Are you interested in using US government films for genealogy research? Films of State: A Conference on the Use and Study of Government Films will be live on Zoom this year from April 7 through April 9, 2021.

The conference is produced by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the University of Maryland. The Films of State conference features film screenings, presentations, panel discussions, and “how-to” film research guidance. The conference is free to attend, all or in part. Sessions are also recorded and may be viewed later.

Context for Genealogy Research

Contextual research – resources that help us understand a particular time and/or place – deepens family history. New avenues to explore may also arise as genealogists use unusual resources like government films. And who knows? You may see your father marching by or your mother at work!

This virtual conferences features US government films, from the United States Army Signal Corps to the Office of Economic Opportunity and everything in between. Films made by the United States Information Agency are also covered extensively. Panels include a briefing on related films at the National Archives. Or NARA staff member may also be available to help attendees find and use federal moving image records and textual records. A panel on the practical uses of government film – like genealogy research? –  is also available.

If you want to skip the academic sessions, you can still attend evening screenings of films and clips. Conference arrangers note, “In short, we hope there’s something for everyone and that attendees will come away knowing more about government films and NARA’s moving image holdings.”

Government Films for Genealogy Research

films of state conference

(Courtesy National Archives)

To whet your appetite for three days of presentations and briefings on government film, archivists have created four film lists that correspond to panel topics. Each list has ten to twenty films. You can view them on our YouTube channel using the links below:

Government and the Land

Government and the People

Moving Images and the Military

Public Diplomacy

Register for Government Films Conference

Register and view a detailed conference schedule here.

To learn more about moving image and sound research at NARA, visit Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Holdings Research Page, with overviews on holdings, topic pages, and links to other moving image resources.

For the full schedule, videos, handouts, and participation info, see Films of State. Read more in the Unwritten Record post, Introducing Films of State.