The National Archives, an Underappreciated Resource


When most filmmakers, and people in general, think of the National Archives, they think of that beautiful building next to the mall where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are on display. What they don’t realize is just how much of a treasure trove of historical footage and media is right under their noses. Not only is there a huge stockpile but it’s also very accessible. Unlike other stock footage stores which will happily charge you an arm and a leg, the National Archives lets patrons make copies of this for free or charges a modest fee at most. This not only makes it a great resource for the video community but also one that transcription companies, like Word Wizards, gladly advises our customers to utilize.


There are a few ways to access this footage and media. The first and most time intensive is to plan an actual visit down to the Archives. While the original facility on the mall, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue,has lots of  historical documents and photographs, its the second facility that’s holding the video and media gold mine. This Archives facility, located at 8601 Aelphi Road, College Park, MD, 20740, has thousands of audio and movie clips that can be viewed and even copied as files for free or around $14.00 per file depending on what your trying to copy. Some of the footage includes old “news of the day” film reels, World War 2 footage and some space shuttle launches as well a variety of military, aviation and science subjects


Alternatively, you can peruse the national archives online site at and find the same items. While you can view film clips and photographic material here, you can’t download them to your computer. Nonetheless, filmmakers and anyone interested in some great talking heads material should go online and see what they have in stock. Not only are these important media pieces with in easy reach of several production and documentary companies but they are also unique and not easily found in a place such as a commercial stock footage library. Since so many documentary companies call D.C. home and often need this type of footage for their films, their truly is no reason for them not be utilizing this resource.

Again, the website for the National Archives is

The address for the original Archives is 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20408

The address for the College Park location is 8601 Adelphi Rd, College Park, MD, 20740