Moments that made news 40, 50 and 60 years ago are back in the spotlight. The University of Virginia Library just launched an archive of thousands of film clips that capture life in Roanoke during some very politically charged times.

"These film clips capture American life in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Everything from soapbox derbies to miss hot dog pageants to more serious things like the Vietnam War and school integration," said Kara McClurken, Head of Preservation Services at the library.

When they aired, the clips played a huge role in how people saw issues like civil rights and the Vietnam War.

"When people saw what was going on in Selma, Alabama, they were outraged in a way that they might not have been if they were just reading about it in a newspaper," said McClurken.

Now, the clips are a window into the past.

"Less than 10 percent of the film footage from this era exists and a much smaller percent of it exists in a form that people can actually use," said McClurken.

The University of Virginia Library has worked for five years to preserve 30 years of decaying 16-millimeter acetate film from the television station WSLS in Roanoke.

"We have taken 13,000 film clips, and 18,000 anchor scripts anchor scripts that accompany the film clips and we have had them digitized and we now are offering them online through our public catalog Virgo," said McClurken.

That means librarians matched clips on the film reels with their scripts, then put them in a digital collection side by side. Now, anyone in the United States can read the anchor scripts and watch the film clips simultaneously.

"You can read about something in history in a text book but then to be able to see the moving images, to - for the ones that we have sound - to be able to hear the voices of the leaders on both sides of a debate it's very different than reading about it in a book or hearing about it lectured in a classroom," said McClurken.

Soon, the reels will move to a freezer for preservation, but their digital twins will live on - forever reminding us of another time.

Anyone can access UVA's online collection - but librarians say they are still uploading some of the clips, so explorers should check back in once a month to see new material. 

To access the collection, click here.