(AP) -- The Associated Press is digitizing and has begun to release a "treasure trove" of historical film footage from the 1960s and '70s that had been sitting in Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's former World War II headquarters in London.
The archive includes color film recordings of a young Yasser Arafat, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi immediately after taking power, Richard Nixon with Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Fidel Castro meeting Latin American and Eastern European leaders, as well as a young Saddam Hussein in Paris.
"The range and quality of what we're finding in this lost archive is breathtaking and it's incredibly exciting to be unearthing new history in this way," said Alwyn Lindsey, AP's director of international archives.
The footage had been sitting for decades in the Central London bunker, from which Eisenhower directed the D-Day landings.
Although the films have been well-preserved, the text that accompanied them has been scattered across the United States and the United Kingdom, the AP said. That text catalog was key to identifying the footage held in each of the 20,000 film cans.
AP's footage business, AP Archive, brought in leading archival researchers to create a coherent online text database from the scattered paper records. The films are being cleaned, restored and transferred onto high-definition videotape for professional producers. They are also being digitized for viewing online.
So far, 17,000 pieces of film content from the late '60s to the mid '70s have been restored and digitized, with 700 stories being added each week.
AP had acquired the holdings - some 3,500 hours of international news footage - in 1998 with its purchase of World Television News, formerly United Press International Television News, a major TV news agency from the early '60s to the mid '80s.
Notable items include Jane Fonda's controversial visit to North Vietnam at the height of the Vietnam War and Elizabeth Taylor's star-studded 40th birthday party in 1972. There are other cultural moments, too, from hippies at music festivals to what the AP called "amazingly bizarre fashion shoots."
©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Explore further: 'Map spam' puts Google in awkward place