Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa





Grassley Legislation to Ensure Preservation of Film and Sound Recordings Heads to President

Jul 15, 2016

WASHINGTON – Legislation pushed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to help ensure that historically significant films and sound recordings are preserved for the benefit of generations of Americans has passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives and is headed to the President to be signed into law.  

Grassley, along with Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, authored legislation to reauthorize the sound recording and film preservation programs of the Library of Congress, which are charged with collecting, archiving and preserving films and recordings that are rapidly disappearing and deteriorating with time.

    “We want to continue to foster an environment that encourages the preservation of our nation’s historical and cultural resources.  Many of these unique and rare works already have been lost and others are deteriorating rapidly,” Grassley said.  “Importantly, these programs have placed a special emphasis on assisting small and local projects that would otherwise have been lost or overlooked.  It’s important to safeguard these films and sound recordings so generations to come have the opportunity to learn from and appreciate these treasures.”

Congress created the National Film Preservation Board in 1988 and the National Film Preservation Foundation in 1996 to help save historically significant American films for the benefit of the public.  In 2000, Congress created the National Recording Preservation Board and the National Recording Preservation Foundation to help save historically important American sound recordings.  

The two Boards advise the Librarian of Congress on national preservation planning policy, helping the Library develop and disseminate preservation and production standards for at-risk works.  In addition, the Film Board selects films of importance to cinema and America’s cultural and artistic history for the National Film Registry, while the Recording Board selects sound recordings which have been recognized for their cultural, artistic and/or historical significance to American society and the nation’s audio legacy for the National Recording Registry. The two Foundations raise funds and distribute them to archives throughout the United States.  A requirement of the grants is that recipients make these works available to researchers, educators and the general public.  

To date, the National Film Preservation Foundation has given grants in all 50 states. Iowa libraries participating in the grant program have received assistance to help preserve important films and recordings.  The National Film Preservation Foundation has provided grants to preserve films held in Iowa institutions, including Coe College, Council Bluffs Public Library, Davenport Public Library, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, Iowa State University American Archives of the Factual Film, and the University of Iowa.  In addition, a number of Iowa-related items are preserved in the Library of Congress Packard Campus audio-visual collection, including copies of Iowa Public Radio and Public Television items from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.  

Historical Films Must Be Preserved For Future Generations

•    “We and other Iowa organizations have hundreds of other culturally and historically significant films that need preservation work to survive.  These document the history of our state from its earliest years to present time.  

“Thanks to the National Film Preservation Foundation we have made important progress on saving this important material.  To date the NFPF has helped rescue more than 2,600 films from all 50 states and these aren’t Hollywood features but regional films and newsreels that document our history and culture.” David McCartney, University Archivist, University of Iowa

•    “In 2012 Council Bluffs Public Library received a grant to preserve Man Power, a 1930 silent film created to boost the local economy by luring businesses to Council Bluffs. This historic film sat in our archives for over 80 years, unwatched and deteriorating over time. With the help of the NFPF, we were able to preserve and digitize this wonderful time capsule of our local history. Thanks to the NFPF, this lost piece of history has been viewed hundreds of times and is now safe from decay and available for the public.

“Did you know Council Bluffs Iowa had the first electric Streetcar system in the country? As a result of this grant we were able to see, for the first time, real, moving images of Council Bluffs from back when it was a major rail hub. 1 have no doubt that, without support from the NFPF, vital pieces of local history would be lost forever.” Ben Johnson, Support Services Librarian, Council Bluffs (Iowa) Public Library

•    “Coe College received grants to preserve two films that depict campus life in the 1930s and 1960s.  Once these historically rich films were preserved more than 170 people attended a screening of the films.  Thanks to that event, the college was able to raise funds from alumni to preserve a third campus film from 1972.  The public funding from the [National Film Preservation Foundation] helped us not only share our history with the public but also generated financial support from the community.  Since posting the films on our website students, faculty and the public have viewed the films using them in academic and public history research.” Jill Jack, Director of Library Services, College Archivist and Associate Professor at Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

•    “Thanks to the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF), Iowa State University was able to preserve and make accessible an important group of films documenting the Rath Packing Company of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Without support from the NFPF, these important visual documents of Iowa History would have been lost.  The NFPF continues to help regional archives throughout the country, helping to save more than 2,230 films and collections in all 50 states.  While most film preservation efforts focus on the Hollywood product, the NFPF is the only agency devoted to helping organizations like Iowa State University preserve films in their collections that would otherwise deteriorate and go unseen.  These films provide important historical documentation depicting local and regional business, groups, and organizations of interest to both Iowa constituents and U.S. citizens.” Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Director of Special Collection & Archives at Wake Forest University, former Head of the Special Collections Department, Iowa State University