Animated Archives: Meeting People Where They Are

Our recently released social media strategy focuses on creating engaging digital content, while expanding digital storytelling to make records increasingly available and relevant with online audiences. The National Archives GIPHY channel does just that: combining our staff’s knowledge of new and emerging technologies with the rich content of the Archives showcases our holdings in fun and exciting ways. We are seeing that work pay off in a big way. 

In 2016, we launched the National Archives GIPHY channel, using GIFs, or animated images, we had created for our popular Today’s Document social media accounts. GIPHY is a crowdsourced image sharing website that allows you to search, discover, and share a wide variety of animated images in the GIF format. The animated GIFs on our channel include major historic events, celebrities, National Parks, newsreels, animated patents, dancing sailors, and more from the holdings of the U.S. National Archives. Our first year on GIPHY, our channel saw nearly 32 million views of animated GIFs on our channel. Since then, that number has steadily increased, and in fiscal year 2020, our channel saw 1.1 billion views, more than doubling the views of the previous year. Cumulatively, the animated GIFs on our channel have been viewed more than 2.3 billion times. 

Our GIPHY channel currently has more than 700 animated GIFs created from National Archives holdings, including both motion picture films and still images. The channel averages over a million views a day. Through our GIPHY channel, the National Archives is able to gain tremendous exposure to new audiences, making our records more accessible and helping bring awareness to the Archives.

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Book of Question Marks

Smokey Bear: “THINK”

Dancing Dogs

Santa Claus with Astro-Kid

Skateboarders: “Whoa!”

Top 10 GIFs of 2020

This GIF comes from “Surefootin’”, a vintage 1970s skateboarding safety PSA from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

These adorable otters were featured in “The Warm Coat”, a 1969 documentary account of the airlift of sea otters from the Bering Sea to Alaskan coves, from the Department of Energy.

Another excerpt from “Surefootin’.”

“Let’s All Vote” is from a collection of Women’s Suffrage-themed GIFs created for #19SuffrageStories, a joint social media campaign between the National Archives, Library of Congress, and Smithsonian Institution celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment.

This festive suffragist celebrates the passage of the 19th Amendment in “America’s Newsreel Album”, a U.S. Navy newsreel produced in 1959.

The ever-popular “Dumpsie” and “Waffles” were the highlights in a Universal Newsreel from January 19, 1931. Donated to the National Archives by Universal Pictures, these newsreels contain a vast collection of historical news and curiosities.

This nurse demonstrates proper mask procedure in a newsreel covering the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

Flying Saucer?  Not quite. This is the experimental “Avrocar” from a collection of 1960s test footage from the Air Force.

This endless series of question marks comes from “The Day the Books Went Blank”, a 1960s PSA on the importance of public libraries in civic society.

Women on the Warpath” includes this industrious mechanic, one of many women contributing to the war effort who were featured in the 1943 film produced by the Ford Motor Company.

Animated GIFs enable us to showcase records in a new light and inspire creative reuse of our holdings. Our hope is that our GIFs inspire a new generation of history lovers, make users more aware of the holdings of the National Archives, and might even inspire some to make their own GIFs or explore other uses with our records. We are constantly learning and proactively evolving our web presence in order to better serve the needs of our customers. These kinds of projects ensure that we continue to Make Access Happen and Connect with Customers in the digital era.

See for yourself!

Looking for that perfect vintage GIF to share in your text messages, tweets, and other social media posts?  Using the GIF or GIPHY button in your app, just search on “ArchivesGIF”!

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