May 22, 2022

National Archives (NARA) Debuts its First Digitally Restored Film, View Online

From a NARA Announcement:

The National Archives and Records Administration premiered the newly-restored 1949 film Navy recruitment film, The Sailor and the Seagull, last week in Beijing before a crowd of 300 at the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) Conference. This debut marked the National Archives’ first ever digital cinema theatrical release, and the first time the National Archives has contributed to the conference.


The 12-minute cartoon opens with a Navy soldier longing for civilian life. A dream sequence complete with scantily-clad dancing girls and a hookah pipe delightfully depicts what civilian life could be. Then, to the soldier’s dismay, the next sequence shows what civilian life would be – rote assembly line work, deductions for taxes and social security, huckster insurance salesmen, high costs of rent, food, haircuts, and clothing (all of which are provided free by the Navy). The soldier eagerly reenlists.

The National Archives film preservation team painstakingly cleaned and digitally restored the film in full high-definition. Work began on the 12-minute film in January 2012, and took more than 80 hours. National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Specialist Bryce Lowe led the project.

“This work is labor intensive,” Kovac explained:  “Film takes, on average, four times longer to restore in the digital workflow than the traditional photo chemical-based workflow. This film is a special case because most of the tools we’d normally use on restoration, we couldn’t use on this film because animation has much softer lines.”

The National Archives film preservation team is currently working on digital restorations of other titles including The Negro Soldier (produced by Frank Capra, 1944), and Let There Be Light (John Huston, 1946). Years of Lightning and Days of Drums (United States Information Agency, 1966) is slated for work this summer.

Read the Complete Announcement

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.