Documentaries, television news reports, commercials, and even feature films provide a record of the social and cultural history of an era. How can they be used as sources to create an account of the past? Take for example, the clip below. Read the background on this primary source, then see if you can analyze and interpret what historical evidence it might hold.
This moving image is preserved in the General Records of the United States Department of the Treasury. It is a part of the record series Savings Bonds and Stamps Promotional Moving Images, ca. 1950 - ca. 1977. What you are watching is a public service announcement encouraging youth to buy war bonds. War bonds were historically used as a method to finance war, and depended on individual citizen investment, rather than raising taxes. According to A History of the United States Savings Bonds Program, a U.S. Treasury publication, a number of similar short films were produced using top Hollywood stars during this time period.
Analyze and Interpret
What does this artifact tell us about how the U.S. Government communicated to its citizens in the 1960s?
What societal values does this artifact express?
How does the U.S. Government attempt to engage the youth of today? What role does Hollywood play in that communication?
Find More Sources
There are many outstanding digital collections of moving images online, including the Internet Archive, NBC Universal Archives, and even YouTube. Modern historical images or films can be harder to find online, since they usually have copyright restrictions attached to them that hinder digital reproduction. The gallery below features rare documentaries, and other resources that contain archival footage, from Connelly Library’s Department of Special Collections.VIEW NEXT GALLERY