This year one of our projects at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library has been to digitize and upload to our public YouTube channel many of President Reagan’s iconic speeches. Our Audiovisual Archivist is spearheading this task to create a resource for students, teachers, and the general public alike. Every year elementary and high school teachers across the country assign their students social studies projects around the United States Presidency. While elementary-age students may be expected to write simple biographical reviews of the lives of past Presidents, high school and university students often face the daunting task of finding sources for in-depth research papers. It is to meet all of those needs that our channel was created. After only a few months of hard work from our Audiovisual staff we have made available 161, and counting, videos of speeches from Ronald Reagan in their entirety.
The National Archives Mission reads:
Our Mission is to provide public access to Federal Government records in our custody and control. Public access to government records strengthens democracy by allowing Americans to claim their rights of citizenship, hold their government accountable, and understand their history so they can participate more effectively in their government.
In keeping with that mission this week on our blog we present to you unabridged The Great Communicator’s speeches from the 1980, 1984, and 1988 Republican National Conventions. With the current Republican National Convention happening this week in Cleveland, Ohio we know many Americans will turn their attention to past conventions and campaigns.
At the top of this article is Mr. Reagan’s acceptance speech from 1980, click continue reading to see the speeches from 1984 and 1988.
In our archives we have 670,000 feet of motion picture film, 20,500 video tapes, and 25,500 audio recordings. The materials are in a wide variety of formats, each requiring the proper equipment in order to view or listen to the materials. For audio alone there are 12 different formats: reel to reel, cassette, compact disc, DAT, magnetic track, LP, EP 45 and 78rpm, wire recording, 8 Track, mini cassette, and micro cassette. There are 14 video formats: VHS, Betamax, Betacam, Betacam SP, Digital Betacam, 3/4″, 3/4″ SP, 1″, 2″ Quad, Open reel, DVD, MiniDV, XDCam, MII; and, finally, three motion picture film formats: 16mm, 35mm, 8mm. The advent of the digital age has changed how the National Archives works with audiovisual materials.
In some ways it’s making our job easier but in others more demanding. Since our collection is originally analogue it all has to be converted to Digital for Preservation and Public and Internal Access. This is a long, time consuming, labor intensive process involving the use of old tape machines. All new digital files have to be stored correctly and backed up correctly. Also, metadata and internal records have to be precise. The public/researchers/media expect faster service since this is the digital age but we are still stuck in the 1980’s so to speak. Once the digital file is created it is fairly easy to deal with but it is a long process getting to that point. – Audiovisual Archivist Steve Branch
Fortunately, going forward we will be able to make more and more of these materials available to the public online where no equipment is necessary.