The Smithsonian Videohistory Program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation from 1986 until 1992, used video in historical research. Additional collections have been added since the grant project ended. Videohistory uses the video camera as a historical research tool to record moving visual information. Video works best in historical research when recording people at work in environments, explaining artifacts, demonstrating process, or in group discussion. The experimental program recorded projects that reflected the Institution's concern with the conduct of contemporary science and technology.
Smithsonian historians participated in the program to document visual aspects of their on-going historical research. Projects covered topics in the physical and biological sciences as well as in technological design and manufacture. To capture site, process, and interaction most effectively, projects were taped in offices, factories, quarries, laboratories, observatories, and museums. Resulting footage was duplicated, transcribed, and deposited in the Smithsonian Institution Archives for scholarship, education, and exhibition. The collection is open to qualified researchers.
Peter Liebhold, museum specialist in engineering and industry at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (NMAH), toured the NUMMI factory and its production lines to document the mechanical applications of Japanese managerial philosophy. Liebhold surveyed increases in automation, the "just-in-time" inventory system, assembly line quality control through kaizen, and the emphasis on teamwork which relied on multi-skilled workers cooperating with managers. These policies differed sharply from traditional American approaches to management and production.
Liebhold interviewed several employees throughout the plant for their responses to the organizational changes. Among those interviewed were Michael Damer, NUMMI's public relation officer, Gary Convis, the senior vice-president for manufacturing and engineering, and George Nano, the NUMMI United Auto Workers (UAW) bargaining committee chairman. The interviews took place in a single session, which was recorded on September 25 and 26, 1990 at the NUMMI plant.
This collection consists of one interview session, totalling approximately 6:00 hours of recordings, and 109 pages of transcript. There are three generations of tape for each session: originals, dubbing masters, and reference copies. In total, this collection is comprised of 18 original videotapes (18 Beta videotapes), 6 dubbing master videotapes (6 U-matic videotapes), and 3 reference copy videotapes (3 VHS videotapes). The collection has been remastered digitally, with 18 motion jpeg 2000 and 18 mpeg digital files for preservation, and 6 Windows Media Video and 6 Real Media Video digital files for reference.