In its early days, the Bonneville Power Administration made films to educate communities, students and business leaders about the benefits of clean, affordable and reliable power from federal hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. After promoting the development of the Federal Columbia River Power System and the idea of public power in the 1930s, BPA films began to tell new stories about the Northwest power system and the challenges and victories that took place over the next four decades. Here, BPA librarian Libby Burke introduces the first three films from BPA Film Collection, Volume Two, 1950-1987.
The first film, “Stringing and Sagging a High-Voltage Transmission Line
” (1950), is about BPA engineers determining what kind of wire to use, and how to string it and sag it for the best transmission of high-voltage electricity. The next film, “The World Behind Your Light Switch
” (1966), explains the thousands of uses of electricity and how the power grid is maintained. Burke also highlights “Great River
” (1973), which covers many aspects of getting electricity and water to the people. Burke compares this 1973 version with the original made in 1963. For background on the other four films in the collection, watch part two