Ernest Hemingway having a drink, astronaut John Glenn in his Mercury spacesuit, even the US Constitution are among the GIF glimpses of American history released by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on GIPHY. The collection launched last month as a shareable portal into the National Archives Catalog.
Darren A. Cole, with the web and social media branch of the National Archives Office of Innovation, told Hyperallergic that NARA initially saw the impact of GIF content through their Today’s Document blog on Tumblr, where a curious patent for a one-wheeled vehicle or stereographic portrait of Walt Whitman got a new spark through animation.
“We can feature content that many users might not be aware of, and boost the profile of the agency with people who either might not be aware of the us, or may have forgotten about us since that high school field trip to see the Constitution,” Cole said. “GIFs help keep us relevant, but also further the agency’s mission of providing access to our holdings to the public.”
The GIPHY resource currently has over 150 NARA GIFs, with more continuing to be added. Like the New York Public Library’s Stereogranimator, where users can animate stereoscopic images from the collections, the GIFs offer a new interaction with these archives. Each of the GIFs on GIPHY have a link to the National Archives Catalog for their history.
For example, you can be intrigued by a GIF of the flying saucer-shaped 1950s Avrocar, then read about its failure as a fighter-bomber when it became unstable even a few feet off the ground. History image accounts are wildly popular on social media, yet often use archives without attribution or any deeper connection with the original source. The NARA GIFs are a savvy initiative to connect a wider audience with the richness of the National Archives.