Film Preservation 201: Exploring A&B Rolls with “Jenny is a Good Thing”

Earlier we wrote about an Oscar-nominated film preserved at the National Archives (NARA) called Jenny is a Good Thing. It was produced in 1969 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, but for a long time we didn’t know where the original film reels were stored. In 2007, NARA archivists rescued over 3,000 government films from a defunct film lab. Fortunately, Jenny is a Good Thing was among them!

The Jenny reels recovered included internegatives, the edited soundtrack, and the jackpot—a set of A&B Rolls.

At this point, you’re probably wondering: “what are A&B Rolls and why are they so important?” A&B Rolls are usually assembled from the film that was exposed in the camera, so they are the most original, and therefore highest-quality, picture rolls that exist for an edited motion picture. (They’re more complex than some of our other topics, so we’ve designated this post as Film Preservation 201.) For a one-reel film like Jenny is a Good Thing, we had a picture A-Roll, a picture B-Roll, and a Soundtrack. That’s three rolls of film, but a projector can only handle one! To make the final single reel of film, you load up a film printer and print the A-Roll onto a new piece of raw film stock. Then you rewind the raw stock and print the B-Roll onto it. Rewind again, and print the soundtrack. Process the film stock and then you finally have Jenny is A Good Thing, containing all of the picture and sound the director intended.


A&B Rolls on a film synchronizer.

If you look at the photo above, you can see a set of 16mm A&B Rolls being run through a film synchronizer. Where one reel contains picture, the other contains black leader. When copying the A-Roll, the black leader leaves space for the picture from the B-Roll, and vice versa. For straight cuts on 16mm film, this technique allows messy cement splices to be inserted on the black-leader side of the frame line so they are invisible in the viewing copy. You can also dissolve between the A-Roll and B-Roll by overlapping the picture (see above photo) and controlling the exposure. It is even possible to superimpose a title over an image by exposing the picture from the A-Roll and the words from the B-Roll.

All of these techniques are demonstrated in our A&B Roll demo video below:

A&B Rolls may be reproduced both photochemically and digitally (we did an HD scan for Jenny is a Good Thing), but before reformatting, the rolls of film must be inspected and any necessary preservation work performed. Jenny was a particularly perplexing case, because at some point pieces of black electrical tape were placed on both sides of every splice. Before it could be printed or scanned, every piece of tape had to be removed and the oily black adhesive washed away with a film cleaning solvent.

Jenny is a Good Thing did not escape completely unscathed. If you watch the film, you can see slight color fading at the cuts, caused by the tape. However, the improvement over this video made from a faded print is stunning.

You can learn more about A&B Rolls by watching this 5-minute video and more about Jenny is a Good Thing by clicking here.

Follow our Film Preservation 101 series to learn about basic film preservation topics! More advanced topics to come with Film Preservation 201 . . .

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Nutrition for Body and Mind: “Jenny is a Good Thing” and the Head Start Program

Oscar season is always a special time of year for the National Archives’ Motion Picture Preservation Lab. It’s a chance for us to reflect on the numerous Oscar-winning films we preserve for the American people and to remember our own brush with Oscars glory (2013 Academy Award of Merit, accepted on behalf of all film lab employees by director Christopher Nolan—we “[turn] silver and plastic into dreams”).

Winning aside, you may have heard various actors and actresses say that it’s an honor just to be nominated. We agree, and we’re going to focus on one of those honored films today. Jenny is a Good Thing (1969) received a nomination in the Documentary (Short Subject) category at the 42nd Academy Awards. Directed by Joan Horvath, narrated by Burt Lancaster, and with musical contributions by Noel “Paul” Stookey (of Peter, Paul and Mary), Jenny is a Good Thing highlights the importance of nutrition education in the Head Start program.

Head Start was created as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. On May 18, 1965, President Johnson announced Project Head Start, designed in order “to make certain that poverty’s children would not be forevermore poverty’s captives.” Head Start centers were to be places that would prepare children in poverty for school and position them for success in learning and life. The program was initially limited to the summer months, but soon expanded into a full-school-year schedule.

According to the companion discussion guide, Jenny is a Good Thing promotes the idea that in addition to offering basic nourishment, the Head Start nutrition program also provides “unique opportunities for program enrichment throughout the day, and a link through which communication and parent involvement can be initiated and strengthened.” For example, the film begins with a teacher opening a peapod and asking the children to describe what they find inside. What color are the peas? Are they flat or round? How do they taste? The exercise leads the children toward connecting a large vocabulary of descriptive words to their own experience and understanding of the world.

The film notes that many of the children coming to Head Start centers may not have had an opportunity to eat breakfast before arriving. The food they help prepare sustains them throughout the day and allows their focus to be on learning and development. Parents are brought in as special guests during mealtimes, helping to strengthen relationships between parents and teachers, and parent and child. The nutrition program even provides an opportunity for children to garden and grow the food shared at meals.

As we see the children preparing for a nap, Burt Lancaster delivers the fundamental argument of the film: “Nutrition, like every part of Head Start, works to break down poverty’s most corrosive effect: believing you are less than what you are. These children must learn that they are good because they exist. They must know they belong to a society that cherishes their existence.”

You can learn more about the preservation of Jenny is a Good Thing in the first installment of our new Film Preservation 201 series!

For more information about Oscar-winning films at the National Archives, click on the following titles:

If you are in the Washington, D.C., area, check out the 12th Annual Showcase of Academy Award–Nominated Documentaries and Short Subjects from February 24-28, 2016, in the National Archives’ William C. McGowan Theater!

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When a Workprint is the Only Print

This post was written by Criss Kovac. Criss Kovac is the supervisor of the Motion Picture Preservation Lab.

It’s not uncommon for NARA to receive less-than-perfect material for films created by federal agencies. One of the types of elements we sometimes receive is called a workprint. Workprints are like a rough draft for a film. The editor would make all of the potential edits using workprints and then run it past the director for the final okay before editing the original negatives. Workprints sometimes have composite optical tracks or might be accompanied by separate optical or magnetic tracks.  

Because they were working elements, workprints were generally handled heavily. Some typical calling cards of workprints include tape splices between most scenes, heavy scratches, fingerprints, dirt, tears, markings from grease pencils used to indicate future edits, fades, or dissolves, and slugs. Not slugs like the slimy things in your garden, but rather a piece of blank film that is inserted into the image reel that is used to indicate where shots have been removed, need to be inserted, or to keep the picture in sync with the soundtrack.

In the case of an early 1960s United States Information Agency (USIA) film with the working title of The American NegroNARA received a mish-mash of elements. For the image reels 1, 3, and 5 we have 35mm prints and for reels 2 and 4 we have 16mm prints. For the audio, we have five reels of intercut full coat and single stripe magnetic track. We also received several reels of 16mm original negative outtakes.

We have no way to know whether or not the film was ever completed, so the most original and complete copy we have is the workprint and associated audio. All of the reels have vinegar syndrome, particularly the magnetic tracks. Recently, we digitized all of the reels for a reference request. We then digitally assembled them to present the film in the most complete state possible. You can see all of the hallmarks of a workprint in the digitized version–the way that the audio isn’t quite in sync throughout all of the reels, the incomplete scene at 10:15, the deep white emulsion scratches leaving jagged lines in parts of the image, the slug just before Robert F. Kennedy speaks and during the Little Rock footage, and the grease pencil markings marring the left side of the frame during the choir rehearsal.

The film is much like many of the USIA’s other films exploring racial issues in America at the time and was meant to be shown to international audiences. It contains interviews that may not be captured elsewhere with James Farmer, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and Ralph Metcalfe. Farmer, Wilkins, and Young were considered to be among the “Big Four” civil rights leaders along with Martin Luther King, Jr. James Farmer was the initiator of the the 1961 Freedom Ride and co-founder of the Congress for Racial Equality. Roy Wilkins was the executive director for the NAACP between 1955 and 1977. Whitney Young was the executive director of the National Urban League between 1961 and 1971. Ralph Metcalfe was an Olympic Athlete and won silver medals in 1932 and 1936 and later went on to be a four-term US Congressman from Illinois. The film also describes the strides and challenges faced by African Americans in the areas of voting, housing, and education.


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Photos from the Nazi Archives

Please Note:  This post contains images of sensitive content

The National Archives has a large collection of seized foreign records. Within the Still Photos Branch, the vast majority of these records pertain to Nazi Germany. Notable series include photographs taken by Heinrich Hoffman, Hitler’s official photographer, and a number of albums from Eva Braun, Hitler’s long-time girlfriend.   In recent months, the Still Photos Branch added another small, yet important, series of seized foreign records: Photographs Obtained from the National Socialist German Workers’ Party Archives.

Negative Jacket from Nazi Archives, 242-NA

Negative Jacket from Nazi Archives, 242-NA

In 1934, the Nazionalsozialtische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, better known as the Nazi Party, established a central records center. Called the NSDAP Hauptarchiv, the archives collected records created by Nazi officials, as well as Nazi organizations such as the SS and Hitler Youth.   Under direct orders from Rudolf Hess, the Hauptarchiv also collected documents from other institutions that documented the rise of Nazism.  As such, the Hauptarchiv contained a significant number of records from the first four decades of 20th century Germany.

When the war ended in 1945, Allied troops confiscated many records of the Hauptarchiv. These records, along with others related to the Nazi party and affiliated associations, were eventually moved to the Berlin Document Center (BDC).  The BDC kept records in order to facilitate the denazification proceedings, prosecute war criminals, and govern post-war Germany.  The BDC remained under American control until 1994, at which point the German Federal Archives, Bundesarchiv, took legal custody of the records.

In May of 1995, the records were shipped from the Bundesarchiv to NARA.  While the vast majority of these records were textual documents, a single box of photographs was later transferred to the Still Picture Branch and remained relatively unknown until a recent project to re-house and describe the material.

The photographs in this series reflect the original holdings of the NSDAP Hauptarchiv. Some images date back to 1915 and document the German role in WWI. Other photos document Nazi leadership, including numerous photographs of Hitler at the Nuremburg Rallies. The most striking photographs, however, show prisoners at Dachau concentration camp and children with disabilities. The National Archives only received contact sheets of these photos, some of which can be viewed below.

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-3

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-3

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-2

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-2

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-1

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-1

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All photographs from this series are now available upon request in the Still Photos Research Room.  See our catalog for more information.

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World War I Combat Artists – Andre Smith

Guest blogger Jan Hodges became interested in World War I combat art as a result of her involvement as a volunteer in a holdings maintenance project at the National Archives at College Park for Record Group 120, Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) Combat Forces 1918 – 1919.  This is the eighth article in the series about World War I Art and Artists.


Local Identifier: 111-SC-153116: Captain Andre Smith

Among the many images drawn by Captain Andre Smith, several capture the American experience in Belleau Wood.  Belleau Wood is famous for exemplifying the courage, grit and determination of the Marine Corps which made up the 5th and 6th regiments of the 2nd Division.

In early June 1918, the American 2nd Division joined with the French Army long the Marne River to drive the Germans out.  The division was assigned to cover nine miles of the front, near the town of Chateau-Thierry.


Local Identifier 111-SC-20139. Regimental Headquarters near Belleau Woods, located in the farm house known as Maison Blanc.  It was occupied at the time of my visit, June 28th, 1918, by Colonel Neville of the Marines.  By Captain J. Andre Smith

On June 6, the men were ordered to attack to take Belleau Wood and the village of Bouresches, just beyond Belleau Wood. The marines set out at dawn on a day that was warm and sunny. A prime objective was Hill 142, the highest point in the area. 5th Marines had the daunting task of wresting the hill, which was slightly to the west of Belleau Woods, from the Germans.  The enemy was well equipped and had the advantage of occupying the heights.  The marines lined up in rows to begin the assault. German machine guns mowed them down.  Through determination and great numbers, the marines were eventually victorious, but at a high price in terms of men and officers lost.


Local Identifier 111-SC-20144: The Trail to Belleau Woods.  By Captain J. Andre Smith.

Meanwhile, at the southern edge, Belleau Wood loomed ahead, softly green and silent. The Commanding General, James G. Harbord, of the 2nd Division expected the marines to clear the woods of the enemy in less than a day; in part because the French had informed the Americans that the woods were largely unoccupied, but also because no substantial reconnaissance of the area had been conducted. The Americans were convinced they would meet little resistance.


Local Identifier 111-SC-20168:  In Belleau Woods showing the thickness of the tree growth and the nature of the ground over which our men fought.  By. Captain J. Andre Smith.

The 6th Infantry Regiment of Marines entered the wood, in rows of five men abreast, some shoulder-to-shoulder, others separated by a few feet. Once in the woods, deadly traps ensnared the soldiers.  Thick undergrowth impeded the advance. Where the Americans found ways to move forward, they were met by unrelenting machine gun fire from hidden emplacements. The Germans killed or wounded large numbers of the surprised men. Unknown to them the marines faced the German 10th Division, a highly trained and experienced enemy.


Local Identifier 111-SC-25074: Fields of Belleau: The drawing was made on the edge of the village of Belleau and is looking across the Bouresches- Bussieres road to the north end of Belleau Wood.  In the foreground are shell holes that were occupied by Germans.  To the right are a row of American graves.  The sketch was made on August 3, 1918, by Captain Andre Smith, Engineer Corps.

The first day of the battle was a disaster. Hill 142 was taken, but German counterattacks kept the marines from advancing into the western part of Belleau.  At the southern end, the advance into the woods failed.


Local Identifier 111-SC-20171:  A Red Cross dressing station under a culvert constantly under fire on the trail to Belleau Woods.  By Captain J. Andre Smith.


Local Identifier 111-SC-20169: A roll call after the fight, a camp on the road to Belleau Woods, the first formation by squads.  By Captain J. Andre Smith. 

The battle for Belleau Wood continued until June 26, when the Germans were pushed out of the area for good. By battle’s end, the Americans had incurred almost 10,000 casualties; dead, wounded or captured by the Germans.  To honor of the sacrifice made by the men, the French renamed the wood to Bois de la Brigade de Marine.

The final part of this series will be about Harry Townsend.


National Archives. Still Pictures. Record Group 111-SC Army Signal Corps, WWI, Combat Artists, by name.

National Archives. Textual Records. Record Group 120. Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), World War I, G-2 Censorship and Press Division, Correspondence Relating to the Eight Official Artists of the AEF

Eisenhower, John S. D. Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I. Simon & Schuster. New York. 2001

Farwell, Byron:  Over There; the United States in the Great War 1917 – 1918. W. W. Norton and Co. New York.1999.

Krass, Peter. Portrait of War: The U. S. Army’s Combat Artists and the Doughboys Experience in World War I. John Wiley and Sons.  New York. 2006.


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The Challenger’s Teacher in Space Project: Photos and Video

by Judy Luis-Watson, Manager of Volunteer and Education Programs at the National Archives at College Park, MD

The inclusion of a teacher, who would become the first private citizen in space, made the Space Shuttle Challenger mission especially exciting. This was the U.S. Government’s twenty-fifth space shuttle mission, twenty-four of which had been completed successfully.

In August 1984, President Reagan announced NASA’s new “Teacher in Space Project,” which was a part of NASA’s Space Flight Participant Program, an education and outreach initiative. The application process was demanding and lengthy.

Out of over 11,000 applications, state, territorial and agency review panels each selected two nominees. A total of 114 nominees then participated in June 1985 in a week-long conference on various aspects of space education in Washington, DC. Ten teachers were selected through a national review process to continue on to the next step.


306-PSF-85-2488c: Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a 36 year old mother of two was chosen from a field of some 10,000 applicants to be the first teacher in space. A Social Studies Instructor at Concord High School in New Hampshire, she flew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in January 1986. Behind her, in the airplane, are some of the 10 finalists who joined her in testing for the assignment. The teacher-in-space program resulted from a campaign pledge made by President Ronald Reagan during the election campaign of 1984.

In July 1985, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, the ten finalists participated in thorough medical examinations and briefings about space flights. A NASA evaluation committee made up of senior NASA officials conducted further interviews with each teacher. This committee then made recommendations to the NASA Administrator, who made the final selection of two teachers.

The primary participant was Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher from Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire. Years earlier, McAuliffe had been excited about the Apollo moon landing program. In her astronaut application she wrote, “I watched the Space Age being born and I would like to participate.” The back-up was Barbara Morgan, a teacher from McCall-Donnelly Elementary School in McCall, Idaho.

Video footage documented McAuliffe and Morgan’s training at the Johnson Space Center. The Teacher in Space Project required that two classroom lessons be taught in space, and preparing the lesson plans also was documented. Finding aids for the records provide detailed descriptions of the film clips and are available in the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Research Room at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

255 STS-13778 (Teacher Training: Meeting) 

255-STS-113910 (Teacher Training: Space Station Briefing)

The seven-member crew of the Challenger Shuttle was surprisingly diverse. They were American men and women of Asian, African, and European ancestry from across the United States, including Hawaii.


306-PSF-86-208c: Crewmembers. Standing L-R: Ellison S. Onizuka, S. Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith A. Resnick. Sitting L-R: Michael J. Smith, Francis R. Scobee, Ronald E. McNair

Photographs available in the Still Picture Research Room include images of the individual crew members, the shuttle craft, the explosion during the launch on January 28, 1986, the recovery mission, and the members of The Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. The National Archives expects to receive many more records from NASA in the near future. Click through the slideshow for more information about the photographs.

While the Teacher in Space Project ended following the Challenger Shuttle accident, NASA’s work with teachers has continued through its Educator Astronaut Project. The main difference is that teachers selected for the Educator Astronaut Project are required to leave their teaching careers and are trained to serve as part of NASA’s Astronaut corps. With their classroom experience, these educator astronauts explore new ways to connect space programs with classrooms.

On August 8, 2007, Barbara Morgan, who was the backup teacher for the Challenger Shuttle mission, became NASA’s first Educator Astronaut. She was assigned to the crew aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The Challenger crew’s spirit of adventure and love of exploration and learning clearly lives on.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) holds millions of photographs, motion pictures, audio-visuals, and cartographic records–special media–created by federal government agencies. The majority of the special media are preserved and made available at Archives II, the National Archives facility in College Park, Maryland. Some of these holdings are also available online at and

Federal government agencies send their permanently valuable records to NARA after an agreed-upon time so they may be preserved and made available to the public. Special media records related to the Space Shuttle Challenger can be found in the records of:

  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA (Record Group 255)
  • The Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, 1986 (Record Group 220)
  • The United States Information Agency, USIA (Record Group 306)
  • The Office of the Secretary of Defence, 1921-2008 (Record Group 330)

For textual records related to the Space Shuttle Challenger, check and National Archives facilities in College Park, MD, Philadelphia, PA, Atlanta, GA and Fort Worth, TX, as well as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Many thanks to volunteers Harry Kidd who scanned records for this post, and Jan Hodges and Jim Tomney who described them for the online Catalog.  Much appreciation to Special Media staff Billy Wade, Carol Swain, and Audrey Amidon.


Additional Resources:

Bios of the Challenger crew

Challenger STS 51-L Accident

The families of the Space Shuttle Challenger created the Challenger Center for Space Science Education to continue the crew’s educational mission.

Information about NASA’s Educator Astronaut Program

This is not a NASA affiliated site, but covers the agency and related areas of space flight. is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry.

Vice President George Bush announces Christa McAuliffe as the winner of the Teacher in Space project, July 19, 1985.

Information about the United States Rocket Academy’s Teachers in Space program that expanded to become the Citizens in Space program.

Posted in Born-Digital Photography, Motion Pictures, Photographs | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Original Costume Sketches for a Production of Pinocchio, 1939

This post was written in collaboration with Kelsey Noel.


“This is the lesson of the penny.

Some have too many, 

Some have too few,

But share with those who haven’t any.”

                                                 – Yasha Frank

Broadway. December 23, 1938; the Ritz Theatre in Manhattan. This was opening night for Yasha Frank’s Pinocchio – a children’s play written and produced by Frank as part of the Work’s Progress Administration’s (WPA) Federal Theatre Project (FTP). Over the next six months until it closed on June 30, 1939, the theatrical presentation – well received and widely adored – would be performed in New York 197 times and work it’s way west to be performed across the country. 

Established by executive order in 1935, the WPA assumed a dominant role in work relief activities during the Great Depression. It was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs and sponsored the FTP as one of the five arts-related Federal Project Number One projects. The Federal Theatre Project was intended to improve unemployment in the entertainment industry. Actors, directors, playwrights, designers, vaudeville artists, stage technicians, and other skilled craftspeople in the theater field benefited from the program.

But in addition to providing jobs for employable people on the relief rolls, the FTP offered many Americans their first opportunity to see live theater. Many FTP productions were classical dramas, vaudeville, or light comedy, including a variety of children’s plays like Treasure Island, Hansel and Gretel and – of course – Pinocchio.

Yasha Frank, who became the Director of the Federal Theatre Children’s Unit in Los Angeles and later became National Consultant to the Children’s Theatre, made many changes to the theme and characters from Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of PinocchioHis play received widespread audience exposure across the United States, reaching many during its run on Broadway and subsequently on the west coast. One particularly interesting viewer, perhaps unsurprisingly, was Walt Disney. Inspired by Collodi and Frank’s Pinocchio, Disney released his classic animated movie in February of 1940, not long after the FTP had been dissolved and less than a year after Frank’s Pinocchio made its last appearance on Broadway.

The graphite and watercolor sketches seen throughout this post can be found in 69-PIN. Created by the Technical Department of the WPA’s National Service Bureau for a New York production, each sketch displays the original sketch number, date, and name of the character. Soon, the entire set of 32 sketches will be made digitally available for download and use from the The National Archives Catalog.

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From Selma to Montgomery: The Selma Voting Rights Movement

This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls on January 18, the anniversary of a march that Dr. King helped lead from Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church to the Selma Courthouse for the purpose of voter registration. The marchers were not allowed to register, but this was just one skirmish in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s (SCLC) ultimately successful Selma Voting Rights Movement, which began on January 2, 1965 in Selma, Alabama.

Throughout January and February of 1965, Dr. King and members of both the SCLC and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organized a campaign of marches and civil disobedience with a goal of achieving voter registration for African-American citizens. On February 18, during a march to the courthouse in Marion, Ala., a state trooper shot protester Jimmie Lee Jackson as he attempted to protect his mother from police. Jackson died eight days later.

In response to Jackson’s death, James Bevel, SCLC’s director of the Selma Voting Rights Movement, called for a march from Selma to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. The first attempt was on March 7. In what is now known as “Bloody Sunday,” police brutally attacked the marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The images of the attack contributed to growing support for the Selma Voting Rights Campaign and President Lyndon Johnson announced his intention to send a voting rights bill to Congress.

On March 9, Dr. King led a second march that also halted at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This time King led the marchers in prayer before they returned to Selma. That evening, James Reeb, a white Unitarian Universalist pastor from Boston was attacked and beaten by four white men. Reeb died two days later, leading to national displays of mourning and marches in solidarity with the Selma Movement. On March 15, President Johnson outlined a voting rights bill in an address to a joint session of Congress.

The events surrounding the two aborted marches from Selma to Montgomery and President Johnson’s address to Congress are summarized in this Universal Newsreel, released on March 15, 1965:

On March 21, SCLC and SNCC began a third march from Selma to Montgomery. Under the protection of the federalized Alabama National Guard, the marchers made their way along a 54-mile route. They arrived at the Capitol on March 25 and Dr. King delivered a speech now known as “How Long, Not Long”.

The following aerial photographs, created by the Department of Defense, show the planned march route through Montgomery, and the marchers themselves. The locations of military police are indicated by yellow arrows, civil police by green arrows, and television and radio vans by blue arrows.

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You can see high-resolution image files for the entire photo series in the National Archives Catalog.

Congress finally passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 4. President Johnson signed it on August 6, 1965, with Dr. King and other civil rights leaders present. In seven months, the Selma Voting Rights Movement helped bring desperately needed change to the entire country.

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Film Preservation 101: Why are old films sometimes pink?

Film Preservation 101 is an occasional series in which we answer our most frequently asked questions. Please submit your  burning questions about film preservation in the comments below!

What is Color Fading?

Why are old films sometimes pink? The simple answer is color fading. This might seem a little confusing, since it looks like the film just turned pink, but what has actually happened is that two of the three color dye layers (cyan and yellow) have faded, leaving magenta the prominent hue.


A USDA film from 1970 that has experienced color-fading.

Color fading is an issue because of the introduction of Kodak’s Eastmancolor in 1950. Eastmancolor was a huge deal at the time because it used a single strip of film rather than the three separate film rolls required to create a Technicolor print (for more on how Technicolor worked, see The Three Strip Camera and The Dye Transfer Printing Process videos produced by the George Eastman House). 1950s Eastmancolor prints were probably gorgeous when they were first screened, but since the dyes were unstable, most of us have only seen them as magenta.

It was not until the late 1970s that filmmakers became widely aware that their works were fading and raised the alarm. At the forefront of color preservation efforts was Martin Scorsese, who famously said that he shot Raging Bull (1980) in black and white “to avoid the color problem entirely.”[i] (The home movies sequences in Raging Bull are in color—Kodachrome and other reversal home movie stocks do not fade.) In response to the industry backlash, Kodak quickly developed more stable color dyes, but the damage was already done. The film industry had already produced 30 years worth of faded color films. At the National Archives, we know that, with very few exceptions, a non-reversal color print will be magenta before we even look at it. The government had mostly switched to video by the 1980s, so we don’t have a lot of color prints that haven’t faded. Luckily, the Eastmancolor negatives did not fade anywhere near as much as the prints, so our original negatives, while shifted a bit, have a lot of color to work with. A sizable percentage of government films were made with Kodachrome or Ektachrome reversal, as well, and have retained their original glorious color.

How Can Color Fading Be Prevented?

This one’s easy: By keeping the film cold, chemical processes slow down. That means that the color dye fading slows down as well. At the National Archives, our color films are kept at a toasty 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Our cold vault is essentially a giant meat freezer, but tricked out with movable shelving instead of meat hooks. Preserving on newer stocks will yield a more stable copy, and we can adjust color levels somewhat, but we can’t fix it completely. The good news is that even a film that appears to be completely magenta will usually have some remnants of the blue and cyan dyes. Freezing the film keeps the color from fading any further and ensures that there is something there for us to recover when we transfer the film digitally.

How Do We Fix Color Fading?

While we can attempt to re-balance the color when we create new preservation copies photochemically, the digital tools we have available to us are so much more powerful that there’s really no comparison. We adjust color settings on the scanner before we capture, and then use filters in our editing software to further restore the color. Since we’re usually transferring films for access copies and not doing a full-scale restoration, we probably spend less than ten minutes making adjustments. Considering that, the results are incredible.

Check out these examples from a film we recently featured on the blog, The Year of 53 Weeks. You can see that while we were not able to recover the full range of color, we have evened out color palette so that the fading is not so distracting. You can watch the complete film here.

For much, much more information on color dye fading and how to prevent it, see “The Permanent Preservation of Color Motion Pictures,” Chapter 9 of The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs by Henry Wilhelm, and Storage Guide for Color Photographic Materials, by James Reilly of the Image Permanence Institute, both available online for free download.

[i] Martin Scorsese “Letter to the Editor,” Film Comment, January-February 1980, quoted in The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs, pg. 306.

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FDR’s “Four Freedoms” Speech

This post was written by Criss Kovac. Criss Kovac is the supervisor of the Motion Picture Preservation Lab.

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation in the 153rd State of the Union Address. Known more popularly as the “Four Freedoms Speech,” he proposed four fundamental freedoms that all people should have the right to – Freedom of speech and worship and freedom from want and fear. He also spoke out against dictators, in support of providing assistance to Britain and her allies, and in readying America for potential conflict.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Four Freedoms speech, the Motion Picture Preservation Lab undertook a full digital restoration of the Paramount Newsreel covering the speech. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library provided us with a negative that was two generations removed from the original negative. Below is a clip from the newsreel.

Using our DFT Spirit 4K film scanner, we captured the images from the negative and then used our Digital Vision Nucoda Film Master color correction and restoration program to create the digital master. The Film Master software is extremely good at automated removal of defects such as dirt, dust, and scratches introduced over time, but it isn’t perfect, so manual defect removal is frequently required. Manual defect removal consists of performing fixes frame by frame, a time-consuming and tedious process. To give an idea of how long this process can take – the film is approximately 8 ½ minutes long and the restoration process took forty hours.

The original soundtrack on the newsreel is a variable density track which was full of hiss, pops, crackles, and inherent hum that made it extremely difficult to hear the speech. Staff at the FDR Library instead used a 1/4″ audio recording that was transferred from an original disc recording of the speech. Unfortunately, the audio did not sync up exactly. Nick Tormey, senior editor at the Pare Lorentz Center, manually edited the recording sentence by sentence to match the film.

For more on Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, see “The Four Freedoms Remastered” at the FDR Library’s “Forward with Roosevelt” blog.

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