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Archives - Film & Video


The North Dakota Film and Video Archives consist of the State Historical Society of North Dakota’s collections of motion picture film and videotape which serve to help document and interpret the history of North Dakota and the Northern Great Plains.  The Archives’ earliest materials date from 1915, when Bismarck photographer Frithjof Holmboe began the Publicity Film Company. Other films and video in the colelction came from other agencies of state government, a federal agency, private individuals, and private film producers who have contributed film and video to the Archives.

Television news film makes up the bulk of these film and video holdings. Because they represent four companies, six stations, and an independent production, the holdings provide statewide representation and exceptional broad-based documentation for the time period covered. While there are gaps and regretted losses, State Historical Society staff are pleased that this much news film has been preserved and that the industry in the state has been generally supportive of these preservation efforts.

The condition of the film the State Historical Society received largely depended upon the collection. Some was relatively well described; much was not described at all. Some was quite clean while other portions were extremely dirty.

Television news film is significant historical documentation not just for the important people and events recorded, but also for the everyday and ordinary things that end up on film. Television news film often records fads and fashions. Parades and even routine traffic accidents show streets and signs, buildings and businesses which may no longer exist. The film also reveals how much we have changed and, at least to some extent, how much of a role television may have had in producing that change.  In 1986 Dennis Newmann and Larry Remele produced Through the Lens: North Dakota as Seen by Television in the 1950s, an hour-long video program using the above-described collections. The production testifies to the changes wrought by that decade, the impact of television, and how television witnessed it. Each successive decade has also produced its share of changes and, increasingly, we have been there to see it happen via television.

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