Some 3,500 hours of news footage, filmed by United Press International Television News in the 1960s and 1970s, has been “discovered” in London. At least, that’s what BBC News is reporting. The Guardian, however, makes clear that the 20,000 film cans were never lost, just more or less ignored for lack of the money to transfer the 16mm films to a usable format.
The Guardian explains that the UPITN archives were purchased by the Associated Press in 1998 (at the time UPITN was World Television News). Only recently, it seems, was the money and manpower invested to thoroughly document the films.
From The Guardian:
This archive has proved particularly problematic because a lot of the text catalogues recording what is on each roll of film have been scattered across various locations in the UK and the US. “We inherited this treasure chest but without the key,” admitted Lindsey. All that existed on some cans stacked in tunnels under Goodge Street were the dope sheets that the original camera people wrote saying what was on the film, and even then “some were more diligent than others”.
The films are being cleaned and restored in Paris before being transferred on to high definition videotape and then made available to AP’s customers.
James Smith, one of the project’s researchers, said one of the excitements for him was often not knowing what he was going to see, and it was proving a fascinating window into history.
Both BBC News and The Guardian have videos with clips from the footage, depicting Saddam Hussein, Jane Fonda and others. Unfortunately, the video at The Guardian’s website has rather annoying music in the background. The BBC News video has the original audio with some voiceover work.
Apparently, the films have been kept in tunnels beneath London that were used during World War II by General Eisenhower. It may take an estimated 18 months to finish processing the films. The footage will be offered to documentary makers and news editors.