About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks at Preview of "They Shall Not Grow Old"

Welcome Remarks at Preview of "They Shall Not Grow Old"
McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
December 10, 2018


Good evening and welcome to my house! I am thrilled the British Council is holding the launch of They Shall Not Grow Old here tonight. Thank you!
The National Archives started in 1935 with a mission to collect, protect, and preserve the records of the U.S. Government. And, most importantly, to make the records available so that the American public can hold its government accountable and learn from our past. 

We are the final destination of the most important records of the United States Government. Today, the collection has over 15 billion sheets of paper, 44 million photographs, miles and miles of video and film, and more than 5 billion electronic records—the fastest growing record form. The National Archives has the largest collection of American World War I records, including Official Military Personnel Files and auxiliary records, such as Pay Vouchers, Award Cards, Burial Files, Selective Service Records, Court-Martial Case Files, and more.

In fact, one of our documents dated July 31, 1919, designates the actual name of the war by President Woodrow Wilson. It reads “It is hard to find a satisfactory “official” name for the war, but the best, I think, that has been suggested is “The World War,” and I hope your judgment will concur.”

The National Archives has an incredible collection of motion picture and still imagery created during World War I. In many ways, this imagery serves as a complement to the incredible British World War I imagery that we will see shortly. 

On the National Archives YouTube Channel, you can find some 300 World War I–era films that have been digitized, so far, by our own experts in our digitization labs. These films are part of the 1,500 films that we have, all of which we plan to bring to digital form. Titles like "Gas Alarm 1918,” "Occupation of the Troyon Sector,” or "The Signing of the Treaty of Versailles June 28, 1918,” shot by Army filmmakers, who got their first camera training right here in Washington, at what is now Fort McNair. 

We hold other remarkable World War I treasures––over 100,000 still images; cartographic maps of battle regions; aerial photos of the trench lines, taken during combat; designs for dazzle-paint schemes for Naval ships. We have created world-class education and genealogical resources, and so much more, to help those who are interested. Your entree to these resources is through our special WWI portal, called "Commemorating the Great War,” found on our website Archives.gov. If tonight sparks your interest in learning more about World War I, come back and visit us in person or online.

I would like to thank our friends at the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission for bringing up this screening opportunity.

The Centennial Commission is a Congressional office, created to educate the public about American involvement in the war. Their work has been all around us recently, with Armistice anniversary events taking place across the country. The Centennial Commission is also at work building the new National WWI Memorial, just three blocks away, on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Since the National Archives was created, we have welcomed visitors from all over the world. And tonight, we welcome you. Enjoy the film and the rest of your evening!