America's Film Vault by Phillip W. Stewart

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

An indispensible reference tool for the serious film researcher! Try doing a search for a specific film housed in the US National Archives using the Archive's online database: the ARC -- Archival Research Catalog (found on  You might find what you're looking for; but you won't find things so thoughtfully organized and cross-referenced as you will in Philip Stewart's new book, America's Film Vault.  

In the book's introduction, the novice film researcher, producer, or student will benefit from Stewart's overview of the Archives' holdings, the different sources of those holdings, how they're organized, and a short-but-fascinating look into the history of each basic category of film: civilian, military, and donated.

However, this book is not just for the beginner.  Expanding on the 1972 reference work of two Archives employees (which has not been updated since that time), America's Film Vault also belongs on the bookshelf of the seasoned veteran.  The book's handy and useful layout, which includes a thorough subject and title index, will facilitate the search/research/exploration of the experienced Archive sleuth as well.  

Perhaps best of all, Stewart's organization by resource group (RG) holdings, might just facilitate that unexpected discovery that takes one in a whole new direction!

Thumb through this book or spend a few minutes on Phil Stewart's website.  The reader can't help but notice that this third installment in his "Historic Footage Project" is--as the author admits--a labor of love. It's also a tremendously helpful and easy-to-use guide map to the film treasures waiting to be found and enjoyed in our nation's National Archives.

Reviewed by: John Cathcart (2009)

Author's Synopsis

AMERICA'S FILM VAULT: A Reference Guide to the Motion Pictures Held by the U.S. National Archives is the comprehensive new book by award-winning author and film-sleuth Phillip W. Stewart. Some of the best kept history secrets are buried deep within America's film vault. This essential reference guide unshrouds, for the first time in book form, the whereabouts of historic motion picture films preserved in the National Archives. 

This treasure trove includes over 360,000 film reels that document a century of American and world history. Unfortunately, relatively few people know that these historically significant films exist, and even fewer know how to find them. 

AMERICA'S FILM VAULT is an indispensable reference guide that discloses how these vintage films are organized and where to find them; exposes over 330 Government and Donated records that have motion pictures buried within them; uncovers and specifically identifies over 1,460 film titles and provides topical references to thousands more; and reveals-all with a comprehensive 2,130-plus subject index that sheds light on a vast variety of rare films. 

According to William T. Murphy, former Chief of the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Branch of the National Archives, America's Film Vault is, "...a convenient overview of National Archives and Records Administration's motion picture holdings, one difficult to obtain from any other source." 

If you're ready to play detective, take a crack at the combination, and investigate the bowels of the vault, you need a guide map...and this is it! Discover "reel" treasures with AMERICA'S FILM VAULT. Check out the author's website ( for more information about this and his other books in The Historic Footage Project.