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American History in Video

1. About the Database

American History in Video provides the largest and richest online collection of video available for the study of American history—2,000 hours and more than 5,000 titles on completion. The collection's wealth of video and multiplicity of perspectives allow students and scholars to see, experience, and study American history in ways never before possible. A Critical Video Edition, American History in Video's suite of tools—searches and browses powered by Semantic Indexing and searchable transcripts synchronized to video—give the ability to drill down in seconds to find the footage of interest from thousands of hours of video. This collection is an exclusive collaboration with A&E Television Networks and features some of their most important documentaries and series from The History Channel®, A&E Network®, and Biography®.

Historical coverage in the collection ranges from the early history of Native Americans, to the lost colony of Roanoke, to the 1988 Vicennes Affair in the Persian Gulf. Biographical coverage ranges from eighteenth century figures such as Benedict Arnold and Daniel Boone to modern day figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Helen Thomas.

Several types of video footage have been chosen to provide a well-rounded collection for historical study:

Documentaries from key partners The History Channel, PBS, Bullfrog Films, Documentary Educational Resources, California Newsreel, Media Rich Learning (forthcoming), Newsreel Films, Pennebaker Hegedus Films , and others provide long-term perspectives on historical events, historical people, and key turning points in American history. These documentaries often incorporate contemporaneous archival footage and photographs; feature interviews with citizens, newsmakers, and other witnesses to history; and make the knowledge, expertise, and enthusiasm of numerous scholars, historians, and researchers readily available. Judicious reenactments of historical moments, particularly with the Civil War, help students visualize important aspects of history, such as the impact of military strategies and tactics on historical outcomes.

Newsreels, routinely shown before feature films in movie houses, were the only way for citizens to see American and foreign events and news during the pre-television era. With contemporaneous footage and coverage of a wide variety of stories—from war and politics, to fashion and sports, and more—newsreels remain a valuable window on American history, society, and culture. American History in Video is the only source where the entire series of United News (governmental newsreel from the Office of War Information) and Universal Newsreel (commercial newsreel from Universal Pictures Company, Inc.) stream in full online. In addition, the collection includes Semantically Indexed and searchable Release Notes, the original documentation provided for each newsreel release in each series.

Public affairs video from series like Longines Chronoscope (Columbia Broadcasting System) were usually created to provide contemporaneous analysis on issues of the day. Through interviews and debates with politicians, diplomats, and a range of foreign and American experts and leaders in a variety of fields, these videos shine a light on the topics, issues, and people considered newsworthy, as well as the received wisdom, in a given time period.

Archival footage adds another critical dimension to historical analysis, with coverage of events and people for an often more specific purpose than other types of video.

Taken together, this rich combination allows students and scholars to study history in new ways, by comparing, for example, the footage, transcript, and tone of government perspectives (United News Newsreel) of the internment of Japanese-Americans in 1942 or D-Day in 1944 with the longer-term perspectives of documentaries like After Silence (Bullfrog Films) or D-Day: The Total Story (The History Channel).

Specially developed controlled vocabularies let users browse video by historical era and event, year, people (in a variety of roles), place, and subject.

Critical Video Editions: The Alexander Street Critical Video Editions Series™ combines the excitement of video with the uniquely powerful search capabilities our collections are known for. We've developed software applications that make use of Alexander Street's Semantic Indexing™ to enable precise searching and finding; easy browsing and moving about; citations down to the second; and searchable transcripts. Our video can be shared via embeddable links; user-created playlists and clips, with annotation features and the ability to incorporate other content from outside the collection; and more. These features and capabilities render video as useful for research and classroom use as any scholarly text.

Our Critical Video Editions feature:

  • uniquely powerful browse and search capabilities enabled by Alexander Street's Semantic Indexing™
  • multiple points of access—browses, searches, thumbnail images, transcripts—allowing you to find your point of interest in hundreds of hours of video within seconds
  • synchronized, searchable transcripts
  • video clip-making tools
  • annotated playlists—you can make, annotate, and share playlists for course or individual use, and you can include links to materials or resources outside of the collection to make this your one-stop resource
  • high quality, licensed, in-copyright material plus newsreel and other valuable footage
  • the ability to create synchronized annotations and multi-media presentations
  • an embeddable video player and playlist for use on a class Web site, library home page, or an electronic syllabus—lets you drive usage and deliver content to users where and when they need it without instructions or countless screens and clicks
  • streaming, quickly accessible online video at 400 and 800 kbps with no delays and no special equipment (just Flash and a browser)
  • Open URL compliance

2. Notes on This Release

All videos and transcripts in the collection have been Semantically Indexed and are fully searchable and browsable.

3. Acknowledgments

At Alexander Street, the following people have been instrumental in the development of the collection:

  • Andrea Eastman-Mullins
  • Becka Rosenberg
  • Dee Banks
  • Dina Mazina
  • Feng Chen
  • Michelle Eldridge
  • Mike Kangal
  • Mike Wathen
  • Nazar Sharunenko
  • Nicholas Lebeda
  • Pat Carlson
  • Paul Dixon
  • Sara Gibney
  • Shana Wagger
  • Stephen Rhind-Tutt
  • Thomas Christ
  • Tim Lloyd
  • Wendi Slagle
  • Will Whalen
  • Ziep Truong

4. Editorial Advisors

Phillip W. Stewart manages a multimedia facility for the U.S. government and volunteers as a motion picture film researcher for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. He is a graduate of San Diego State University and holds an M.A. from Webster University.

Mr. Stewart's expertise and research focus on military and aviation-related documentary film. In addition, through years of research, he has developed a great depth of knowledge of the U.S. government's holdings within the National Archives. Mr. Stewart has extensive experience in video and multimedia endeavors, including 29 years' experience in TV/video production and multimedia management with the U.S. Air Force.

Mr. Stewart is the author of four invaluable resources for students of film, U.S. and world history enthusiasts, and others involved in TV, video and multimedia communications. His first book, Battlefilm: U.S. Army Signal Corps Motion Pictures of the Great War (PMS Press, 2007), was selected as an Award Finalist in the Military History category of the 2007 National Best Books Awards. His second book, War Wings: Films of the First Air War (PMS, 2008), was selected as an Award Finalist in both the Military History and Film/TV/Radio categories of the 2008 National Best Books Awards. Mr. Stewart's other publications include Projected History: A Catalog of the National Stories Produced by Universal Newsreel, Volume One: 1929-1930 (PMS, 2008) and American's Film Vault: A Reference Guide to the Motion Pictures held by the U.S. National Archives (PMS, forthcoming).

Greg Wilsbacher is Curator of Newsfilm Collections, Moving Image Research Ccollections, University of South Carolina. He is a graduate of Indiana University and holds a Ph.D. from Indiana University and an M.L.I.S. from University of South Carolina.

As Curator, Dr. Wilsbacher oversees the Newsfilm Collections, with 20 million feet of film, including approximately 11 million feet from the Fox Movietone News Collection. He is actively involved with promoting preservation and the historical value of newsreels and newsreel archives, including serving on the Preservation Advisory Committee and the Digital Activities Team at the University of South Carolina.

His recent publications include "Forgotten History?: The Value of Newsreel Libraries" (The Chronicle Review 30 January 2009: B12-13). At the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, he gave the presentation "Before CNN: News from the American South, 1919-1926." At the 2007 Association of College and Research Libraries, he organized and spoke at the roundtable "More than a Pretty Face: Film Archives in Special Collections Libraries."

5. Subscription and Free Trial Information

American History in Video is available for one-time purchase of perpetual access, or as an annual subscription. Please contact us at sales@alexanderstreet.com if you wish to begin a subscription or to request a free 30-day trial.

6. Technical Support

You can contact us by:

When reporting a problem please include your customer name, e-mail address, phone number, domain name or IP address and that of your web proxy server if used.

7. Errata

Our intention is to have a database without errors. We appreciate suggestions for improvements and notice of factual errors. To report errors or to suggest improvements, please email the Editor at Editor@astreetpress.com. Please identify the video title, collection, publisher, and publication date, as well as the issue itself, whether in the video, the transcript, or other accompanying materials. Please also include your email address, so that we can let you know the status of your correction.

8. Copyright

All materials in the database are protected under U.S. and International Copyright Law.

9. Cataloging Records

MARC records will be available for this collection.