Jonestown Videos Sought for Cataloguing and Preservation

by Fielding M. McGehee III

The Jonestown Institute has launched an effort to track down as many online videos relating to Jonestown and Peoples Temple as we can, in order to preserve them as a resource to allow future generations understand how the group and its end in November 1978 was perceived and interpreted in the early 21st century.

An initial search for videos, completed in April 2017, yielded more than 900 results, which have been catalogued and listed here. The videos include Peoples Temple’s own videos, television news and commentary footage following the deaths in Jonestown, full-length movies and documentaries, interviews of Temple survivors and relatives made over a 39-year span, excerpts of tapes, and recent visits to the Jonestown site. Other videos offer commentaries – ranging from interpretations of the events by religious and political organizations, as well as advocates of alternative theories of the reasons for Jonestown’s demise – and musical and dramatic performances.

Most of the videos are on YouTube, a format which does not lend itself to historical preservation, and even within the format, many are designed to be short-lived. The managers of this website also recognize that a substantial percentage of the videos do not reflect the goals of this site, but instead are sensationalistic, grotesque, puerile, and/or amateurish. Their value is in their existence and their manifestations of how different parts of (mostly American) society reflect on Peoples Temple.

This is an ongoing project, and we ask that visitors to the site alert us of new videos as they are posted. We are especially grateful to Roger Stacy for alerting us to the videos he has discovered in his ongoing research into the Temple.

Originally posted on October 29th, 2017.

Last modified on October 30th, 2017.
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