If Netflixâ€™s smash hit Stranger Things has taught us one thing this summer, itâ€™s that even in 2016 we have serious nostalgia for all things 1980s. From Totoâ€™s Africa to Dungeons & Dragons the show celebrates all that was great about the 80s. But thereâ€™s one reference most cultural commentators have missed â€“ microfilm.
In Episode 3 Police Chief Jim Hawkins visits his local Library and makes full use of the Libraryâ€™s microfilm collection to research the LSD mind-control experiments of the creepy Dr. Brenner. Itâ€™s a triumphant moment and one which celebrates a technology most modern researchers overlook.
Figure 1:Â© Netflix
The British Library has an extensive microform collection relating to the American government and so if you fancy yourself as a bit of a modern day Chief Hopper then the Social Sciences Reading Room is the place to start. And donâ€™t worry if you havenâ€™t used microform before, our reading room staff are on hand to guide you through the simple process and that eighties technology is much more robust than todayâ€™s!
So what collections do we have available?
Well, we canâ€™t promise youâ€™ll find things on LSD mind-control but the British Library has an extensive collection of U.S. government documents and archive materials available on microform. As a federal government depository library, the Library holds a vast set of U.S. Government Printing Office documents, including Congressional reports, committee hearings and bills. These can be accessed via the CIS Indexes on the shelves in the Social Sciences Reading Room.
Figure 2: Example of some of the CIS Indexes in the Social Sciences Reading Room
The Library also holds a significant number of NARA documents, including Presidential Papers. The full collection is listed by subject in the Social Sciences Reading Room card catalogue and most collections have indexes available on the reading room shelves. Some of the collections we hold include, Nixonâ€™s Presidential Papers relating to China-Vietnam negotiations and the Department of Justiceâ€™s Classified Subject Files on Civil Rights.
Figure 3: Examples of some of the microform collection subject guides available
If Stranger Things has prompted you to revisit your favourite books, films and songs from the 1980â€™s, why not hop on your BMX? and come down to the British Library and get hands on with the microform collections to boost your research project?
Figure 4: Â© Netflix.
A detailed description of the collections is available in our â€˜Guide to United States Official Publications in the British Libraryâ€™ (PDF format). - See more at: http://www.bl.uk/collection-guides/united-states-federal-government-publications#sthash.uMGqFc21.dpuf