Film Preservation 101: Why does this film smell like vinegar?

Film Preservation 101 is an occasional series in which we answer our most frequently asked questions.  You may have heard that old films can be dangerous, and potentially even explosive (we covered this topic in Film Preservation 101: Is Nitrate Film Really Dangerous?) and you’re worried about your grandfather’s home movies that you keep in … Continue reading Film Preservation 101: Why does this film smell like vinegar?

Double Take: Making Visual Connections in the National Archives Catalog

This post was written by Daniel Dancis. Daniel is a Textual Records Archivist who blogs at The Text Message. Do you remember the card game “memory,” also known as “concentration”? It involves setting up a deck of cards face side down and each player turning over two cards per turn. If the two cards turned … Continue reading Double Take: Making Visual Connections in the National Archives Catalog

How the U.S. Army Served its Movie-Mad GIs during World War II

This post was written by guest blogger Tanya Goldman. Goldman is a PhD Candidate in Cinema Studies at New York University. The ease with which most of us stream movies and television makes it hard to envision the labor of media distribution. Before home video and streaming, transporting films as physical objects demanded careful logistical … Continue reading How the U.S. Army Served its Movie-Mad GIs during World War II

Christmas Thoughts: Giving for the Holidays

This post was produced with help from Heidi Holmstrom and Ivy Donnell, who made the GIFs. In December of 1920, Ford Motor Company sent prints of the film Christmas Thoughts (FC-FC-328) to Ford dealers around the country. The film encouraged viewers to establish a local Goodfellows’ Club, with their local dealer serving as the headquarters. … Continue reading Christmas Thoughts: Giving for the Holidays

“Tales from the Hoja”: Marionettes with a Message

Early this year, a small stack of 16mm film cans came down to the Motion Picture Preservation Lab for a condition assessment. They were wrapped in dirty cloth tape, and marked The Emperor’s Elephant. We were interested, thinking it might be a fun animated film. As we wound through the Kodachrome reels, we discovered beautifully detailed marionettes made … Continue reading “Tales from the Hoja”: Marionettes with a Message

Road Trip Wrap-up and the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway

If you’ve been following along on our virtual road trip of our nontextual holdings, you’ve journeyed with us from our home base in Maryland, south to Richmond, Virginia and on to North Carolina. You joined us in Charleston, Memphis, New Orleans, and then farther west to Texas. We went to Albuquerque and Las Vegas, and … Continue reading Road Trip Wrap-up and the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway

A Mother, a Baby, a Name: Identifying One of the Youngest Survivors of the Holocaust

In five brief seconds at the end of a reel of U.S. Army Signal Corps footage, a mother shows off her baby. Out of context, she might look like any new mother photographed with a newborn. With one hand holding a blanket away from the baby’s face, she smiles and appears to laugh with joy. … Continue reading A Mother, a Baby, a Name: Identifying One of the Youngest Survivors of the Holocaust

Film Preservation 101: Is Nitrate Film Really Dangerous?

Is Nitrate Film Really Dangerous? Nitrate film is a material we don’t often encounter at the National Archives for obvious reasons. After the devastating 1978 nitrate vault fire, the agency quickly copied any remaining nitrate to acetate or polyester safety film and disposed of the original reels. When we do come across a reel in … Continue reading Film Preservation 101: Is Nitrate Film Really Dangerous?

Disaster Strikes the National Archives: The 1978 Nitrate Vault Fire

This post was written by Andrew Smith and first posted to the National Archives Internal Collaboration Network. Andrew was a records analyst at NARA before departing for another agency. Explosions at the Federal Center Around noon on December 7, 1978, staff of the National Archives and Records Service (NARS) were eating lunch inside the offices … Continue reading Disaster Strikes the National Archives: The 1978 Nitrate Vault Fire

“The Camera Tells the Truth”: Camera Rolls from the Battle of Tarawa

Five days before Thanksgiving 1943, American forces bombarded a tiny, Japanese-held island in the Tarawa Atoll. Eighteen thousand Marines would land on the shores of Betio, and over 1,000 would lose their lives there. On November 23rd, the United States claimed victory. Recording the Battle Three men of the 2nd Marine Division landed on Betio … Continue reading “The Camera Tells the Truth”: Camera Rolls from the Battle of Tarawa