jump at the chance to own such footage, while history professionals may find some limited research appeal in them. Overall, the project presents a great chance to offer access to heretofore isolated and unused footage of the American past.