Google to offer NARA films

Google Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., has launched a pilot project to digitize historic films held by the National Archives and Records Administration. The search service plans to offer the films to the public online through its new video service.

NARA's Web site will also host the digitized films.

'This is an important step for the National Archives to achieve its goal of becoming an archive without walls,' Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States, said in a statement. 'Our new strategic plan emphasizes the importance of providing access to records anytime, anywhere. This is one of many initiatives that we are launching to make our goal a reality. For the first time, the public will be able to view this collection of rare and unusual films on the Internet.'

The initial pilot will digitize 101 films, including an 1894 movie of a Spanish gypsy dancer, some early NASA space flight documentaries and a collection of government newsreels made during World War II.

Although Google Video will operate as an online video store, offering users the ability to download films for a fee, these films will remain free. The agreement with NARA is nonexclusive.

The company has already made some digital reels available that can be viewed with a browser using a Flash player. They can also be downloaded in either the MP4 format (favored by Apple for its video-playing iPods and Sony for its PlayStation Portable) or as a variant of the AVI format for Google's own media player.

According to Google, it is working with NARA to nail down an agreement to digitize more films, as well as to host online a collection of the Archives' text documents.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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