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.

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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.

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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 archives.gov and docsteach.org.

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 archives.gov 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:

http://history.nasa.gov/Biographies/challenger.html

Bios of the Challenger crew

http://www.history.nasa.gov/sts51l.html

Challenger STS 51-L Accident

http://www.challenger.org/

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

http://education.ssc.nasa.gov/neap.asp

Information about NASA’s Educator Astronaut Program

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=28219.0

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

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/reagan-teacher/

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

http://www.citizensinspace.org/teachers-in-space-the-history/

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.

Posted in Aerial Photography, Films, Military, Photographs, Universal News Collection | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

faded-16mm-ppck

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.

Posted in Motion Pictures, Preservation | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

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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Vintage Footage Reveals How NORAD Tracks Santa

This Christmas Eve, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will have tracked Santa Claus’s journey around the world for 60 years.

norad-santa

A NORAD staff member uses a radar scope to monitor Santa’s progress. (Still from 330-DVIC-39346)

Colonel Harry Shoup began the tradition in 1955, after receiving a phone call from a child expecting to reach Santa Claus. The misdirected call was the result of the child reversing two numbers of a Santa Line phone number printed in a Sears advertisement.

Colonel Shoup ran with the idea, and began releasing updates on Santa’s whereabouts to the press.

In 1974, the NORAD released this footage to television stations in order to show the public how NORAD’s Santa tracking operations worked.

This year, 1,250 volunteers will staff the NORAD phone lines. The volunteers are a mix of Canadian and American military personnel and Department of Defense civilians. The Santa Tracker hotline can be reached at 1(877)446-6723 starting at 3AM MST on December 24th and continuing through 3AM MST on December 25th. You can also e-mail noradtrackssanta@outlook.com for an update on Santa’s location on Christmas Eve. Visit NORAD’s Santa Tracker online to follow the jolly old man’s travels, play games, or learn more about the project.

You can hear Colonel Shoup’s children reminisce about their father in this lovely StoryCorps piece.

For much more on the history of NORAD’s Santa Tracker, see this article, which traces the operation over the past 60 years.

Posted in Fun Films, Motion Pictures | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Christmas on Base: 13 Images of Our Soldiers at Christmas

This post was written in collaboration with Kelsey Noel. Kelsey is an Archives Technician with the Still Picture Branch in College Park, MD.

This week we are highlighting images from RG 111-CCS, the General Subject Photographic Files of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, which documents non-combat activities in the United States and abroad. These photos, taken between 1953 and 1966, depict servicemen taking part in Christmas festivities on military bases across the United States.

The Special Media Division would like to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season!

111-CCS-222-CC25213

Privates David D. Acker (Left) of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Algeon T. Rucker of Loretto, Kentucky, provide the final touches for the tree outside Fort Jackson’s Third Training Regiment Headquarters. Both men are in Advanced Infantry Training with Company A, 11th Battalion, Third Training Regiment. 16 December 1963. Photograph by SP4 Jessie J. Phillips. Local ID: 111-CCS-222-CC25213.

111-CCS-222-CC25687

Santa Claus (Sgt Robert Youmans, Advanced Airborne School) lands at Fort Campbell. 16 December 1963. Photograph by Sp4 Douglas K. Lange. Local ID: 111-CCS-222-CC25687.

111-CCS-222-CC25205

“All we have to do now is paint the nose red.” Specialist 5 Herbert Gaskin and Private Wayne Lowe apply the last coats of fiber glass paint to the reindeer that are to be displayed for Christmas decorations at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. 10 December 1963.Photograph by SP5 Norbert Miller. Local ID:111-CCS-222-CC25205.

111-CCS-222-CC21386

Santa Claus–Saint Nick came early this year at Fort Carson, as seen here with a tank crew of 1st Bn, Co C, 77th Armor, 5th Inf Div (Mech). The soldiers had decorated the tree – a live one growing on the Fort Carson training range – while on a field problem. L to R: Sfc Leslie Chavis (Penbroke, N.C.; Pfc Lawrance D. Jacobson (Jackson, Mich); Pfc Odis E. Cagle (El Centro, Calif); and Pfc Douglas P. Mitschke (Cleveland, Ohio). 8 November 1962. Photograph by Sfc R. Bowen, Jr. Local ID:111-CCS-222-CC21386.

111-CCS-222-CC25688

Platoon Sgt Raymond Schields, Teen Club Director helps Santa (M/Sgt Beal) distribute candy to children after Santa’s arrival at the Dad’s Club on 16 December 1963. Photograph by Sp4 Douglas K. Lange. Local ID: 111-CCS-222-CC25688.

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Rehearsing for the Christmas Season, dependents of Army personnel are coached at choir rehearsal by M/Sgt Eldon J. Johnston, drill master for the crack, US Army drill team of the 3rd Infantry. Fort Myer, Virginia. 20 December 1962. Photograph by I C Rapoport. Local ID: 111-CCS-222-C21264.

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Airman 2/C Roy W. Segee of the 4638 Support Squadron, Fort Lee, Va. Is presented with a Christmas Tree from Mrs. J.P. Landry, a Grey Lady at Womack Army Hospital who is assisting Mrs. John A. Seitz, C.G. XVIII ABN CORPS Artillery, Fort Bragg, N.C. 12 December 1963. Photograph by Sp5 H.J. Swartout. Local ID: 111-CCS-222-CC24914.

111-CCS-222-CC33274

A few presents and a card from home add a little warmth to the tent of PFC Dennis F. West, of Company C, 4th Battalion 9th Inf. Thousands of soldiers like West will spend Christmas in Alaska. Some of his Artic gear surrounds him. 6 January 1966. Photograph by Pvt Ejvind Kjens. Local ID: 111-CCS-222-CC33274

111-CCS-222-CC25690

Sp5 Lee R. Groves, Co. C., 39th Engr Bn and Pvt Ernest Otto, B Co., 27th Engr Bn lower a freshly painted bicycle into place among others that have been repaired and painted as part of Operation Santa Claus, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. 16 December 1963. Photograph by Sp4 Douglas K. Lange. Local ID: 111-CCS-222-CC25690.

111-CCS-222-CC25745

Sp4 Edgars Rerichs, unit draftsman of the 9th FA Msl Gp utilizes his talent to bring a child’s toy to life with new paint and a smile. 17 December 1963. Photograph by Clarence E. Williams. Local ID: 111-CCS-222-CC25745.

111-CCS-222-CC24607

Mrs. Carolyn Crush looks on with concern as Daddy (S/Sgt Richard L Crush, RA 13 482 173, Detachment 2101-04), and Bon Michael play war games at the Fort George G. Meade, Maryland Xmas Toyland. The Crush’s Hometown is Tamgua, Pa. 23 November 1962. Photograph by Mr. Morris J W Sheerer. Local ID: 111-CCS-222-CC24607.

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Young Lisa Gillis, Daughter of Sp5 Gary Gillis shows Daddy the doll she has decided to ask Santa to bring at Christmas. 4 December 1962. Photograph by Mr. Donald Smith. Local ID: 111-CCS-222-CC21424

111-CCS-222-CC21425

Young Patrick Smith, Son of Mr. Donald Smith, Sixth US Army Photo Lab, admires the toys at Presidio of San Francisco Toyland, perhaps dreaming of Christmas morning as SP4 Jorge P. Saenz, Sixth Army Photo Lab, looks on. Project AP-75f. 4 December 1962. Photograph by Mr. Donald A. Smith. Local ID: 111-CCS-222-CC21425.

 

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Holiday Mail Call! A Package’s Path to You

It’s the time of year when fireplace mantles are filling up with holiday cards and brown-wrapped parcels are delivered to doorsteps. The packages, letters, and cards we drop into mail-slots across the country contribute to an annual crescendo in the activities of the United States Postal Service (USPS). In the 2015 holiday season, the USPS expects to deliver 15.5 billion pieces of mail, including over half a billion packages. Over 600,000 postal workers are dedicated to making sure that all of this holiday mail is successfully delivered.

But, even with all those people, 15.5 billion pieces of mail are just too much for humans alone to process and deliver. The USPS relies on many machines and automated processes in order to increase efficiency and ensure speedy deliveries. At the National Archives and Records Administration, we hold numerous films that document the development of this technology.

Before 1971, the USPS was known as the Post Office Department (POD). Some advances in the automation of mail processing were achieved in the 1950s and 1960s, but they were not enough to keep up with ever-increasing amounts of mail. In 1966, the Chicago Post Office found itself with such a large backlog of mail that it had to be shut down. Mail was routed through other post offices, causing a widespread disruption in service. On July 5, 1966, Congress passed Public Law 89-492, an act establishing the Bureau of Research and Engineering within the USPS. As seen in the following film from 1970, the Bureau carried out research and development activities aimed at innovating ways to automate some of the more repetitive and time-consuming aspects of postal work.

Other Bureau of Research and Engineering films highlight specific processes, such as mail culling and stamp cancelling (this time in 1968).

The USPS was also an early adopter of large-scale Optical Character Recognition, or OCR. This next 1970 film explains how an OCR system could read the city, state, and zip code of an address to expedite the sorting process.

This holiday season, whether you’re scheduling pickup of a package or buying seasonal stamps at a Self Service Postal Unit, take a moment to think about all of the fascinating work that goes on behind the scenes of the USPS every day of the year.

The USPS has information about holiday shipping deadlines here.

You can watch our entire playlist of postal service films here!

Posted in Films, Motion Pictures | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Favorite Film Finds of 2015

In the past year, staff in the motion picture preservation lab handled nearly three million feet of film. Films might come to us for inspection and repair, photochemical duplication, or digitization. To follow up last year’s list, we’ve identified a handful of films that were digitized in 2015 and found their way to our list of favorites. This year’s list covers four decades and five different agencies.

 

Stay Alert, Stay Alive, 1971 (65-32)

This FBI training film repeatedly demonstrates the incorrect way to conduct an arrest, inevitably leading to disastrous results. The preview frame in the YouTube video shows a man with a jigsaw; in the film, arresting agents give the man a moment to change his jacket and thus the opportunity to nearly kill himself with the power tool before the agents are able to unplug it (at 14:21). This film really caught our attention, though, because of an over-the-top scene where a suspect asks to say goodbye to his cat, Alfred. The man pretends like he needs to get some catnip from the drawer, and shoots Alfred and then himself (at 9:33). Luckily, the film only uses sound effects to convey the action. Stay Alert, Stay Alive also features some really great music.

 

Undercover, ca. 1942 (226-B-6032)

This year, we transferred a couple of films for a John Ford retrospective at the Cinémathèque Française. One of them was Undercover (the other was the Army classic Sex Hygiene). The Office of Strategic Services made Undercover during World War II to train agents how not to blow their cover. Like Stay Alert, Stay Alive, the film provides examples of how not to behave while on the job. Undercover wasn’t just made by the legendary director John Ford, though. Ford actually appears as an undercover agent posing as a lawyer, which is what earns the film a place on our list of favorite films.

 

It’s Up to You! 1943 (208-50)

We’ve seen and transferred a lot of government films made during World War II, but this Department of Agriculture production stood out. First, because its focus is the homefront, and second because it’s one of the most heavy-handed pieces of propaganda we’ve encountered. By the end of this film, you’ll be certain that the war effort depends on your making good use of food. The farmers are doing your part–so should you! If you buy that black market meat, you’ll be directly contributing to the starvation of the troops. It’s Up to You! also features some special effects not often seen in government productions and, as we learned at the Northeast Historic Film Summer Symposium, was edited by “lost” woman director Elizabeth Wheeler.

 

Once Too Often, 1950 (111-TF-1684)

Before Jack Lemmon was famous, he had his first starring role in an Army Signal Corps film. A tried and true formula, Once Too Often tells the story of Mike (played by Lemmon), who has ten days of leave and manages to nearly get himself killed in ten different ways. In addition to a young Jack Lemmon, this film features two “Fates,” some beautiful photography, and some fairly humorous situations. What’s not to like?

 

CG 8225: The People and the Police, 1971 (381-P-1)

When former D.C. mayor Marion Barry died last fall, the National Archives blog Rediscovering Black History featured records that documented Barry’s life and career. That was the first we knew of this fascinating documentary, which depicts the establishment of a pilot project to improve community-police relations in Washington, D.C., and also shows how Barry became a force in city politics. The film was commissioned by the Office of Economic Opportunity and was intended to be a training film of sorts, to help with expanding the program to other cities. The Pilot District Project never fully emerged from controversy and turmoil, which is evident in the The People and the Police as it unfolds. As a result, the film was never distributed, and OEO sent it to the National Archives within a couple years of its production. We think that The People and the Police is an important record of D.C. history that is still relevant today. Much more about the Pilot District Project and the film is in our blog post.

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A Fair to Remember: Colored Lantern Slides at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition

One century ago, San Francisco’s 1915 World’s Fair closed its doors, ending one of the most unique events in American history.  For 288 days, the fair brought together an odd array of individuals that seemingly belong in different chapters of the history textbook.  Civil War veterans could watch as Henry Ford produced a car every ten minutes on his assembly line.  Original miner 49ers could traverse a fake mine and see a glowing, radioactive mineral called radium.  Patty Reed, a surviving member of the infamous Donner party, could walk through General Electric’s model house and marvel at their flameless toaster.  At a time when only 20 percent of Americans had electricity, fairgoers could pay to take an airplane ride or make a transcontinental phone call to New York.  It was a moment of change, and a fair to remember.

Photograph of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition at night, 1915. Local ID: 16-SFX-73

Photograph of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition at Night, 1915. Local ID: 16-SFX-73

The fair itself, also known as the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), marked two monumental achievements.  The first was the completion of the Panama Canal.  The United States began construction on the canal in 1904 and finished in 1914.  Dubbed “The 13th Labor of Hercules,” the canal shortened the shipping route from New York to San Francisco by 7,700 miles.  The new sea route enhanced American business, and helped make San Francisco one of the world’s preeminent port cities.

The second achievement was the reconstruction of San Francisco.  Less than a decade before, San Francisco was reduced to rubble by one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. The 1906 earthquake decimated the young city.  Many believed the reconstruction could never restore San Francisco to its prior glory, or would at least take generations to complete.  Less than a decade later, however, the rebuilt San Francisco hosted one of the largest gatherings of all time. Over the course of its 10-month span, nearly 19 million people attended the World’s Fair.  At the time, California’s population was roughly 3.5 million.

The National Archives has photographic records from many of the world’s fairs.  Few, however, are quite as striking as the colored lantern slides from the Panama Pacific International Exhibition.  Lantern slides were a popular form of photography in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Photographers would often develop images onto light-sensitive lantern glass, cover the image with an additional layer of protective glass, and bind the two layers together with paper tape.  In some instances, such as the examples in this blog, slides were hand-colored using oil paints, dyes, or pigments.  The lantern slides could then be projected to a viewing audience, and were ideal for educational or professional settings.

These slides here are all part of the series, Panama-Pacific International Exposition.  The photos were taken by Joseph Abel under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture.  Abel was a scientist with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry, and Chief of Exhibits for the Bureau’s exhibit at the PPIE.

All images from this series have recently been digitized and will soon be made available online.

 

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