Motion Pictures

America Abroad: Films at the National Archives in College Park, MD

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, audio-visual media has been a significant vehicle for international outreach, cultural and political diplomacy, and for the promotion of national interests and the foreign policy objectives of the United States. The Office of War Information,  The Department of State, The Office of Inter-American Affairs, the United States Information Agency, the Voice of America and the Broadcasting Board Of Governors were among the most prominent federal agencies to produce and distribute film, audio and video to reach audiences around the world. 

The Moving Image and Sound Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) holds the permanently valuable audio-visual records of these agencies and others which created content designed primarily for international, not domestic audiences. While the majority of the films and recordings are in English, there are films and audio recordings in other languages, such as French, Spanish, Arabic, and Korean. Content features both sound and silent, edited and unedited materials. Film formats include 16 and 35mm color and black and white film (both sound and silent), magnetic audio-visual video and audio formats, as well as born-digital video and audio formats. 

Finding aids, such as original shots lists, content summaries, title indexes, film catalogs, scripts and other materials can be accessed at the Motion Picture Research Room in College Park, Maryland. As these materials are digitized, they are added to NARA’s Online Catalog. Finding aids are generally associated with a particular film or audio series.