Found In The Archives

Found In The Archives: An Intentional Plane Crash

One of the most strangely compelling pieces of archival footage I've ever seen is at the National Archives, in the record group for Chemical and Biological Warfare. It's identified only as "Biocrash Test," and consists of a U.S. Air Force plane filmed from multiple camera angles as it crashes into an earthwork-reinforced wall of concrete. There is no other information accompanying the film.

I could easily enough research the facts and circumstances surrounding this test, but I don't really care. Aside from the most obvious aspects of warfare, potential contamination and waste, I find the film intriguingly absent of morality. The tension of anticipation and the way the plane just evaporates into the wall create a gravity that transforms the event and the film into a sort of kinetic sculpture — one born out of the most unlikely source of unselfconscious folk art: the Cold War-era military.


Found in the Archives, a Picture Show miniseries running at the beginning of each month, features archival films and found images selected by researcher Rich Remsberg.

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