Valuable Government-Owned Motion Picture Films Are Rapidly Deteriorating

LCD-78-113: Published: Jun 19, 1978. Publicly Released: Jun 19, 1978.

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Federal film libraries and depositories are storing film under conditions that do not meet environmental standards recommended by the film industry, and as a result, valuable historical films may be deteriorating. Factors contributing to this condition are facilities not specifically designed for film storage, inadequate storage space, and inadequate funds for proper storage facilities.

Because of large film accessions, some storage areas in the National Archives are filled beyond shelf capacity. Many of these films appear to have no archival value and raise questions as to whether they should be retained in the Archives. These kinds of accessions are partially caused by the lack of detailed criteria for determining the archival significance of films and other records. Many federal departments and agencies have inadequate film inspection, maintenance, and preservation programs; as a result, agency officials do not know the condition of their own motion picture holdings. They attribute this problem to a lack of funds and personnel. Management attention is needed to see that priorities are set and procedural guidelines for the handling of film are promulgated.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should: (1) review and evaluate the storage conditions at federal film libraries, depositories, and distribution centers and require improvements where needed; (2) establish procedures requiring federal audiovisual facilities to improve or establish film inspection, maintenance, and preservation programs; and (3) establish a program and place responsibility for continuing governmentwide audiovisual policy direction, agency coordination, and oversight. The Archivist of the United States should: (1) accelerate programs to screen movie film holdings, removing nonarchival films; (2) establish standards for determining the retention period and archival value of films; (3) take action to convert archival nitrate film to safety base film holdings and establish cost estimates, priorities, and goals, to inspect, clean, rejuvenate, or reproduce these films as warranted; and (4) implement a comprehensive film inspection and maintenance program.

    Agency Affected:

 

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