Compiled and summarized by Kristen Sheley

What are the Archives?

Having always had a weird draw to doing research into topics that interest me from as far back as I can remember, I've always been highly interested in researching Back to the Future. But the interest goes beyond tracking down long out-of-print books or magazine articles on the films -- I want to know the history of Hill Valley, of the world the characters inhabit. Often times it assists me in my fan fiction stories and answers some things I've always wondered about. I could always make up what is not known, of course, and have to most of the time. But it seems more challenging and fun to find these obscure things out.

So, below are photographs of some props and the like that were sometimes on screen for the film, sometimes not. All are highly interesting, especially if one can read the text in the letters, articles, etc. (I've provided transcription if you can't though, since my eyes are pretty young, even if I am cursed to wear glasses or contacts.) I do not own any of these props, as I am a poor college student who can't afford that hobby at this point. The photographs I found on other websites or E-Bay. With the exception of one picture, that of Marty's letter to Doc, all of these were taken by someone else. Unfortunately, I don't know where the heck I collected some of these pictures as it has been something I've been doing for years now, so if you recognize it as one of yours, let me know and I can put a proper photo credit next to it. And if you have any neat things like these in your own collection, I'd be happy to see pictures of them and add them to here with the proper credit.

I've compiled these in a roughly chronological order, by way of earlier items first to later items. Seemed easier then splitting them off according to movie, since some slop over to more than one.

Click to enlarge.

Buford Tannen's Archive Info

(Photo by Chris Wilkinson)

This was found by Marty in the real Hill Valley Archives when they were searching for info on Doc's death. I never knew there was this much on the outlaw and all of it is quite hysterical, actually, and quite informative. Neat how Michael J. Fox adlibbed a line in when reading off Buford's profile. The text reads:


Buford Tannen was a notorious gunman whose short temper earned him the nickname "Mad Dog." He was quick on the trigger and bragged that he had killed 12 men, not including Indians or Chinamen.

However, this claim cannot be substiantiated since precise records were not kept after Tannen shot a newspaper editor who printed an unfavorable story about him in 1884.


Scene of shootout between Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen and several riders of the "Lazy J" outfit. Photographed moments after the deadly shootings, Tannen stands over all victums.

At the inquest that followed Tannen was aquitted since no witnesses could be found to testify against him. However some accounts indicate that Tannen had just purchased a new set of Colt pistols and was overheard to have said that he "wanted to try them out."

Circa 1885 Newspaper

(Photo by Jeff & Tammy Castillo)

This newspaper was likely used in background or made for BTTF3. While there are no stories in it that are really on screen, it is interesting to note that Hill Valley has been a city since 1865. Maybe that was what the town festival was about.

Doc's 1885 Letter

(Photo by Jeff & Tammy Castillo)

This was the letter that Doc sent to Marty from the Old West. For the most part, it reads like Doc's narration in the film... for the most part. It's rather interesting to get a good look at Doc's handwriting, likely the same as Christopher Lloyd's, though I've never seen a sample to say that it is so. The letter reads:

Dear Marty,

If my calculations are correct, you should recieve this letter immediately after you saw the DeLorean struck by lightning. First let me assure that I am alive and well. I have been living happily in the year 1885 these past 8 months.

The lightning bolt that hit the DeLorean caused a jigowatt overload that shorted out both the electronic system and the flying circuits.

I set myself up as a blacksmith as a front while I attempted to repair the damage. Unfortunately, this proved impossible because suitable replacement parts will not be available until 1947. However, I have gotten quite adapt at shoeing horses and fixing wagons.

Therefore, I have buried the DeLorean in the abandoned Delgado mine, adjacent to the old Boot Hill Cemetery as shown on the enclosed map. Hopefully it should remain undisturbed and presereved until you uncover it in 1955.

Inside, you should find repair instructions. My 1955 counterpart -- that's me -- should have no problem repairing it.

Then, Marty, send yourself back to 1985 and destroy the time machine.

Do not, I repeat do not, attempt to come back here to get me. I am perfectly happy living here in the fresh air and wide open spaces and I fear that unnecessary time travel only risks further disruption to the space-time continuum.

And please take care of Einstein for me. As you recall, I left him in my lab in 1985. I know you will give him a good home. Remember to walk him twice a day and that he only likes canned dog food.

There are my wishes, please respect them and follow them.

And so Marty, I now say farewell and wish you Godspeed. You've been a good, kind and loyal friend to me and you've made a real difference in my life.

I will always treasure our relationship and think of you with fond memories, warm feelings, and a special place in my heart.

Your friend in time,
"Doc" Emmett L. Brown
September 1, 1885

Doc's Map to the Mine

(Photo by Kristen Sheley)

This is a rather unusual artifact, since on screen it can only be seen from the back -- we are never shown the front. I never gave much thought as to what might be on the paper, oddly, but when I was down in Orlando for FX 2002 I got an up close look at the prop. This is probably the best shot I got of it with my camera, and it wouldn't look nearly this good if a fellow fan hadn't taken upon himself to clean up the flash glare. I find it highly interesting that the mine was apparently in a "Mt. Clayton" and Doc marked the site of the DeLorean with Marty's name, not ELB. Changes, clearly, that were made later after the prop was made. And the text does make sense. It's quite interesting.

Doc's Repair Instructions

(Photo by Chris Wilkinson)

This is the letter of repair instructions that Doc had stored with the DeLorean in the mine. Most of this text does show up in the novel of BTTF3, interestingly enough, and aside from the first two paragraphs, the rest of the instructions are repeated paragraphs from the long letter Doc sent. (Maybe it was done this way to lengthen the appearance of the instructions to the camera's eye). The new stuff reads:

As you can see, the lightning bolt shorts out the time-circuit control microchip. The attached schematic diagram will allow you to build a replacement unit with 1955 components.

But most importantly the time display mechanism must be repaired. Otherwise, it will be impossible to set a destination time. This is a simple repair, requiring a few flashlight bulbs and some penlight batteries.

November 6, 1955 Newspaper

(Photo by Chris Wilkinson)

This rarely seen prop was apparently the result of Marty's arrival into 1955. Most amusing, though in this case there is no article text to report. What you see is what you get. What is rather interesting is that this newspaper was made mention of in the novelization of BTTF -- Marty saw it at Doc's and it gave him the idea for the space alien gag with George. Perhaps it was made for the film before the scene was scrapped.

Marty's Letter to Doc

(Photo by Kristen Sheley. No larger version)

This letter was written by Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) to Doc Brown to warn him of his 1985 death and can be found on display at Universal Studios Hollywood. The handwriting in the letter really is Fox's -- I've seen samples of his normal handwriting (i.e. beyond an autograph) and it fits to a T. The letter reads:

Dear Dr. Brown,

On the night that I go back in time at 1:30 A.M., you will be shot by terrorists.

Please take whatever precautions are necessary to prevent this terrible disaster.

Your Friend,

The 2015 USA Today... Before

(Photo by

This was the newspaper that Doc showed to Marty to illustrate what would happen to his son without his help. It's a prop that I've seen on display at Universal Studios Hollywood and that several collectors have in their posession. Unlike many prop newspapers, which often put gibbrish in place of the text of their stories (since no one will really read it), this newspaper actually has a real story until the last few paragraphs. Highly interesting. The picture was taken from a very awesome website that has lots of detailed snapshots of props, for those interested in that aspect of the films. The article reads:

Martin McFly Junior Arrested for Theft
Youth Gang Denies Complicity

Protesting that he was "put up to the whole thing" by a local gang, Martin McFly, Junior, 17, was arrested for the theft of an undisclosed cash amount by Hill Valley Police this morning. The theft, which was accomplished with a stolen diguising unit, took place at the Hill Valley Payroll Substation on 8th Street at exactly 1:28 a.m. this morning. Police were sketchy about details, but apparently McFly set off a pressure sensitive alarm system which alerted authorities.

McFly, the son of Martin and Jennifer McFly of Hilldale, accused members of a local gang for putting him up to the crime. Griff Tannen, spokesman for the accused youths, denied any involvement. "McFly's too low-res for us to associate with," claimed Tannen.

McFly insisted that the gang was involved and that he didn't even know he was committing a crime. "They told me it was simply a money making opportunity and it was entirely legal."

McFly will be arraigned tomorrow and tried in a data-fax court later this week.

The 2015 USA Today... After

(Photo by

This was the newspaper that changed after Marty foiled the gang with his his hoverboarding prowess. It's a prop that I've seen on display at Universal Studios Hollywood and that several collectors have in their posession. Unlike many prop newspapers, which often put gibbrish in place of the text of their stories (since no one will really read it), this newspaper actually has a real story until the last few paragraphs. Highly interesting -- and one wonders why the word "Hoverboard" was capitalized continuously. Perhaps it's a brand name? The picture was taken from a very awesome website that has lots of detailed snapshots of props, for those interested in that aspect of the films. The article reads:

Hoverboard Rampage Destroys Courthouse
Gang Leader: "I was framed."

Reckless Hoverboarders careened into Hill Valley's City Courthouse late yesterday afternoon, causing serious damage to the structure. The perpetrators recieved minor injuries and were immediately apprehended by Hill Valley Police. They are being held in the City lockup pending immediate trial. Jailed were Griff Tannen, 19, Leslie O'Malley, 18, Chester Nogura, 18, and Rafe Unger, 19, all of Hill Valley. Tannen claimed a 5th Hoverboarder had perpetrated the incident and escaped. The claim was dismissed by authorities upon learning that the accused, whose name was withheld, was a repeated target of harrasment by the gang.

The incident occured in the front of the courthouse when Tannen, on a "Pit Bull" powered model Hoverboard with his companions in tow, went speeding across the courthouse pond in violation of a local ordinance and apparently lost control of his Hoverboard. All 4 Hoverboarders were thrown into the front office of the building, causing some serious damage to the edifice. No one else was injured.

McFly Family Photograph

(Photo from somewhere off e-bay....)

This picture, which totally cracks me up, is from the wall of the McFly house in 2015. Man, does Marty's daughter bear a resemblance to him.... ;-)