COLUMBIA, S.C.—The University of South Carolina cut the ribbon Thursday on a new cold-storage vault to house a collection of 18,000 cans of film taken by the U.S. Marine Corps. The films include footage from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as peacetime footage of training at Parris Island. Most of the film has never been seen by the public.
USC has already started digitizing the films and will send high-resolution digital copies to Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia. It will also make the films available online to the public for free.
Greg Wilsbacher, Curator of the U.S. Marine Corps Film Repository at USC, says, “These are the Marine Corps films as they maintained them, so that they have a very high level of research value in terms of their historical accuracy, and so that makes this collection really special and very different from a lot of other film collections.”
The films have been at Quantico, but the Marine Corps needs the space where the films have been stored and also noticed that some were deteriorating, so it looked for a partner to preserve the films, store them, and digitize them. Both the Library of Congress and the National Archives didn’t have room for the collection.
USC was able to secure the films by building the cold-storage vault, with funding from USC alumni Richard and Novelle Smith. The vault and a scanning center they paid for are named after Novelle Smith’s cousins, James and John Davis, who were both Marines and USC alumni.
Retired Marine Major General Jim Livingston, a Medal of Honor recipient, was at the ribbon cutting Thursday. He says it’s important for the public to be able to see these films.
“I think the big thing is if they witness these films they can see service and sacrifice and what people have given up to preserve the freedom of this great country. And I think that’s the real story here. They can see it for real, not through movies, you know, that you film in Hollywood but for-real action by real Marines,” he says.