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Google puts National Archives video online

Search giant strikes deal with U.S. agency to digitize historic video stores. First up: newsreels, NASA documentaries.

A marching band begins to play. The United Newsreel logo, an eagle in a martial pose, flickers onto the black-and-white screen. Bold letters proclaim: "Nazi War Plants Blasted by R.A.F. in Night Raids."

This is a World War II era newsreel, one of 100 historic videos retrieved from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and posted Friday on Google Video. The content represents the first fruits of a joint project aimed at putting as much of the National Archives' video content as possible online.

In this first batch are dozens of newsreels, films on the early 1930s park service, and National Air and Space Administration documentaries on space travel. A must-see includes Orson Welles reading from H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds," before discussing the likelihood of extraterrestrial life "beyond the petty surface of our own minute sphere."

Google Video product manager Peter Chane said the company is working in stages to put as many as possible of the National Archives' 114,000 film reels and 37,000 videos online.

"This is a tremendous resource of history and knowledge, and we want to expose that to viewers worldwide," Chane said.

The digitization of long-unseen archival footage has been under way for years, but Google's nonexclusive deal with the National Archives will likely provide a vast, new swath of material for history buffs, educators and filmmakers.

All of the material is in the public domain, Chane said. That means it can be used or shown elsewhere without paying copyright holders.

Other video services online, including most notably the Internet Archive, also offer a wide range of newsreels and video content ranging across the last 100 years.