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‘Lost’ historical film archive delivers fresh insight into ‘60s, ‘70s

A treasure trove of historical footage stored in General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s former World War II headquarters in London has been resurrected by The Associated Press as part of a major restoration project.

The news organization's project is unveiling a vast archive of film footage providing new perspectives on past events from the 1960s and 1970s. AP Archive is making the footage available in high definition.

The project has unveiled new color footage of key political figures from the era, including a young Yasser Arafat, Libya’s Colonel Gadhafi immediately after taking power, Richard Nixon with Nicolae Ceausescu, Fidel Castro meeting Latin American and Eastern European leaders, and a young Saddam Hussein in Paris. It also contains clips of celebrities from the era, as well as footage capturing the mood and culture of the period.

Twenty-thousand film cans containing 3500 hours of international news footage have been lying dormant for decades deep underground in the Central London bunker from which Eisenhower directed the D-Day landings. Although the films themselves have been well preserved, the numerous pieces of text catalog that accompanied them were scattered across various locations in the UK and the United States. The catalog is essential as it identifies what footage is held in each film can and without it, the archive has been virtually inaccessible since the day the films were first produced.

This "lost archive" is the legacy of United Press International Television News (UPITN), which was a major television news agency from the early 1960s to the mid 1980s. UPITN was at the forefront of international newsgathering and had a vast network of foreign bureaus around the world. Its holdings were purchased by AP in 1998.