Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have been analyzing old films of nuclear weapons tests, using more modern equipment to get more accurate data. As they go through the thousands of old films, they've found many hadn't been properly stored for long-term preservation, so they are digitizing the collection. Physicist Greg Spriggs said that about 6500 films have been found, 750 have been declassified, and this week, 63 of them have been uploaded to YouTube.
The goal in preserving and digitizing them, Spriggs said in a news release, was to keep the films for future study, lest they decompose and disappear forever.
“You can smell vinegar when you open the cans, which is one of the byproducts of the decomposition process of these films,” Spriggs said. “We know that these films are on the brink of decomposing to the point where they’ll become useless. The data that we’re collecting now must be preserved in a digital form because no matter how well you treat the films, no matter how well you preserve or store them, they will decompose.”
But once a sequence is on YouTube, there will be copies of it everywhere. And we get to see them.
Read about the film preservation project at Atlas Obscura, and see the newly-released videos at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's YouTube channel.