Tuesday, June 9, 2009

FedFlix, Preserving Your Tax Dollars at Work

Goodson Blogson readers are probably too young to have viewed the famous “Duck and Cover” filmstrip in elementary school, but most have likely seen it parodied on shows like The Simpsons and South Park. “Duck and Cover” was a 1951 production of the now-defunct Federal Civil Defense Administration, used to teach children the proper method to protect themselves during a nuclear attack. While it’s scientifically questionable whether hiding under a wooden desk or shielding oneself with newspaper would prove remotely helpful (as you can guess from this PG-13 rated South Park clip, the method definitely does not translate well to a volcano eruption), “Duck and Cover” had an undeniable impact on a generation of schoolchildren, and helped shaped public opinion during the Cold War.

While 1950s propaganda like “Duck and Cover” are probably the most popular perception of government filmmaking, the federal government continues to produce a wide variety of films and video. Although some are distributed to libraries through the Federal Depository Library Program, countless hours of historic government video have been inaccessible to the public in vaults and archives. Fortunately, you can now view “Duck and Cover” and other classic government videos for free through a relatively new digitization site, FedFlix (http://www.archive.org/details/FedFlix).

FedFlix was the brainchild of government information activist Carl Malamud, founder of Public.Resource.Org (a source for free digitized government material including court documents and case law). FedFlix began in November 2007, with the National Technical Information Service sending 10-20 videos per month for digitization. Earlier this week, Malamud announced an ambitious renewal of the project—NTIS is now sending more than 100 videos a month. Public.Resource.Org staff are uploading nearly 12 hours of video per day to three access points:
There’s a four-part series from the Judicial Conference of the United States featuring dramatizations of famous Supreme Court trials , a 1986 tribute to minority inventors from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and yes, more military/wartime videos (see 1970’s The Pleasure of Your Company: Military Etiquette and Grooming, from the Army).

Collections can be searched by keyword, by agency, or by popularity. Whether your primary goal is education or amusement, FedFlix is sure to have something for you.