Tag Archives: public domain

Resource Spotlight: Prelinger Archives

The Prelinger Archives has long been a favorite resource of mine. The online library was founded by Rick Prelinger in 1983 as a collection of ephemeral films (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) and has become a fantastic place to find footage, images, text and audio that are available in the public domain.

It’s fun to peruse the library and find gems like the Destination Earth cartoon that extolls the virtues of oil and capitalism as pillars of success presented by the American Petroleum Institute in 1956. And maybe a nonprofit helping clean up from the oil spill could use it!

But what’s important for nonprofits is that the library contains a few thousand pieces in the public domain that anyone can download, reuse, remix and republish for their own purposes.

I love the language on the site inviting visitors to use the collection:

You are warmly encouraged to download, use and reproduce these films in whole or in part, in any medium or market throughout the world. You are also warmly encouraged to share, exchange, redistribute, transfer and copy these films, and especially encouraged to do so for free.

How can you say no to such an invitation?

So, for example, an organization dedicated to preserving historical traditions in Manhattan might not have the time or the resources to take out equipment and film all over the city. But in the Prelinger Archives, the group might find a piece such as this 1937 RKO Radio Pictures piece that was once part of the World on Parade series.

With such a fun find, I can see any number of projects blooming:

  • tweeting about the piece to start a conversation about how the city has changed, asking for stories from constituents’ own recollections
  • juxtaposing the footage with some updated footage to show how things have changed (find updated footage in YouTube’s Creative Commons cache)
  • place an audio recording of the nonprofit’s CEO explaining the importance of the group’s work and its future aims over the footage
  • allow the video to play in the background of an event or fundraiser, just to add something extra
  • I’ll save some ideas for future blog posts…
Another great thing about the archives is that as soon as you’re finished remixing footage you find there, you can upload your new final product to the library where someone else can find it and learn about your work. And who knows what you might find! Maybe even a video or photograph of the building you’re in right now from 75 years ago! I’ve seen several documentaries use these clips and it’s time for nonprofits looking to step up their media game to get their hands into these archives! Get to it.
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