Camera Scanning the Nixon Legacy

I had the pleasure of making a visit to the National Archives and Records Agency early this month, meeting with Steve Greene and Cary McStay who are in charge of scanning the official photos from the Nixon administration. They are using a digital camera to do the scanning, in much the same way as I outline in Digitizing Your Photos.

The film from the White House Photo Office was transferred to NARA so that it would be sure to be preserved. (This was done along with the audio tapes which are still being digitized.)  There were 258,318 images on 14,526 rolls. Most of it is 35mm b&w or C22 negative film.  There is also some 4×5 film.

NARA first used conventional scanners for the project, but it was clear that conventional scanning was going to take too long to accomplish. They began testing camera scans, and became very comfortable that the quality coming out of a D810 was high enough for the vast number of uses of the archive.

Shown below are some of the photos that were scanned as part of this project. Eventually, the images will be transferred to the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, where they will be available to scholars, authors and others interested in this period in our history.

March 31, 1969. Various interior scenes from National Cathedral during former President Eisenhower’s funeral services.
March 11, 1969. A musical group of Girl Scouts entertain guests and members of the press at a ceremony donating land to the Girl Scouts of America. NARA is scanning the film with a film stage that allows the original frame numbers to be seen in the scan.
February 19, 1969. White House photographer Robert Knudsen and Photo Office office manager Buck May, sitting in the White House Photo office. Various portraits and moments of President Nixon, family members, inauguration, and Nixon with Heads of State, taken by WHPO photographers are tacked on the wall behind them.
February 6, 1969. President Nixon standing and gesturing while speaking at a press conference.
June 28, 1970. Pat Nixon speaks with the presss corps aboard Air Force One en route to Lima, Peru with earthquake disaster relief supplies.
May 20, 1971. President Nixon at a podium announcing an agreement between the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union on the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). These remarks were being broadcast by radio and television.
February 28, 1969. A cutaway shot of a spectator holding a Stars and Stripes umbrella.
March 20, 1969. President Nixon meeting with White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) contest winners and WHNPA President Sam Stearns in the Roosevelt Room.

PS – NARA is also digitizing the Nixon audio tapes. These are going more slowly due to a number of factors, and are still in production.

The window into a hallway at NARA counts down the remaining Nixon tapes to digitize. I had not noticed it at the time, but there is a nice collection of Nixon-themed figurines sitting on the window sill, including the presidential series of Pez dispensers and Futurama figurines.

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