Today’s film from the National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”) was shot shortly after the end of World War II hostilities by the U.S. Army Air Corps, the ancestor of today’s U.S. Air Force. Beautifully shot on 16mm Kodachrome film, the camera roams the streets of a devastated German city: block after block of devastated houses, offices and factories, punctuated by signs in Russian. Especially prominent are the “Trümmerfrauen” (literally, “rubble women”), German women enlisted to clean up the rubble by hand for a tiny hourly wage and an extra ration coupon stipend. These women later became a living symbol of post-war Germany’s determination to rebuild.
This footage is described in the National Archives Catalog, but no digital item accompanies the description. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NARA Research Rooms have been closed for almost seven months, with no way to request this footage from them. Researchers and clients are waiting for the National Archives to announce a plan to safely reopen the ordering system and the research rooms, in the meantime production deadlines are being missed and budgets are stretching. A handful of professional researchers have collected copies of screener videos such as this that were formerly made available by NARA on-site. On-line access is wonderful, but it is no substitute for hands-on, on-site research.
Don’t depend on a production assistant or intern to locate the exact footage or stills needed to add impact and polish to your production. “Searching” is not the same as “researching”. Professional researchers add value!