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In an effort to provide information on recently declassified motion pictures and sound recordings the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch will publish a quarterly list of newly declassified records. The United States Army (USA), United States Air Force (USAF), and the Department of Energy (DOE) have declassified nearly 200 films and sound recordings in the past few years.

Shah Goes to Moscow (Local Identifier 341-IR-38-56/ARC Identifier 6040018), dated 1956, is an example of one declassified film. It comes from the U.S. Air Force series “Moving Images Relating to Intelligence Reports, compiled 1964 – 1998, documenting the period 1949 – 1958 (ARC Identifier 5964869 / Local Identifier 341-IR) and shows Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavī, the Shah of Iran, as he prepared to leave on a plane to Russia.



Descriptive information for these records is accessible through NARA’s  Archival Research Catalog (ARC) by searching for the item number, for example “341-IR-38-56”. You may also search on the Declassification Project Number (NND), if you know one. Searching on the declassification number for Shah Goes to Moscow, “NND 62901”, currently returns four entries that are part of Declassification Project 62901.

A list of declassified textual records is located on the National Declassification Center’s web page. You may also want to visit the NDC blog for more information on declassified records.


As of December 31, 2012 the following records have been declassified.

Motion Pictures:


Local Identifier           Title

111-DTCF-65-12        Devil Hole I

111-DTCF-65-14        Elk Hunt I and II (Part 1 and 2)

111-DTCF-65-4          Magic Sword, 1966

111-DTCF-65-6          Big Tom

111-DTCF-66-1          Devil Hole II

111-DTCF-66-6          Purple Sage; Scarlet Sage

111-DTCF-68-50        Speckled Start

319.6                           Enclosure to Dispatch C-21-60 from MA/Yugoslavia, R-102-60, (ID # 2153844) (W.O. 31777)


Department of Energy

Local Identifier           Title

326.89                         Dogs and Dummies in Shelter, Civil Effects Tests 1954

326.90                         Apple II

326.91                         Weapons Effects Test Grable

326.92                         Project 31.1 Conventional and Special Types of Readiness


Air Force

Local Identifier           Title

341-G-2                      Colom-Bechar: Porte du Ciel

341-IR-38-56              Shah Goes to Moscow (1956)

341-IR-41-58              Soviet Air Capabilities MAR 58

341-IR-42-58              Soviet News Review MAR 58

341-IR-82-49              May Day Parade (5/1/49)

342-AAFCFS-1672    Narco-Synthesis Treatment for Downed Airmen

342-AVA-423             Recovery of the Mayaguez 05/15/75

342-AVR-137             Red Flag Briefing

342-AVR-143             NATO Air Munitions

342-AVR-148             Worldwide Security Police Symposium–The Threat

342-AVR-198             E-3A (AWACS) Orientation

342-AVR-239             Defector:  A Soviet Pilot

342-AVR-240             Defector:  A Chinese Pilot

342-ER-34                  Beginning of a New Era

342-ER-73                  IM 70 Weapons System

342-FR-3A                  Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Program:  Manned Aircraft, 1961

342-FR-8                    ARDC Staff Film Report No. 50

342-FR-13                  ARDC Staff Film Report No. 52, SEP 58

342-FR-22                  ARDC Staff Film Report No. 54, November 1958

342-FR-28                  ARDC Staff Film Report No. 55

342-FR-29                  ARDC Staff Film Report No. 56, 1959

342-FR-36                  ARDC Staff Film Report No. 57

342-FR-38                  Air Defense in Operation WEX-VAL

342-FR-58                  ARDC SFR No. 61

342-FR-59                  Intelligence Briefing, Soviet Air/ICBM Threat to the United States, 1959-1963

342-FR-64                  ARDC Staff Film Report No. 62, July 1959

342-FR-117                ARDC Staff Film Report No. 73

342-FR-120                Sino-Soviet Bloc Air Defense

342-FR-134                ARDC Staff Film Report 376, SEP 60

342-FR-138                ARDC Staff Film Report #77, OCT 60

342-FR-146                ARDC Staff Film Report # 79

342-FR-154                ARDC Staff Film Report #80

342-FR-164                ARDC Staff Film Report #82, April 1961

342-FR-169                ARDC Staff Film Report #83, May 1961

342-FR-179                ARDC Staff Film Report #84

342-FR-186                Space Programs – Second Quarter 1961

342-FR-190                AFSC SFR #85

342-FR-319N              Air Reconnaissance in Action South Vietnam 1963

342-FR-385                The F-111 Tactical Fighter

342-FR-755                Combat and Support Activities S.E.A./Air Defense in S.E.A.

342-FR-756                Combat and Support Activities 02/01/67

342-FR-759                Riot Control Munitions

342-FR-768                Electronic Warfare Combat Operations in S.E.A.

342-FR-770                Project Rapid Roger

342-FR-899                AFSC Staff Film Report No. 176

342-FR-1031              Foreign Technology Division Annual Activities 1968

342-FR-1036              Electronic System Division Annual Report 1968

342-FR-1041              S.E.A. Combat Activities 10/01/68

342-GDS-82               Israeli Gun Camera Footage (1967)

342-HO-4                    Southeast Asia TV Briefing-Intelligence Special 24/01/68

342-PS-36-5/52          Friendly Enemy

342-PS-40-5/52          ARS in S.E.A.

342-PS-67-7/52          Aerial Combat Chase Photography

342-PS-91-0/C            Pave Eagle

342-PS-107-7/50        Tactical Air Power in Southeast Asia

342-PS-130-AD-3/C   [Homecoming] Feb. 13, 18, 20, 1973

342-PS-130-AF-3/C   [Vietnam Homecoming]

342-PS-181-1/C          USAF Gunship Operations

342-PS-265-5/52        Homecoming

342-SFP-593               Electronic Countermeasures (Test Facility) 1958

342-SFP-1173             USAF Participation Operation Dominic

342-SFP-1953             Summer Interdiction Campaign (1968)

342-SPR-7-73             Paisley Print Task I, Wright Patterson AFB, OH

342-SPR-5-74             Laser Rangefinder Radar Countermeasure Techniques

342-SPR-21-70           Cosmonaut Training

342-TF-5168               Air Crew Recovery

342-TF-5363               Nuclear Effects During SAC Mission

342-TF-5354A            Low Level Mission Techniques-B-47

342-TF-5354B            Low Level Mission Techniques-B-52

342-TF-5374               Electronic Warfare

342-TF-5390B            Electronic Warfare in Air Defense Command (ADC): Electronic Countermeasure (ECM) Inventory

342-TF-5390C            Electronic Warfare in Air Defense Command (ADC): Penetration Techniques

342-TF-5390D            Electronic Warfare in Air Defense Command (ADC): Mechanical Jamming

342-TF-5390E                        Electronic Warfare in Air Defense Command (ADC): Spot Jamming

342-TF-5390F             Electronic Warfare in Air Defense Command (ADC): Sweep Jamming

342-TF-5390G            Electronic Warfare in Air Defense Command (ADC): Barrage Jamming

342-TF-5390J             Electronic Warfare in Air Defense Command (ADC): Communications Jamming

342-TF-5390K            Electronic Warfare in Air Defense Command (ADC):  The Battle Staff & Electronic Countermeasure (ECM)

342-TF-5390L                        Electronic Warfare in Air Defense Command (ADC): AJ Console

342-TF-5390M           Electronic Warfare in Air Defense Command (ADC): Height Finder in an Electronic Countermeasure (ECM) Environment

342-TF-5390P            Electronic Warfare in Air Defense Command (ADC): Mechanical Jamming

342-TF-5746               BMEWS Mission-Men of the Top

342-TF-6768A            F-4 Terminex Guided Weapons System

342-TF-6768B            F-4 Terminex Guided Weapons System

342-TF-6853A            F-111 Weapon System

342-TF-6856               F-111 Weapon System

342-TF-6857               F-111 Weapon System

342-TS-1517               Wild Weasel Equipment – Computer & Missile Equipment (CAMP)

342-USAF-21572       ABCR Warfare Decontamination, Eglin Field, FLA, 9 MAR-11 May 53

342-USAF-21858       Soviet Bombers (May 1954)

342-USAF-21961       CCTF

342-USAF-22189       RB-66 Weapons System

342-USAF-23239       Early Warning Posts Near the Iron Curtain, Schonfeld Germany 5 FEB 56

342-USAF-23397       Project Bird Dog Edwards AFB, CA

342-USAF-23569       Keystone in Pacific “Okinawa Briefing”, 1955

342-USAF-24110       Weapon System 123A (GOOSE) 1956 Report

342-USAF-24356       Project Hiran Manila Air Station South Cay North Danger Island South China S.E.A.

342-USAF-24457       Anti-Jamming Techniques

342-USAF-24659A    F-102 News Report No. 2, May 1956

342-USAF-24871A    Soviet Industry

342-USAF-25206       Phase II Flight Tests of the Boeing XB-52, NOV 52 – MAR 53

342-USAF-25757       Monticello (All Weather Day & Night Radar Photo Mapping System)

342-USAF-26306       White Lance – GAM 83 (Navy Bullpup) Annual Guided Missile Review

342-USAF-26350       The B-70 Weapon Introductory System

342-USAF-26724       Application of High Energy Fuels to Aircraft Gas Turbine Engines

342-USAF-27691       Bio-Science, Studies in Advanced Vehicles, Discoverer, Mice

342-USAF-27712       Quail Newsreel (GAM-72) Prototype Tactical Missiles Fly (1958)

342-USAF-27915       Salvage, Nose Cone Recovery, 4 December 1958

342-USAF-28944       MG-13 Radar Countermeasures Part II, Operating Techniques, March 8, 1961

342-USAF-29761       JCS Visit Lowry

342-USAF-31344       Lightweight Turbojet

342-USAF-34359       Human Factors Test Experimental Stress Project

342-USAF-36721       C-123B Crash, Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, 14-16 April 1963

342-USAF-36807       Discoverer History (1956 – 1961)

342-USAF-37223       F-111 Progress & Development 6 JUN 62 – 24 JUN 64

342-USAF-38216       The U.S. Crime of Bacteriological Warfare – The Evidence (Documentary)

342-USAF-38536       Air Rescue Udorn AB & Nakhon Phanom AB, Thailand, June 1965

342-USAF-38666       Target Selections & Air Strike Control RVN NOV 63 – JUN 64

342-USAF-40328       Rice Bowl Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, 11 DEC 1965

342-USAF-41673A    Wild Weasel S.E.A. 22 SEPT. 1966

342-USAF-41853       Blind Bat S.E.A. OCT 66

342-USAF-42172       Tiger Hound 8/22/66

342-USAF-42172A    Tiger Hound 17 SEPT. 1966

342-USAF-42295       First B-52 Mission at U-Tapao 10-11 April 1967

342-USAF-42417D    S.E.A. Air Strikes

342-USAF-42488       Rapid Roger

342-USAF-42605       Combat and Support Activities S.E.A. (Air Defense in S.E.A.) 16 NOV. 1966

342-USAF-42675A    Air Strikes, RVN April and JUN 1967

342-USAF-43123B     Muscle Shoals, RVN, 1968

342-USAF-43123D    Muscle Shoals, RVN, March 1968

342-USAF-43123E     Muscle Shoals, FEB-MAR 68

342-USAF-43565       Muscle Shoals DOO: 1968

342-USAF-43565A    Muscle Shoals

342-USAF-43565B     Muscle Shoals, Nakhon Phanom RT AFB DEC 67-JAN 68

342-USAF-43565G    Muscle Shoals, 9 Dec 1967 – 3 May 1968

342-USAF-43607B     Gunship II, Nha Trang AB, RVN, December 1967

342-USAF-43747       Muscle Shoals, March 1968

342-USAF-43747A    Muscle Shoals, April 1968

342-USAF-43747B     Muscle Shoals S.E.A.

342-USAF-44142       Muscle Shoals, 16 May 1968

342-USAF-44142A    Muscle Shoals

342-USAF-44142B     Air Strikes, S.E.A.  April-June 1968

342-USAF-44582       POW Life in NVN

342-USAF-44826       Gunship II 9954-Gun Boat 5 June 67

342-USAF-45085       Photo Mapping in S.E.A.

342-USAF-45591       Commando Nail, RVN OCT 1967

342-USAF-46188       Nimrods (Nakhon Phanom, RTAFB, Thailand, July 29 – Aug. 12, 1969)

342-USAF-46215       A-16 Today, Southeast Asia, 1, 3, 9 NOV 69

342-USAF-46216       A-1 Air Documentation and VNAF AC 47′s S.E.A.

342-USAF-46510B     Pave Pronto, Ubon RTAFB, Thailand

342-USAF-46623B     Pave Pronto – 28 December 1970

342-USAF-46623C     Pave Pronto – 28, 29 December 1970

342-USAF-46623D    Pave Pronto – 30 December 1970

342-USAF-46623E     Pave Pronto – 31 December 1970

342-USAF-47458       Operation Niagara Tan Son Nhut AB, Vietnam 23 MAR 69

342-USAF-47741       Minuteman 1B Launch and Blow-Up Vandenberg AFB, CA 16 SEPT. 1966

342-USAF-48372A    Laser Guided Evaluation Armament Developing & Testing Center -Eglin AFB, FLA. 10 JAN – May 1970

342-USAF-49004       F-4 Crash Site

342-USAF-51212       Anti-Satellite System, 20 SEPT 1967

342-USAF-60316       B-52 Hound Dog Launches, Eglin AFB, FLA; 7 FEB 1973 – 16 JUL 1973

342-USAF-60402       Laser Effects Kirtland AFB, NM; 15 AUG 1972

342-USAF-60402A    Laser Effects Kirtland AFB, NM; 15 AUG 1972

342-USAF-60403       Laser Gun Kirtland AFB, NM; 19 SEPT. 1972

342-USAF-60406       Laser Briefing Film Kirtland AFB, NM March 1973

342-VBP-8                  Spike FAC – Ubon RTAFB, Thailand; 3 May 1971

342-VBP-9                  Wolf FAC, Ubon RTAFB, Thailand; 1 April 1971

342-VBP-33                Pave Pronto 2 February 1972

342-VBP-82                Pave Pronto – Best of the Week (AC 130 Gunship Night Ops); 16-22 March 1972

342-VBP-113              Pave Aegis, Ubon RTAFB, Thailand; 12 March 1972

342-VBP-219              AAD-5 Introduction and Employment, Udorn RTAFB, Thailand; May – June 1973

342-VCR-6011           Commando Vault, Cam Ranh Bay AB, RVN, 1971

342-VR-FS01-508      Mayaguez Control, Sub Title; Operation Rescue-Mayaguez

342-VR-FS01-509      The Recovery of the SS Mayaguez

342-VR-FS01-511      SS Mayaguez Recovery (Armed Surveillance, Spectre 11, 21, 31) 13-15 May 1975



Sound Recordings:


Local Identifier           Title

319.1   319.53           Army Civil Disturbance Planning Conference, 1968

319.3                           Exit Interview with BG Glenn J. Collins, MC 0022687, SURG, 44TH MED BRIG

319.5                           Exit Interview with Col. James W. Thompson, MC, 072651, CO, 43RD MED GRP, 44TH MED BDE, (NHA TRANG) 31 JUL 68

319.13                         Command Readiness Presentation to Chief of Staff

319.15                         Speech by BG Blakefield: “The US Army Intelligence Command”

319.50                         Command Briefing: LTC Gillette 21 JUL 67

319.52                         Farewell Address of MG McChristian (ACSI-DA), Ft. Holabird, MD 30 APR 71

I’m writing this blog post to highlight and provide a link to a recent article posted online by National Archives volunteer and Still Picture researcher Harry B. Kidd.  The article, “Navy Transport Stranded on Fire Island Beach“, tells the story of the grounding of the USS Northern Pacific on the Fire Island sandbar and the actions taken by the U.S. Coast Guard. The majority of the photographs used in the article were found in the Still Picture series “Signal Corps Photographs of American Military Activity, 1754-1954″.  Mr. Kidd has also found other interesting photographs in our collection relating to World War I while performing research and has posted them online for others to view.

Hollywood Roundtable

by on September 21, 2012

This week’s guest post is from Richard Green, an archive technician with the Motion Picture, Video and Recorded Sound Division of NARA’s Research Services, located in College Park, MD.  He is currently studying history and psychology at the University of Maryland and is looking forward to attending graduate school in the fall of 2013.

The National Archives in College Park currently houses tens of thousands of films, videos and audio clips from the United States Information Agency.  Yet this large collection is distinct from others for one obvious reason: the vast majority of it was never intended to be seen by anyone living in the United States.

In 1948 the U.S. Congress passed a bill known as the Smith-Mundt Act. The act allowed the United States to spread information to foreign countries during times of peace. The act also prohibited the distribution of information within the United States.

By the 1950s, Soviet information agencies were spreading their beliefs around the world. When it became evident that the U.S. was losing this “war of ideas” the need to spread information grew even stronger. In 1953, President Eisenhower created the United States Information Agency (USIA). The agency was designed to make foreign nations more receptive to U.S. foreign policy.

As Cold War tensions continued to escalate, the desire to spread American ideas increased accordingly. In the early 1960s, John F. Kennedy took steps to advance American influence abroad. Kennedy appointed media icon Edward R. Murrow to lead the USIA and increased the agency’s budget dramatically.

Yet the USIA still faced the monumental task of convincing skeptical foreign nations that their government should embody the principles of the United States. This message was especially difficult to convey while hundreds of thousands of Americans were protesting inequality in the nation’s capital.


Photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the crowd during the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, D.C.
ARC Identifier 6641456 / Local Identifier 330-CFD-DA-SD-05-00640

On August 28, 1963, 250,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. to “March for Jobs and Freedom.” Better known today as the March on Washington, the famous protest took place on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Though there were many prominent speakers that day, the march will always be synonymous with Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Coverage of the event was broadcast to Britain and France, and relayed to other countries around the world.

Since the world was already aware of the March on Washington, USIA directors had no choice but to embrace the event. In fact, the USIA produced multiple films about the march. All of these films focused on the advancement of minority rights through the inherently American principle of free speech. The most recognized of these films was a documentary titled The March, ( 306.765 ) , which focused on the planning and execution of the iconic rally.

I was particularly struck by another USIA film called the Hollywood Roundtable (306.1757). In addition to the popular masses, the March on Washington was attended and organized by many celebrities. Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Robinson, James Baldwin, Joseph Mankiewicz, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman and many others were in attendance. After the march, some of these men gathered in front of USIA cameras to share their thoughts about the March on Washington and the Civil Rights movement in general. That footage can be seen below.


The Hollywood Roundtable did not portray the United States as a perfect nation. Instead, the USIA used honesty and humility in an attempt to relate to foreign audiences. Throughout the film, the celebrities emphasized the nation’s faults while still promoting American values. Writer and director Joseph Mankiewicz perhaps put this best, “This is the only country in the Western world where this [the march] is possible, but also the only country where this is necessary.” (11:45)

The emphasis on hope and potential is another theme meant to lure foreign viewers to the American way of life. James Baldwin states, “No matter how bitter I become I always believed in the potential of this country. For the first time in our history, the nation has shown signs of dealing with this central problem.” (18:58)

In a subtle attack on communism, moderator of the debate, David Schoenburn, said, “The hope of our country is that we can have demonstrations of this kind, there is no ‘March on Moscow’ or ‘March on Peking.’” (11:10)

In September of 1963, The March and The Hollywood Roundtable were shown as a pair. In the production files for The March, I came across a memo from a USIA station in Hong Kong. The memo mentions that both films were shown together on a local television show to over 120,000 people. Additionally, the film was shown in schools and at the USIA auditorium. “The television station reported a favorable reaction from viewers.”



During the Hollywood Roundtable, Schoenburn mentions that over 100 countries would see their discussion (22:10). Due to the Smith-Mundt Act, this estimate did not include the United States.  When word spread that the government was broadcasting images of domestic inequality to foreign nations, many Americans were not pleased with USIA officials. Shortly after, Edward R. Murrow stepped down as USIA president and was replaced by Carl Rowan. At the time, this made Rowan the highest ranked African American in public office.

The USIA disbanded in 1999. Many of the agency’s records , including films such as The March and The Hollywood Roundtable, are now available to the public at the National Archives. 




Getting to Know Harry Truman

by on August 3, 2012

This week’s guest blogger is Heidi Holmstrom.  Heidi works in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, which is responsible for performing conservation and preservation work on motion picture records held across the National Archives.

I’ve gotten to know President Harry Truman pretty well over the past year. I’m familiar with his opinions, mannerisms, and vocal cadence.  In some ways, he reminds me of my grandfather.

How did I become so well-acquainted with our 33rd president? I’ve never met him and I’m no presidential historian, but I do work in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab at the National Archives and Records Administration.

We are currently working on a very big project for the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum to preserve and create access copies for their Screen Gems collection. This collection consists of the outtakes from a 26-part television documentary featuring President Truman that aired in 1964.

The Truman Library sent us a great deal of material needing preservation, both images and sound. Many of the picture and sound elements are suffering from vinegar syndrome, in which the cellulose acetate of the film base breaks down into acetic acid, which accelerates physical deterioration. Holding so much of this material in my room means that my workspace always smells like vinegar!

Other than the vinegar syndrome, the picture elements are in good shape and can be printed easily to new polyester film stock. When stored correctly, these new reels can last for more than 500 years.

The magnetic soundtracks are more problematic. While the majority have few issues beyond vinegar syndrome, others have shrunken so much that they won’t run through standard equipment. When unspooled, these films tend to curl up, making them difficult to work with.

The base sheds so much plasticizer that it builds up like snow on our machines.









Working with highly deteriorated material is as much an art as it is a science. Understanding the Standard Operating Procedure for our sound recording equipment helps you to choose the correct archival sound head and sprocket wheel, but even when the set-up is optimized, things can still go wrong.

While capturing the audio from the worst of the soundtracks, I watched helplessly as the film moved a distance of only a few feet between two rollers and took that opportunity to curl up, breaking the film and stopping playback.

Each time this happened, I spent an hour or two carefully repairing the tear with tape.

Finally, after the third tear, I discovered that by using my finger as a third roller just at the point where the curling began I could prevent a catastrophic failure.

Using our Digital Audio Workstation, we digitally spliced together the files created from each of my capture attempts and created a single WAV file that matches the audio on the magnetic soundtrack. The next step was to use a machine that writes information with a laser to print new optical soundtracks onto polyester film stock. I did this for  all of the material I captured from the original soundtracks, including the highly deteriorated ones.

Now, in addition to the WAV files,  we are able to give the Truman library soundtrack copies that, like the preserved picture elements, will last for over 500 years.


New optical soundtrack

You can listen to a sample of the new soundtrack here:

 Harry Truman audio clip

Working on a big preservation project like this is exciting because it forces us to exercise all of our conservation and preservation skills. Here in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, we are proud of our role in helping NARA ensure that the government’s motion picture records will be accessible to the American people for generations to come!


This week’s guest post is from Richard Green, an archive technician in NARA’S motion picture department in College Park, MD.  He is currently studying history and psychology at the University of Maryland and is looking forward to attending graduate school in the fall of 2013. 

On July 24, 1959, Vice President Richard Nixon traveled to Moscow to attend the American National Exhibition. The exhibition was intended to promote a cultural exchange and friendly competition between the United States and Soviet Union.

In the midst of the exhibition was an American kitchen full of all the latest appliances. As the vice president guided Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev through the American kitchen, one of the fiercest debates of the Cold War erupted.

Local Identifier 306-PSD-59-11377 Caption: Moscow, Russia: Vice President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon (center), cuts the tape oficially opening the United States National Exhibition in Moscow’s Sokolninki Park. At left front, are Soviet First Deputy Premier Frol R. Koslov, and Premier Nikita Krushchev. Right front is the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Llewellyn Thompson. In the background is the Geodesic dome of the exhibit. Source: USIS/Bumgardner.

A portion of the “Kitchen Debate,” as it came to be called, was filmed by the media and quickly broadcast across the world. Yet the political leaders were not arguing over burgers or borsch. Possibly fueled by the recent passage of the Captive Nations Resolution, the argument escalated from washing machines to nuclear warfare.

This clip comes from Universal Newsreel Volume 32 Release 60, dated July 27, 1959 (200-UN-32-60/ ARC ID 2050163).

Universal News issued two releases a week from 1929 to 1967, and were shown in movie theaters prior to the feature film. Before the era of nightly news, the brief clips represented the only way for most people to observe what was happening in the world around them. A typical release was about ten minutes in length and generally contained between seven and ten stories (not all have survived). In addition to the Kitchen Debate, this release featured stories about a beauty pageant, a ski jumping competition without snow, and Fidel Castro playing baseball! More to come about Universal Newsreel later.

Though the participants were unaware at the time, the debate had implications far beyond the Cold War. Most notably, the Kitchen Debate emphasized the use of television as a practical means of communication. In addition to the confrontation in the kitchen, the Nixon-Khrushchev debate continued onto the set of the Ampex exhibit. The exhibit featured the VR1000 two-inch quadruplex videotape recorder, a pioneer in color videotape, which captured the two leaders during their heated exchange.

The videotape recorder was one of the first to allow a live program to be easily recorded and quickly broadcasted on television. This technology forever changed the way that people viewed the world. Ironically, it also led to the demise of newsreels being shown before movies. The Ampex Collection can be found at the Department of Special Collections,  Green Library,  Stanford University.

When Nixon explained the implications of the color videotape to Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier seemed hesitant to believe that his words could be recorded and translated to the American people so quickly. Nixon says, “Never make a statement here [in the USSR] that you don’t think we’ll read in the United States.” Khrushchev responds, “I doubt it.”

Nixon continues, “This increase in communication will teach us some things and teach you some things too, because after all, you don’t know everything.” Khrushchev feverishly responds, “If I don’t know everything, I would say that you know absolutely nothing about communism! Nothing except fear of it.”

The confrontation further enhanced America’s perception of Khrushchev as an enemy of the United States.  Conversely, the debate marked one of the highest points in Richard Nixon’s career. Nixon’s enthusiasm and courage, coupled with his effective use of television, won the hearts of a united American people.

In the upcoming presidential election, Nixon would cite the Kitchen Debate as an example of his fierce diplomacy. Ironically, the Kitchen Debate likely gave Nixon overconfidence in his televised debating skill. Just over a year later, Nixon agreed to debate a young John F. Kennedy and was humiliated in the first televised presidential debate.

The Universal Newsreel Collection was donated to NARA in 1974 and has since become one of the Motion Picture Division’s most popular collections. The Universal collection encompasses an enormous amount of material ranging from national and international events and politics to sports, fashion, and everything in between.

Less utilized, however, are the production files  or “Dope Sheets” that accompany each release. These production files are tucked away in the stacks and only used by the most experienced researchers. Yet these sheets can be extremely valuable.  Most files also reveal where the footage was originally shot. By tracing its origins, a researcher can gain greater insight into the film itself and possibly resolve copyright issues that may arise.

Some files contain a script for an otherwise silent film. Others include primary documents that accompany the film (I recently stumbled upon a program from the 1949 Indianapolis 500). For example, here is the narration script for the Kitchen Debate story:


We will be talking more about the Universal Newsreel Collection  in future blog posts-so stay tuned!

Additional primary sources (both audiovisual and textual) about the “Kitchen Debate” and the American National Exhibition in Moscow can be found at the Nixon Library and the Eisenhower Library including oral histories that feature first hand recollections.  In College Park, researchers might be interested in the  “Records Relating to the American National Exhibition in Moscow, compiled 1958 – 1959, documenting the period 1940 – 1959” (ARC Identifier 5634735 / MLR Number P 128).

A few weeks ago, thanks to the hard work of the Still Picture Processing Team and ARC staff, our largest series of digital photography was made available online through the Archival Research Catalog (ARC).  This series, “Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files, compiled 1982-2007″ (ARC Identifier 6274097), contains 269,667 JPEG images of numerous military activities from the Defense Visual Information Center (now the Defense Imagery Management Operations Center).  Photographs were created by photographers of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and include images of military vessels, aircraft, vehicles, facilities, military officers, Department of Defense (DOD) personnel, military units, training, weapons, and various military operations and exercises.  The majority of the images in this series were taken between approximately 1980 and 2007, but there are some taken prior to 1980.  Most of the images taken prior to 2000 are digital reproductions of original negatives located in the series “Combined Military Service Photographic Files, compiled 1982-2007″ (ARC Identifier 898707). The first born-digital images were taken in 1993, but it wasn’t until 2000 when the majority taken were born-digital.  Below are some examples of images you will find online.

Photograph No. 330-CFD-DN-SN-85-02089; “Grenadians look out from their house as a US Marine patrols the streets of Grenville during Operation URGENT FURY,“ October 25,1983; Photograph by PH2 D. Wujcik; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, MD.
Photograph No. 330-CFD-DF-ST-91-02659; “Soldiers of 1ST Battalion, 509th Infantry, parachute from a C-130E Hercules aircraft into a drop zone outside the city to conduct operations in support of Operation Just Cause,“ 1990; Photograph by MASTER SGT. Ken Hammond; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, MD.
Photograph No. 330-CFD-DN-ST-91-09003; “An M998 High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) drives along a road in the Kuwaiti desert following Operation Desert Storm. Oil wells set ablaze by retreating Iraqi forces burn in the background,“ March 1, 1990; Photograph by CW02 Bailey; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, MD.
Photograph No. 330-CFD-DF-SD-02-09098; “A clock, frozen at the time of impact, inside the Pentagon. Shortly after 8 AM on September 11, 2001 in an attempt to frighten the American people, five members of Al-Qaida, a group of fundamentalist Islamic Muslims, hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757-200, from Dulles International Airport just outside Washington DC. About 9:30 AM they flew the aircraft and 64 passengers into the side of the Pentagon. The impact destroyed or damaged four of the five “rings” in that section that circle the building. That section of the Pentagon was in the finishing stages of a renovation program to re-enforce and update the building. Fire fighters fought the fire through the night. The Pentagon attack followed a similar attack, two hijacked passenger planes flown into the twin towers of the New York World Trade Center, on the same day, in what is being called the worst terrorist attack in history.,“ September 14, 2001; Photograph by SSGT Larry A. Simmons, USAF; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, MD.
Photograph No. 330-CFD-DN-SD-02-09510; “A F-14 Tomcat from Fighter Squadron Thirty-Two (VF-32), “Swordsmen”, breaks the sound barrier during COMTUEX, Comprehensive Training Unit Exercise, while stationed on board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). COMTUEX is designed to bring the aircraft carrier/carrier air wing team together as a cohesive fighting unit while giving the team “blue water” certification for operating at sea,” August 14, 2000; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, MD.
Photograph No. 330-CFD-DM-SD-04-01568; “US Marine Corps (USMC) Marines assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), fire an M 198 155mm howitzer at Umm Qasr, Iraq, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. 2003. The 15th MEU is deployed in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM,“ March 23, 2003; Photograph by LCPL Matthew J. Decker; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, MD.
Photograph No. 330-CFD-DF-SD-05-04433; “Liberated from Iraqi captivity, US Army (USA) Private First Class (PFC) Jessica Lynch is loaded into an ambulance at Ramstein Air Base (AB) Germany,” April 3, 2003; Photograph by SSGT Felicia Haecker, USAF; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, MD.
Photograph No. 330-CFD-DD-SD-05-03993; “Former President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, makes a point during his initial interview by a special tribunal, where he is informed of his alleged crimes and his legal rights,“ July 1, 2004; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, MD.


aeriel film can

Most of NARA's aerial film is stored in Lenexa, KS.

Have you ever wondered how the landscape has evolved over time?  Forests are cut and/or planted, urban areas expanded, rivers are dammed to create reservoirs, farmland is taken out of production, lakes are drained, new road patterns are established, buildings are demolished, water and wind erosion, floods and other natural disasters either delicately carve or make wholesale changes to the face of the land.  The landscape is constantly evolving!  We live in the ever-changing present but what if we could obtain a snapshot of what the land looked like 60, 70, or nearly 80 years ago? Well the aerial photos held by the Cartographic and Architectural Records Section of the National Archives at College Park will allow you to do just that.  These aerials are the product of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (RG 145),  Soil Conservation Service (RG 114), Forest Service (RG 95), Geological Survey (RG 57), and the Bureau of Reclamation (RG 115).

Aerial Index Sheet

Dozens of individual aerial frames make up an aerial index sheet.

Aerial photography was originally used to assist in the administration of federal programs. The Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service used it as a tool to determine farm program compliance.  Images show agricultural areas as well as adjoining urban areas of the United States at a scale of 1:20,000 and filming was done on a county by county basis.  The Soil Conservation Service focused it aerial photography on the Southwestern United States and typically includes coverage of watersheds, soil erosion districts, and other areas where soil conservation projects were carried out.  Scale for these images vary between 1:15,840 and 1:31,680.  Forest Service film was taken to obtain information for the administration and mapping of national forests throughout the United States.  Scale here varies between 1:20,000 and 1:24,000. The photos shot by the Geological Survey focus on project areas throughout the United States and were taken for the purpose of creating topographic maps.  Scale for some projects is as small as 1:56,600. Aerial images of the Bureau of Reclamation provide coverage of river systems used in its river basin studies and have a scale of 1:20,000. Together these photographs cover about 85 percent of the contiguous land in the United States from the mid-1930s to the early 1950s.  Of the five agencies represented in these holdings, images taken by the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service are by far the most numerous.

Finding the location on a topographical map

Locations are first identified using topographic maps.

Finding the right frame on the aerial index.

Then they are compared to frames on the aerial index.

An aerial viewer is used to examine individual aerial frames.

An aerial viewer is used to examine individual aerial frames.


Archives Researcher: “Do you have any photographs of ships?”

NARA Employee: “Why yes, we do.  You’ll find a card catalog of hull numbers right over there.” *points*

Did you want pictures of ships, or were you really hoping to find a collection of WWII-era U.S. Navy photographs containing a picture of your father who served on the USS Missouri?

In archives-speak, a reference interview is a type of interview whose purpose is to find out what you really want to know so that we can match your question to our halls of information.  It may include follow-up questions used to get a clearer picture of what you want to know.  In the above exchange, there was no reference interview, and the employee took the researcher’s question at face value.  As a result, the researcher didn’t get what he came to the archives for – a picture of his father.

Who is at fault here?  Should the researcher have been more forthcoming about what he or she really wanted, or should the NARA employee have conducted a proper reference interview?  I would argue both would have helped solve the problem, although no archive should expect its patrons to have the same level of research skills or know how to express what they want on their first try.  The fact is researchers and research room staff often look for information in opposite ways: the researcher begins from general and goes to the specific, and the information professional begins with the specific.   A sign of a good information professional is knowing when and how to conduct a reference interview, and specifically the types of questions that get to what the researcher is really after. 

What is the lesson here?  If you are a researcher, you can help us and yourself by thinking, “what do I really want to find here today?”  It is also extremely useful to NARA staff to be thoroughly familiar with the subject matter, because often little bits of information you have acquired about your subject can be major clues and help lead us to identify the right records.  If you are a NARA employee, the lesson is what you already know: that it is up to you to as a member of a service-oriented institution to do all in your power to link our researchers to the information they (really) seek.

From Analog to Digital

by on April 18, 2012

When I first started working with the Still Picture Processing Team in College Park, MD , my first three projects dealt with gelatin dry plate glass negatives, albumen cartes-de-visite and Kodachrome film.    Even though we will still be accessioning analog photography for years to come and dealing with the issues that come with that (most notably millions of analog negatives from NASA’s Shuttle Program), times have certainly changed.  Over the past decade, we have seen agencies fully transition to the use of digital photography.  Many accessions whose coverage dates range from the early to mid-2000s, are a mix of analog and digital. Most accessions dating from 2005 to the present are completely digital.  Just like prints, negatives and transparencies are intellectually all photographs, at their core digital images are just photographs in a different physical form.  Digital records certainly provide new processing and preservation issues, with shorter schedule disposition periods and ongoing technology changes, but it also provides us with an opportunity to reach a broader researcher community by providing accessible and usable images online.  We see the Online Public Access (OPA) system as our mechanism to provide access to these records, sort of like an online research room.

During the last three years, we have accessioned over 700,000 digital photos, half of which have been ingested into the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) with the other half in the process of being ingested. Approximately 105,000 of these images are currently available through ARC and OPA with the rest available in the near future.  Agencies currently represented in our online holdings include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Education, Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and  Department of the Interior (DOI).

Neighborhoods and roadways throughout the area remain flooded as a result of Hurricane Katrina,” New Orleans, LA, Sept. 8, 2005

Photograph No. 311-MAD-19200; “Neighborhoods and roadways throughout the area remain flooded as a result of Hurricane Katrina,” New Orleans, LA, Sept. 8, 2005; Photograph by Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA; Records of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Record Group 311; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

“Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot for the Gemini-Titan 4 space flight, floats in zero gravity of space over southern California,” June 3, 1965

Photograph No. 255-MG-S65-30430; “Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot for the Gemini-Titan 4 space flight, floats in zero gravity of space over southern California,” June 3, 1965; Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Record Group 255; National Archives at College Park, MD.

“Mitt Romney viewing a portrait of his father, George Romney, with HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson,” May 3, 2004

Photograph No. 207-DP-8847-DSC_0757; “Mitt Romney viewing a portrait of his father, George Romney, with HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson,” May 3, 2004; Records of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Record Group 207, National Archives at College Park, MD.


Digital holdings for several other agencies will be represented in the near future, including the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Commerce as well as additional images for the EPA, HUD and Interior.

The Pentagon in flames moments after a hijacked jetliner crashed into building at approximately 0930 on September 11, 2001

Photograph No. 330-CFD-DM-SD-02-03880; “The Pentagon in flames moments after a hijacked jetliner crashed into building at approximately 0930 on September 11, 2001”; Photo by CPL Jason Ingersoll, USMC; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, MD.

Oil from BP Spill coats beach and jetty at Grand Isle State Park, LA,” June 4, 2010

Photograph No. 412-APD-673-2010-06-04_GrandIsle_71; “Oil from BP Spill coats beach and jetty at Grand Isle State Park, LA,” June 4, 2010; USEPA photo by Eric Vance; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, Record Group 412; National Archives at College Park, MD.

 Actress Angelina Jolie with State Secretary Colin Powell at a reception in the Harry S. Truman Building

Photograph No. 59-CF-DS-11872A-04_DSC_0018; “Actress Angelina Jolie with State Secretary Colin Powell at a reception in the Harry S. Truman Building. The actress was attending the Secretary’s Open Forum session on the documentary film investigating Southeast Asia sex trafficking, “Trading Women.”,” May 25, 2004; Photo by Ann Thomas; Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives at College Park, MD.

One way that we will use this blog is to announce when new images are now available online or through our research room.  This not only goes for born-digital, but also analog images and in some cases, digital surrogates created from original analog material.



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