Universal Newsreel Release Descriptions Now Live in the National Archives Catalog
Nearly 4,000 Universal Newsreel Release descriptions have been added to the National Archives Catalog, the result of a unique, multi-year collaborative effort by NARA staff of the Moving Image and Sound Branch and Citizen Archivist Phil Stewart. The project’s goal was to systematically transcribe the content of the twice-weekly synopsis, or release sheets, for each year. The descriptions provide the release date, titles and brief summaries of the individual stories in each release for the film reels in NARA’s holdings, which date from July 1929 to December 1967, when Universal ceased operations.
The Description Project
Despite its popularity, the Universal Collection was never fully described in the National Archives Catalog, and despite efforts over the years to complete the painstaking task of creating descriptions for all the releases, the result was inconsistent or incomplete descriptions, which proved difficult for researchers to discover and access.
However, a new comprehensive description project began in earnest over six years ago, when Citizen Archivist Phil Stewart, who also collaborated with NARA to similarly describe the Ford Motor Company Collection, and who has written a number of books and articles about NARA’s film holdings, began verbatim transcription of each of the Universal release sheets, starting with Volume 1 (1929).
With the shift to telework due to the coronavirus pandemic, NARA staff from the Moving Image and Sound Branch joined the effort, and began transcribing release sheets for later Volumes. This data was then collected and prepared for upload into the Catalog, to replace legacy descriptions that contained outdated information.
The descriptions were made live in the Catalog in February 2022, and digital video files and any tags which were originally added to the legacy descriptions have been added subsequently.
To see what a film looks like and it’s corresponding Catalog description, see this example:
The film: Universal News Volume 18, Release 387, Stories #1-4, April 5, 1945 and its description in the Catalog: Universal Newsreel Volume 18, Release 387.
Want to learn more about Universal? We invite you to dive in in the Catalog!
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.