Press Release
Press Release · Thursday, August 26, 2004

Press Release
August 26, 2004



Overview   Opening September 10, 2004, the William G. McGowan Theater is a centerpiece of the new National Archives Experience, a multi-year initiative that will more than triple the exhibition spaces and public educational and programming facilities of the National Archives on the Mall in Washington, DC.

The McGowan Theater will be one of the nation’s leading centers for documentary film, as well as a prominent forum for the discussion and exploration of great issues of American history, democracy and government.

Public Opening   September 10, 2004

Programs   The McGowan Theater will feature documentary film series, major public symposia, and discussions with eminent authors, filmmakers, politicians, and historians, as well as family programs, historic reenactments, and community activities. The Theater will host nearly 300 such events and screenings annually.

A highlight of these public events will be the annual “William G. McGowan Communications Forum,” an exploration of the junction of communication, technology, and government.

The Theater will also serve as visitors’ introduction to the National Archives Experience, with continuous showings of a dramatic film illustrating the vital role that records play in the lives and experiences of real people.

National Archives Film Holdings  

The National Archives is the world’s largest depository of non-commercial film, with more than 300,000 reels of motion picture film and 200,000 sound and video recordings. These film, sound, and video recordings have not only captured moments in our history, but shaped how we view ourselves and our nation. The McGowan Theater will showcase screenings of this rare footage, as well as a wide range of documentary film series.

Among the unique items in the National Archives’ holdings are the earliest films of the Wright brothers demonstrating their early aircraft and the first footage of Model Ts rolling off the Ford assembly line. Newsreels, footage from United States Information Agency and the Defense Department, movies, kinescopes, and videos make up an integral part of the collection and represent the dynamic eras from the days of the Depression through the present.

Theater Design and Specifications  

The 290 seat McGowan Theater will feature the latest technology and equipment in a design that echoes the 1930s architecture of the National Archives’ Landmark Building. The design combines the grandeur of a classic film theater of the period with the intimacy of a state-of-the-art screening room.

The Theater will be outfitted with pan, tilt, and zoom cameras, full studio recording capability for stage programs, dressing and rehearsal rooms, and set storage spaces. The unusual design and facilities allow live programming — including director interviews, panel discussions, theatrical performances, and other events — to be integrated with dramatic and documentary footage or to be presented as stand-alone programs.

The 10 x 24 foot screen will have a motorized system that adjusts for different seating arrangements and media sizes. Advanced Audio/Visual equipment will make it possible to screen 16mm and 35mm film in all aspect ratios, as well as digital video and computer images. LAN Internet connections will enable presenters and performers to participate in events via the web. Multi-channel stereo/surround sound systems can support a variety of audio formats, including Dolby Surround and DTS.

The McGowan Theater will also be fully accessible, with an Assistive Listening system for the hearing-impaired and special wheelchair accessible spaces.

Support   The William G. McGowan Theater is named in recognition of a generous leadership gift from the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, Inc., in support of the National Archive Experience.

Where   National Archives Building
The National Mall, Washington, DC
Public Entrance on Constitution Avenue between Seventh and Ninth Streets, NW
Tier One (Ground Floor)




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