Difficult Times at our Credit Union

Brewster Kahle, Chairman of the Internet Archive Federal Credit Union, November 2015

[NYtimes story, Motherboard, BoingBoing]

All deposits are safe, all loans performing, great and dedicated staff, wonderful members. So why difficult? Despite five years of effort, $1 million in donations spent (from the Internet Archive) and $1 million in the bank to back any bad loans (from the Kahle/Austin Foundation), we are only further from our goal: To create a financial institution that can justly serve our communities. It now looks likely that overwhelming regulatory burden will force us to give up our quest. But don’t worry, even in this case we have more than enough money for all depositors and can place our few outstanding loans. So all is safe, but we thought we should give an update.


Started in New Brunswick New Jersey in January 2011 and then chartered 19 months later, we invested in growing our membership based on a dream of a new kind of credit union, but now our membership is shrinking because the regulators (the National Credit Union Administration, or NCUA) kept tightening our requirements for membership. Also, the services they allow us to offer have been restricted to payday-like loans and small car loans– ones we were not excited to offer in the first place and not lucrative enough to break even. So now we serve only about 100 members and a total of about 400 account holders, and we are not even serving them in ways we wanted to. We wanted to do 3 types of things, none of which we are succeeding at, which makes losing money even harder to endure.

Brewster Kahle and Jordan Modell, at our grand opening celebration November 2012.

Brewster Kahle and Jordan Modell, at our grand opening celebration November 2012.

We wanted to help the under-served, but the restrictions made this too difficult. We tried to offer student loans, but we were limited to lending only $5,000. This was a particular problem when, for example, an under-documented local Rutgers student with a 700+ credit score and a part-time job needed $8,000 to stay in school but others would not help him. We sought an exception from the NCUA, but they said no. In another case, we worked with a migrant farm workers association to offer their members access to the credit union. We set up a system that allowed them to send money back home with much lower fees than organizations such as Western Union. We had set up services to help undocumented workers so they could pay their fair share of taxes and put them on a path to citizenship. But after ruling that we could accept members of this migrant farm workers as members then a lower level examiners reversed this decision and we had to move all of those members to non-members effectively killing our relationship with the migrant farm workers association. Also, our members wanted to send outgoing wire transfers but the NCUA would not allow it resulting in many members leaving. You probably get the idea, we certainly did.

Internet Credit Union board and staff in April 2014.

Internet Credit Union board and staff in April 2014.

We wanted to create permanently affordable housing by offering targeted mortgages. With the banking crisis leading to millions going into foreclosure, we thought we could find ways to help. With abundant capital for our credit union (in this case donations) and experience from Jordan Modell, a banker of over 20 years, we built a great team, board, and partnerships, we gave it a whirl. We were encouraged by how generous the other credit unions and community members were. But as I said, the regulators never let us lend more than $5,000 to anyone much less originate mortgages. The Internet Archive has made progress anyway in affordable housing by starting a “Foundation House,” but unfortunately the credit union is not allowed to build on this example.

We also wanted to make a model so that thousands of credit unions could be started to serve their local communities as happened in the 1930’s and 40’s. Our CEO, Jordan Modell, wrote a blog so others might learn from us and spent hundreds of hours with others wanting to start credit unions. But even though it is logistically easy to start and run a fully functional credit union given the technology back-end services available today, the regulators made it very hard to succeed. After a year and a half of full time work on our application, and their demands for 5,236 changes (really) to our application documents, we were learning they were not interested in new credit unions. We found that generally only a handful of new federal credit unions are allowed to start each year. One of the four our year was a Navajo credit union that spent 44 months getting through the process. We were stunned to find we were the first full service credit union chartered in New Jersey since the NCUA was formed 1970.

After years of losing money I asked our board, which included several that ran credit unions, “How do we break even?”  They said we should find those that need services that are financially lucrative, and they suggested we look to our unique relationship with the Internet. Since we were prevented from making significant loans, we thought that maybe we could get enough deposits and invest them in CDs and wait for the NCUA to let us serve the communities. Fortunately there was an opportunity was opening up. In 2013 bitcoin firms were in the news and banks were closing their accounts. The Internet Archive had some experience with bitcoin because people had donated bitcoins for a couple of years. The Internet Archive used them as partial pay their interested employees, to buy books at the neighborhood bookstore, and buy sushi next door. I suggested the credit union present at a bitcoin conference, which was well received.  Our credit union asked permission from the NCUA to bank bitcoin companies and they granted it. We opened accounts for three small firms. All good– until it wasn’t. The NCUA suddenly demanded we close the accounts. So we reluctantly closed them forcing one of the companies into bankruptcy. The NCUA suggested we open accounts for the individual customers of one of the failed firms so they could receive their money. But then the NCUA kept auditing and investigating us at a level that often took more hours than what we spent on all member services combined. They have been in our branch now around once a month for 2 years, driving up our costs and driving down our services.

sources: Credit Union National Association, NCUA (via the Wayback Machine)

sources: Credit Union National Association, NCUA (via the Wayback Machine)



I don’t think it is just us. For sure, we made mistakes but also had unusual advantages: experienced banker CEO, almost unlimited capital, and a market that wanted alternative banking options. I now believe it is not just us, because 200 to 300 credit unions are shut down every year, many of which by the NCUA which was started in 1970. Only a few are allowed to start. All the while, it has never been easier to create and operate a small full-service credit union, complete with debit cards, ATM’s, and online banking. We have heard many tales from other credit unions and the associations that try to help new ones that echo our experiences. “By any measure, the future for small credit unions looks bleak,” says the Financial Brand. We now know first hand how they go after small and medium sized credit unions and force them to merge their assets into bigger credit unions. If you have an account in a credit union, especially a small or medium sized one, I would worry that they will go after yours.

I told my tale of woe to a friend, John Markoff, at a party and he suggested I tell it to another New York Times reporter Nathaniel Popper, who turned out to be interested. Few go to the press because there is little upside as the regulators hold absolute power and could react negatively to critical press.

We decided to go to the press as part of our original idea– share our experience so others may learn from us. Unfortunately, we do not have a successful model for others to copy. It may have just been us, but I don’t think so. The United States may not be the place to sustain a grassroots community banking system, at least one that has anything to do with the existing regulators. Maybe the regulators will change, and there are some bringing up issues. Maybe people will build a new system, but so far, the US regulators are aggressively resistant. Maybe some other country will be interested in new ideas and welcome entrepreneurs. Maybe other credit unions that have felt crushed by the regulators will come forward and tell their stories creating momentum for change. I see a system as unhealthy if regulators put 200 to 300 institutions out of business every year for decades on end while only allowing a few to start.

Part of the reason the regulators may act this way is how technically insecure the money system is. As an engineer, when I looked at how the transaction systems work, I was shocked to see few technological safeguards. I imagine there is major fraud activity. Ironically, the bankers and regulators need exactly the technologists that they are pushing away.

All in all, we are sad. Many people have spent years building a new credit union and we have little to show for it. We had hopes. When I was young I had a passbook from my village’s savings and loan– they helped me save my paperboy money so I could spend it on my stamp collection. But through the 80’s I saw the regulators, and the de-regulators, take our beloved savings and loans across the country and roll them up and blown them up– mine was gone in 1989. I wonder if this is what is happening to our small and medium sized credit unions.

More as it happens, but these are difficult times for our credit union. Thank you for all of the help.




Number of Credit Unions in the United States and the number change each year (NCUA started in 1970). Source: CUNA.

Number Yearly Change
1939 8,035
1940 9,224 1,189
1941 10,316 1,092
1942 10,272 -44
1943 10,158 -114
1944 8,930 -1,228
1945 8,823 -107
1946 8,944 121
1947 9,130 186
1948 9,320 190
1949 10,062 742
1950 10,586 524
1951 11,278 692
1952 12,280 1,002
1953 13,690 1,410
1954 15,067 1,377
1955 16,192 1,125
1956 17,246 1,054
1957 18,191 945
1958 18,860 669
1959 19,512 652
1960 20,094 582
1961 20,604 510
1962 20,984 380
1963 21,363 379
1964 21,800 437
1965 22,109 309
1966 22,680 571
1967 23,029 349
1968 23,420 391
1969 23,866 446
1970 23,687 -179 Year the NCUA Started
1971 23,267 -420
1972 23,098 -169
1973 22,982 -116
1974 22,940 -42
1975 22,677 -263
1976 22,581 -96
1977 22,382 -199
1978 22,203 -179
1979 21,981 -222
1980 21,465 -516
1981 20,784 -681
1982 19,897 -887
1983 19,095 -802
1984 18,375 -720
1985 17,654 -721
1986 16,928 -726
1987 16,274 -654
1988 15,709 -565
1989 15,121 -588
1990 14,549 -572
1991 13,989 -560
1992 13,385 -604
1993 12,960 -425
1994 12,551 -409
1995 12,230 -321
1996 11,887 -343
1997 11,659 -228
1998 11,392 -267
1999 11,016 -376
2000 10,684 -332
2001 10,355 -329
2002 10,041 -314
2003 9,709 -332
2004 9,346 -363
2005 9,011 -335
2006 8,662 -349
2007 8,396 -266
2008 8,089 -307
2009 7,830 -259
2010 7,605 -225
2011 7,351 -254
2012 7,070 -281
2013 6,795 -275
2014 6,513 -282
Posted in Announcements, News | 14 Comments

Lost Landscapes of San Francisco: Fundraiser for the Internet Archive — Thursday, December 10, 2015


The 10th annual screening of Lost Landscapes, Rick Prelinger’s archival tour of San Francisco’s past (and anticipation of its future) happens again at the Internet Archive on Thursday, December 10.  Your ticket donations will benefit the Internet Archive, the non-profit digital library that hosts the Prelinger Collection. Please give generously to support our mission:  providing universal access to our cultural treasures, including these cinematic gems.

Thursday, December 10, 2015
6:30 pm Reception
7:30 pm Interactive Film Program

Internet Archive
300 Funston Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118

Get tickets here!

Combining past favorites with new cinematic discoveries, this feature-length program shows San Francisco’s neighborhoods, landmarks, celebrations and people from 1906 through the 1970s. New sequences this year include 1930s downtown tavern scenes, New Deal labor graphics and an exuberant 1940s Labor Day parade, radical longshore workers, newly discovered World War II-era tourist-shot Kodachrome film, residential neighborhood activities and much more.

As usual, the audience creates the soundtrack — audience members are asked to identify places and events, ask questions, share their thoughts, and create an unruly interactive symphony of speculation about the city we’ve lost and the city we’d like to live in.

The film begins at 7:30 pm and is preceded by an informal reception that begins at 6:30 pm. Light concessions will be available for purchase. Although capacity is limited, no one will be turned away due to lack of funds.

Posted in Announcements, News | 2 Comments

Pro-Airbnb advertising dominated recent political TV ads in San Francisco

Based on algorithmic analysis, Pro-Airbnb advertising dominated political TV ads in San Francisco in the weeks leading up to Election Day. Two thirds of the minutes devoted to political ads on several initiatives and races before voters focused on arguments against a proposal to curb the company’s operations in the city, according to a review of the Internet Archive television archive. Voters ended up rejecting Proposition F, whose opponents claimed it would encourage neighbors to spy on each other and increase lawsuits, by a margin of 55 to 45 percent.

Minutes of TV Political Ads in San Francisco

The Archive identified total of 1,959 minutes of ads (4,591 plays) opposing Proposition F, out of 2,895 minutes devoted to all political TV ads, or roughly two thirds of the air-time.

To put that in perspective, Mayor Ed Lee, who won his reelection easily, was the subject of only 55 minutes of ads. Though he appeared in and narrated hundreds of ads supporting Propositions A and D, the only ads that mention his mayoral race were airings of a support ad paid for not by his own campaign, but rather by an independent expenditure from Clint Reilly, a local real estate developer and former professional political consultant.

Samples of all ads found to be related to 2015 San Francisco elections can be viewed here, and metadata about those that occurred in archived television can be downloaded from this page.

The only political ad that aired on television in support of proposition F was this one, which was observed for a total of 16 minutes between October 16th to 25th. The ad, which features a parody of the Eagles’ song “Hotel California,” was pulled from Youtube and the ShareBetterSF campaign website because of claims of copyright infringement. Dale Carlson, a spokesman for the campaign who contacted the Archive, wrote “We believe the ad is parody and did not constitute a copyright violation. But it had already run its course and we weren’t going to spend money on legal bills to defend an ad that was already off the air.”

In all, the Archive identified 14 unique ads opposing Proposition F that aired on TV. In the final days of the campaign, the opponents devoted airtime to this ad that calls the proposal “too extreme,” quotes from the San Francisco Chronicle, and cites high profile opponents such as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayor Lee. This 30-second ad aired 423 times on 10 channels in San Francisco (CNBC, CNN, FOXNEWS, KGO, KNTV, KOFY, KPIX, KRON, KTVU, MSNBC).

This review updates an earlier one issued last week focused exclusively on Airbnb ads, broadening the analysis to include all political TV ads aired from August 25th through November 3.  The Archive identified ads through a number of sources, including SFGov’s Summary of Third Party Expenditures Regarding San Francisco Candidates hosted by the City of San Francisco. An audio fingerprint was created for each ad and used to find matches in some 35,000 hours of archived local station programming and cable news network shows available in the San Francisco region.  The Internet Archive’s television news research library presents public opportunities to search, compare and contrast news programs in its archive.  Entertainment programming is only available for select algorithmic study within its server environment.

The Internet Archive’s review of political TV ads relating to Proposition F is part of experimentation in preparation for our new Knight Foundation funded project to track political TV ads in key primary states. Stay tuned for news about our December launch.

Research by Trevor von Stein

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Aaron Swartz Day – Hackathon, Privacy-enabling conference and Reception

aaron swartz

In memory of Aaron Swartz, whose social, technical, and political insights still touch us daily, Lisa Rein, in partnership with the Internet Archive, will be hosting a weekend of events on Saturday, November 7 and Sunday, November 8. Friends, collaborators, and hackers can participate in a Hackathon, Privacy-enabling Mini Conference, and Aaron Swartz Day Reception.

Schedule of events held at the Internet Archive:

 Saturday, November 7 10am-6pm and Sunday, November 8 11am-5pm participate in the Hackathon, which will focus on SecureDrop, the whistleblower submission system originally created by Aaron just before he passed away. 

Journalists, librarians, researchers, students: Here’s your chance to spend two days learning about encryption and privacy-enabling software at the Privacy-enabling Mini Conference – make your laptop, phone, and other devices more secure by the end of the day.

Saturday, November 7

  • 10am, the folks from Keybase, who will be providing both a beginning and an advanced tutorials.
  • 1pm, Cooper Quintin, Staff Technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, will talk about the what, where, and how of Privacy Badger, EFF’s privacy-enhancing creepy-tracker-blocking browser extension.
  • 2pm, Micah Lee, of The Intercept and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, will be giving his “Encryption for Journalists” workshop, so that journalists, librarians, researchers, or anyone else needing to, can protect their sources from prying eyes.
  • 4pm, Brad Warren, a Let’s Encrypt Developer, will present Let’s Encrypt, a joint project between the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, Akami, Cisco, the University of Michigan, and open-source developers around the world. Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated Certificate Authority which anyone can use to quickly, easily, and securely set up HTTPS on their website in minutes.

Sunday, November 8

  • 11am, Alison Macrina, librarian and privacy activist and the director of the Library Freedom Project. Alison will teach basic concepts in information security, and cover tools like Tor Browser, NoScript, passphrase management, safer searching, encrypted texting and other mobile security strategies, and more.
  • 2pm, Zaki Manian from Restore the 4th will be presenting an introductory tutorial to using Tor Anonymity System on desktop and mobile computers. He will cover the Tor security model and practical application choices to make. 

Celebrate and remember Aaron, and the living hackers and whistleblowers that work hard to make the world a better place at the Aaron Swartz Day Celebration Reception on what would have been Aaron’s 29th birthday: November 7, 2015, from 6-10:00 pm.

  • Reception: 6pm-7:30pm Come mingle with the speakers and celebrate Aaron’s accomplishments.
  • Movies: 7:30-8:00pm – See scenes from “From DeadDrop to SecureDrop,” a documentary about the anonymous whistleblower submission platform that Aaron and Kevin Poulsen prototyped in 2013, and how it made its way to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, after Aaron’s death.
  • Speakers 8:00-10:00pm:
    Garrett Robinson (Lead Programmer, SecureDrop)
    Giovanni Damiola  (Open Library Project)
    Alison Macrina (Founder and Director, Library Freedom Project
    Brewster Kahle (Digital Librarian, Internet Archive)
    Cindy Cohn (Executive Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation)
    Roger Dingledine (Interim Executive Director, Tor Project)
    Micah Lee (Co-founder, Freedom of the Press Foundation and Technologist at “The Intercept”)
    Jacob Appelbaum (Security Expert seen in Citizen Four, Wikileaks volunteer) (Appearing remotely via Jitsi over Tor)
    John Perry Barlow (EFF and Freedom of the Press Foundation co-founder) and Special Guests.
    The whole thing is completely free of charge, and food and beverages are also provided, so please RSVP, so we know how much food we need.


For more information, contact:
Lisa Rein, Coordinator, Aaron Swartz Day

Posted in Announcements, News | 1 Comment

Pro-Airbnb political TV ads air at rate of 100:1 as San Franciscans head to polls

For every one minute of political ads aired in favor of a contentious ballot initiative intended to further regulate Airbnb’s growing presence in the city where it is headquartered, more than 100 minutes of ads urging them to vote “no,” have aired on local San Francisco area TV stations, according to an assessment of the Internet Archive’s television archive.

Audio fingerprinting of YouTube-hosted advertising was used to identify the same ads in local station programming and cable news networks available in the region, from August 25th through October 26th.  Sample ads can be viewed here, and metadata about their occurrences can be downloaded from this page.

Proposition F, which is backed by a coalition of unions, land owners, housing advocates, and neighborhood groups, would restrict private rentals to 75 nights per year as well as enact rules that would ensure that hotel taxes are paid and city code followed. It would also allow private party lawsuits by neighbors against private renters suspected of violating the law.

The Internet Archive found just one TV ad favoring the initiative, also appeared on the Proposition F campaign website. The Archive discovered 32 instances of this ad airing on local TV stations, for a total of 16 minutes of airplay. However, the ad, which features a parody of the song “Hotel California,” by the Eagles, (the lyrics were replaced with “Hotel San Francisco,”) was recently removed from the official website because of a claim of copyright infringement.

In contrast, in our sample range, Airbnb supporters aired more than 26 hours of ads against the initiative. One example ad, which is below, claims that the initiative would “encourage neighbors to spy on each other,” and “create thousands of new lawsuits.” This ad played at least 358 times in recent weeks, for a total of 179 minutes of airtime.

Over all, according to reports filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission, opponents of Proposition F have reported spending $6.5 million compared to $256,000 from organizations supporting the initiative.

Of course the ad campaigns are not just limited to television. Airbnb apologized last week after it caught flack for a series of controversial bus stations and billboard ads that critics called “passive aggressive” and “whiny,”  for complaining about how public institutions, such as libraries, spent their tax revenue-derived budgets.

But TV remains a key way that political operators try to influence voters. As Nate Ballard, a Democratic strategist recently said on a local newscast: “That’s how you win campaigns in California, on TV.”

The Internet Archive’s review of political TV ads relating to Proposition F is part of experimentation in preparation for our new Knight Foundation funded project to track political TV ads in key primary states. Stay tuned for news about our December launch.

research by Trevor von Stein






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Moving Image Archive: New Tools and Digitization work with Educational Films Collection

As part of the effort to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge, The Internet Archive has been actively involved in digitizing and curating the world’s audiovisual heritage. Our collections range from films produced or distributed by the US Government , to educational films on scientific, historical and civic topics used in classrooms throughout the twentieth century. Our Moving Image Archive also hosts collections of significant regional and topical interest, including California Light and Sound of the California Audiovisual Preservation Project and the Prelinger Archives with particular strengths in amateur, industrial and local films.

Non-theatrical motion pictures – meant to be screened outside of the typical commercial theater circuit in schools, local groups or specialized audiences – provide an essential glimpse into corners of history that would otherwise remain obscure or distorted. The Internet Archive holds a wide array of physical collections in a variety of gauges (8mm, super8, 16mm as well as 35mm) that range from home movies and stock footage, to documentaries and entire teaching film collections totaling tens of of thousands of reels. We aim to scan as many of these films as possible and offer them in a variety of file formats with rich descriptions and links to further resources, always emphasizing access and welcoming user comments and contributions to our metadata. We invite visitors to be part of our mission to gather “Visible Evidence” of our past and present.

Key to this effort has been our work on a corpus of educational films, the majority of which were produced for K-12 and college-aged students from the 1940s to the 1970s. They include films from significant collections and repositories on psychology (e.g. the Psychological Cinema Registry), science (Encyclopedia Cinematographica) and art. Our in-house digitization process involves scanning these films at a high resolution (2K where possible), presenting them in a separate, well-curated collection on our site, and working on ways to make them more easily discoverable and more useful to our visitors. Some tools in progress include:

-Voice transcription that generates a text file through which a film’s voice-over and dialogue can be searched (for an example from a recent experiment see here).

-Links in each film page to online resources both within the Internet Archive’s book and journal collections and to our partners at the Media History Project.

-Rich metadata description sourced from the physical collections, educational film catalogues, relevant journals and databases.

Rather than aim for preservation-grade copies of our films – a laborious and costly process that often delays or completely prevents user-access –  we are prioritizing search capabilities, future-proofed video file formats, secure and reliable storage and a user interface that encourages viewing and sharing. Our films will be of interest to educators and researchers, but equally to filmmakers and artists, groups documenting their local history and those that have always wondered how movies became “talkies”

or how Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl managed to cross the Pacific in a raft in 1947.

We are always open to comments, suggestions and ideas. Please let us know what films, functionalities and future improvement you would like to see in our film collections. To be a part of the effort of constructing, curating and conserving the world’s largest digital repository of non-theatrical films, you can email the Internet Archive’s film curator at dimitrios@archive.org

Dimitrios Latsis

CLIR-Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for the Visual Studies, Internet Archive

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Home Movie Day at the Internet Archive – December 12, 2015

The Internet Archive will be hosting the Bay Area’s official Home Movie Day celebration this year at 300 Funston on Saturday December 12. Film submission is already open! See poster below for details.

Home Movie 5

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Zoom in to 9.3 Million Internet Archive Books and Images– through IIIF



Imagine you could zoom seamlessly into to this rare Klimt painting  to inspect the finest brush strokes?  Or arrange the pages of a medieval manuscript on a virtual desktop to analyze and annotate them?  Now you can right here.  

Cultural institutions around the globe, including the Internet Archive, are making images more dynamic through the International Image Interoperability Framework.  This common technical framework and open standard is enabling university libraries such as Stanford’s, museums such as the Getty, and national institutions such as the Bibliothèque nationale de France to share content in a seamless and dynamic way.  The key is IIIF’s interoperability.  Now for the first time, scholars can assemble the pages of a centuries old manuscript held in dozens of libraries around the world, right on their computers.

Thanks to the efforts of a volunteer engineer, Mek  Karpeles and Stanford University Library’s Drew Winget, the Internet Archive is proud to release 9.3 million items into the IIIF ecosystem through our new product incubator and laboratory, Archivelab.  By visiting the service at http://iiif.archivelab.org, you will find a full list of the unique ID codes for more than nine million Internet Archive texts and images accessible by our IIIF proxy server. The technical community can contribute to Mek’s code at https://github.com/mekarpeles/iiif.archive.org and explore documentation for the Archive’s IIIF implementation at http://iiif.archivelab.org/documentation.

Here are a few reasons we think this is significant for our partners around the world:

  • Any book or text you upload into archive.org will automatically become available in IIIF format.
  • You can search for items on Archive.org and the ID’s are identical—so you know any book in our archive will be accessible at http://iiif.archivelab.org.

Take for instance this digital copy of Plato’s works in archive.org.

Next, explore how you can zoom in when this same book is accessed through our IIIF server.  

  • IIIF is interoperable with other university systems, so you can compare items side by side, or assemble them into a custom “manifest” or grouping with pieces from different institutions.
  • You don’t have to create your own “manifests” for the presentation of pages into books—it’s done for you automatically by our derive process

You could drag this manifest of Plato’s Works into a presentation platform such as Project Mirador and compare the Internet Archive’s copy with Yale’s or Oxford’s.

  • Those without the technical resources to set up their own IIIF server can now just draw items from ours
  • We’re one of the first institutions to provide a comprehensive catalogue of all our IIIF items—a crucial step to making this truly useful to scholars and patrons.  Right now it’s indecipherable to anyone but a software engineer, but in the future we believe this type of transparency will ignite better discovery of IIIF assets everywhere.

Our efforts with IIIF are in an early pilot phase.  It’s one of the first experiments in the new Archive Lab incubator, and there will be many opportunities to make IIIF images useful to the public.  Hats off to the dedicated engineering of Mek Karpeles, Drew Winget and the Internet Archive’s Hank Bromley.  Digitization Partners: tell us how your institutions are moving forward with this new framework and how we can help.  We hope this may be another foundation upon which we build the libraries of the future together.

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Special Book Collections Come Online with the Table Top Scribe

Tabletop Scribe low resSpecial book collections, special challenges. In the ongoing effort to bring books, manuscripts, and other text-based works into the digital age, the question of how to digitize rare and irreplaceable books has been one of the most vexing.

For many research libraries with these kinds of collections, offsite digitization is simply not an option. The cost and potential hazards associated with handling, packing, and shipping materials for offsite scanning have been prohibitive, and  librarians have been forced to search for other ways to get these materials digitized and online for scholarly access.

Enter the Table Top Scribe.

What is it?  The Table Top Scribe is a portable, easy to use book digitization system available to library partners of the Internet Archive. Announced last year, the system began shipping in 2015 to library partners in North America, Europe and Asia.

For digital librarians such as Leah Prescott from the Georgetown University Law Library in Washington DC, the Table Top Scribe system provides a welcome solution to the traditional conundrum of balancing preservation and access in digitizing collections, as well as providing a cost-effective solution for digitization when library staff can be assigned to scanning projects.

“At the Georgetown Law Library, we are using the Table Top Scribe system to digitize books that can’t leave the library, or that make more sense to digitize in-house. Instead of shipping them out, we digitize them right here, using the Table Top Scribe. It makes a big difference that we can do this here ourselves. Our materials get handled only by trained library personnel and in our own controlled environmental conditions.”

TTScribeThe Table Top Scribe is a specially designed hardware and software system developed at the Internet Archive, and intended as a solution to handle partners’ non-destructive onsite scanning needs.

The system, relatively affordable at $9,999 for the base model, enables books to be positioned in a safe manner and with appropriate support on a v-cradle for scanning, and images to be captured via still photography for high quality color digitization. Impressive scanning rates — better than 500 pages per hour — are doable, depending on the materials being scanned.

Optional image processing (the Gold Package, available for an additional cost of .04 per page) is also offered to Table Top Scribe partners and, says Prescott, this option made a big difference to Georgetown Law Library.

“We ended up choosing the TT Scribe because not only could we purchase the scanner at a very reasonable price, we also could contract for the post-processing at a very reasonable price. Our experience (as I assume is the same with most others) is that it is the post-processing that is the most time-consuming, and therefore the most expensive part of the digitization process.”

Post-processing is key. The post-processing services for the Table Top Scribe system, available with the Gold Package, includes image rotating, cropping, and 100% QA using the Internet Archive’s proven systems, as well as digital storage and hosting on www.archive.org and www.openlibrary.org.

Library partners using the Table Top Scribe with the Gold Package option are able to easily upload their books into their own unique and curated online collections, and provide online access in a user-friendly book-reader interface, as well as in multiple downloadable file formats including JPEG2000, PDF/A, EPUB, KINDLE, ABBYY GZ, DAISY, and TORRENT.

Content in libraries’ special collections, previously not widely or easily available to the world, can now be set free for future access by scholars and the general public.

A special book collection comes online. Another library partner taking advantage of the Table Top Scribe system to provide such access is Washington University Libraries in St Louis.  Leonard Augsburger, Project Coordinator in Scholarly Publishing at Washington University, explains that the Table Top Scribe is being used to bring rare and fragile numismatic materials online. See the collection at https://archive.org/details/newmannumismatic.

Numismatic“We are digitizing this material,” Augsburger comments, “so that it can be added to a web-based research tool we are working on called the Newman Numismatic Portal, planned as the ultimate go-to resource for the study of coins and currency.”

The extraordinary collection of books, periodicals and correspondence on numismatics housed at Washington University Libraries is currently being digitized using two Table Top Scribes. According to Augsburger, the power of being able to scan these materials in-house by library staff, and have them quickly show up on archive.org as beautiful, accessible images, really showcases the benefits of the Table Top Scribe system.

“The University’s collections on the Internet Archive site enables numismatic scholars to use these materials right now, and get a sense of the wealth of information that will be available to them via the planned numismatic portal,” he explains.

Part of a longer-range vision. The Table Top Scribe is offered to library partners such as Washington University Libraries as part of the Internet Archive’s overall mission: to provide universal access to all knowledge.

earthThe Internet Archive is committed to the long-range vision of building a collaborative digital collection in partnership with libraries worldwide, and to ensure that this collection remain open and accessible into the future, for the benefit of researchers and scholars, the blind and dyslexic, and the general public. The Table Top Scribe is an important part of this vision because it makes it easier for library partners to join this collaborative effort and get their collections online… quickly and easily.

Prescott of Georgetown Law Library sums up this perspective nicely: “Having worked with the Internet Archive for a number of years, I could trust that we were working with an organization that is truly motivated by the greater good, rather than only the bottom line – and that makes a big difference both in the quality of the equipment with the Table Top Scribe, as well as the quality of the service. We have not been disappointed!”

Interested in finding out more about the Table Top Scribe? Contact Gemma Waterston Batson, Global Brand Manager, at gemma@archive.org.

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Grant to Develop the Next Generation Wayback Machine

“There are others (archives of the Web), but the Wayback Machine is so much bigger than all of them that it’s very nearly true that if it’s not in the Wayback Machine it doesn’t exist.” Continue reading

Posted in Announcements, News | 30 Comments

Preserving One Couple’s Hidden Library


25,000 books line every wall of Dorthy and George’s Utah home. She had only weeks to find a home for them.

In the 1940s, a husband and wife began building a library in their corner home just south of Salt Lake City, Utah. They dreamed of creating a collection used for higher education, and eventually it grew to more than 25,000 books.  The couple spent all their funds on books and custom-built shelves that filled the house – a modest two-story building that locals thought was abandoned.

In early August, Dorothy Torrey called the Internet Archive with an urgent request.  The home she had lived in for decades was being sold and she needed to leave by the end of September.  Would we take the books that she and her husband had collected?  Could we get the books packed in boxes and shipped to our warehouses in California?

As a boy, Dorothy’s husband, the late George Maycock, bounced around foster homes – one across the street from a university library.  He spent awe-filled hours walking among the library stacks, sometimes just touching the volumes, sometimes sitting on the floor to read.  Years later, this experience inspired George to recreate that feeling in the stacks by amassing his own collection, with Dorothy’s help.  Their library covered myriad topics, from math to science, religion, and biography.  The library even had its own card catalog, that Dorothy created and maintained.

Needless to say, when we heard of Dorothy’s dilemma, we wanted to help.


Kyle Rosqvist and Dorothy Torrey in the midst of boxing the 25,000 books.

For assistance packing the books, we reached out to one our of close partners in Utah, Dennis Meldrum of FamilySearch.org.  He suggested that we work with an Eagle Scout, Kyle Rosqvist, who needed to complete a leadership project.  Coordinating fellow scouts to pack and preserve thousands of donated books seemed like a worthy goal.

Our Warehouse Manager, Sean Fagan, sent the needed supplies to Dorothy’s house: stacks of pallets, piles of unfolded boxes, and rolls of packing tape.  Sixty volunteers showed up to pack books over two days.  Some of the words volunteers used to describe the collection: “overwhelming,” “impressive,” and “amazing.”  Although help was needed both inside the house and out, most volunteers asked to work inside, just to be close to the books.  And sometimes the books proved too attractive, as some volunteers were found reading more than packing.


Thirty-nine pallets of books lined up along the driveway of the hidden library in Utah.

As the books were being boxed, Dorothy closely monitored the work, ensuring that the volumes were handled with care.  She even inspected each completed pallet as it was lined up along her long driveway.  After the pallets had been taken away, Dorothy felt some sadness, but she was comforted knowing that these books would someday be made available to countless readers through archive.org.

And last week, 39 pallets of books were delivered to one of our warehouses in the San Francisco Bay area.  We are deeply grateful to Dorothy and her late husband, George, to Family Search’s Dennis Meldrum, Eagle Scout, Kyle Rosqvist, and the dozens of scouts who volunteered.  Indeed, with such passionate individuals preserving invaluable books, this is how great libraries are built.

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A Treasure Trove of Adventure and Uploading

The Internet Archive opens its doors and drives towards a goal of Universal Access to Knowledge, and encourages contributions and uploads from our audience on a global scale. In some cases, like our Netlabels section, the contributors are often the creators as well, publishing open-licensed music at the Archive. Others, however, are doing their part to make sure near-forgotten works find a new life online.

RM_Ballantyne_The_Pirate_City_0006 Shining among these contributing curators is one Nick Hodson of Athelstane e-books, who over the course of years uploaded hundreds (more that 400, in fact) of late 19th century stories of adventure. These books, created by a wide range of authors and publishing houses, contain all manner of plot, drama and intrigue, as well as some top-quality illustration work of the time.

With titles like Twice Lost (1876), The Island Home or The Adventures of Six Young Crusoes (1851), The Voyages of the Ranger and Crusader and What Befell Their Passengers and Crews (1872) and Cutlass and Cudgel (1890), these writings range from epic stories to tales for young readers, a gamut worth traveling in itself.

Additionally, historical work has been done to give context to the books, including biographies of the authors and publishing houses. Explanations of the process of converting the items have been included as well, revealing that Hodson and his colleagues would set up voice synthesizers reading the text, to catch any errors not found other ways.


It’s good enough to bring to the spotlight this collection of literature, and to point out that as a library, it’s a handsome snapshot of a writing style of the past. But beyond that is the fact that the Archive’s digital storehouses are most welcoming to contributors who accompany the files with the descriptions and reasons behind their being added to the collections.

When a reader finds these stories, now over a century and a half in the past, they do so looking for the descriptions, titles and other information attached to them by the uploader. The reward comes in the view counts and reviews from a happy audience stumbling on a trove of writing that references lives long past.

The Internet Archive’s upload facility awaits quality contributions of culture and history from throughout the world, and continual improvements in search, browsing and on-line reading mean the reward for your efforts will be an ever-growing and grateful audience.

Here’s to the adventures on the high seas, and the adventures of contributors to the Internet Archive, past and future!

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Join Us for our Biggest Celebration of the Year!

Building Libraries Logo Black

You are invited to:

Building Libraries Together

     Celebrating the Passionate People Building the Internet Archive  

Wednesday, October 21

at the Internet Archive

300 Funston Avenue, San Francisco

6 p.m. Reception & Hands-on Demo Stations

7 p.m. Program begins

Come honor our partners–the hackers and historians making amazing things with the Internet Archive’s collections.  

And we’ll present the first Internet Archive Hero Award to the Grateful Dead–Pioneers in Sharing.

Come try these Hands-on Demos:

SCAN a book with our next generation Scribe

LISTEN to a vintage recording

EXPLORE political TV ads and funny films

PLAY a 3-D video game with the Oculus Rift

VIEW Grateful Dead memorabilia

ENJOY free food, drink and music!

Get your free ticket here.





Posted in Announcements, News | 9 Comments

Get your Dem debate visualizations here

Hot off the internet presses, here is media analyst’s Kalev Leetaru’s visualization tool, fueled by Internet Archive data, which enables users to trace particular phrases used in broadcast news coverage in the first 24 hours after would-be presidential nominees appeared in the first Democratic debate of the 2016 election.

Scroll down and what sticks out immediately are the two subjects that captured most of the news broadcasters’ attention: “Bernie Sanders’ “damn emails” quote and guns.

When the subject came up of the controversy over Clinton’s decision to do public work from a private email server, rather than attack Clinton, Sanders defended her:

“Let me say — let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.”

According to Internet Archive data, that sound bite aired 496 times across stations.

The other issue that grabbed attention was gun violence: Sanders, who hails from gun-friendly rural Vermont, was called to task for his vote to make it tougher to hold gun manufacturers liable when the guns they make are used in a crime. Answering a question by CNN moderator Anderson Cooper, on whether Sanders is tough enough on guns, Clinton said:

“No, not at all. I think that we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long and it’s time the entire country stood up against the NRA. The majority of our country…(APPLAUSE)… supports background checks, and even the majority of gun owners do.”

This clip aired 260 times across stations.

However, these are just the top take-aways from this massive data crunching tool. It provides a search mechanism for the user to do deeper dives into the data and discover trends across and within certain types of news broadcasts.

Leetaru’s own analysis is here, on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage. Among his observations:

There was also variation in how much attention each network paid to each candidate (you can see for yourself using the interactive visualization). Telemundo favored Sanders with 41 percent, followed by O’Malley with 24 percent and Clinton at just 21 percent, though admittedly, they broadcast a relatively small number of excerpts. FOX Business also favored Sanders 50 percent to Clinton’s 38 percent, as did CSPAN with Sanders at 52 percent to Clinton’s 44 percent. All other networks favored Clinton, though sometimes by a relatively close margin — like CNBC (50 percent Clinton to 43 percent Sanders) or PBS affiliates (41 percent Clinton to 38 percent Sanders).

This tool is also part of the Internet Archive’s testing of technology that we’ll use in our new Knight Foundation funded project to track political TV ads in key primary states, which will launch in early December.

Dig in and have fun.

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As Democratic candidates debate, Internet Archive will be gathering data

When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders take the podium tonight along with other contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, their debate will be televised. The Television Archive will be tracking the news coverage surrounding the debate, viewable and searchable, here.

And this tool, developed by political scientist Kalev Leetaru  and fueled by Internet Archive data, allows users to see how many times a particular candidate’s name is mentioned in news coverage. Going into the debate, Hillary Clinton is getting more than twice as mentions as Sen. Bernie Sanders.

We take for granted that candidates will debate on screen, but it wasn’t always so. The faceoff between Republican Vice President Richard Nixon and Democrat U.S. Senator Jack Kennedy in 1960, 55 years ago last month, marked the first time that Americans were able to watch candidates for the nation’s highest office from the comfort of their living rooms. You can see part one of the debate here, preserved on the Archive’s servers:

The received wisdom about this famous debate was that, from this point on, candidates had to think not just about what they said on the campaign stump, but how they looked. This could make a huge difference in how the public and the media perceived who “won” the debate. Nixon looked tired and like he needed a shave. Kennedy looked healthy and vibrant. Those who listened on the radio thought Nixon won.

“It’s one of those unusual points in the timeline of history where you say things changed very dramatically–in this case, in a single night,” Alan Schroeder, a media historian and associate professor at Northeastern University, told Time Magazine in 2010.

Here’s part II of the Kennedy-Nixon 1960 debate:

We don’t know yet who the perceived winner of tonight’s debate will be. The Internet Archive’s data will provide one way to evaluate this. Stay tuned.

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Our Comments on Copyright Office Recommendations for Mass Digitization: No Extended Collective Licenses, Please

unlock-orphan-worksThe Copyright Office’s recent report Orphan Works and Mass Digitization contains proposals that could do more harm than good for digitization projects. The basic problem is that the report proposes to set up a similar regulatory scheme to the Google Book Settlement of 2008. The Justice Department, the Copyright Office, libraries, academic authors, public interest groups, privacy advocates, as well as the countries of France and Germany, all objected to the Settlement, and it was ultimately rejected by the court in 2011. Many of the same groups have strong objections to the Copyright Office’s version as well.

The regulatory idea is to set up an “Extended Collective License” system which would establish collective management organizations to monetize and control masses of unclaimed orphan works, along with claimed literary and photographic works. Unlike collective licensing societies such as ASCAP and BMI that artists opt in to, this regulatory regime would apply to works that have no one claiming them–which turns out to be a large percentage of our cultural heritage. These societies would be tasked with collecting licensing fees from nonprofit libraries and website owners. A problem is, most of the owners are nowhere to be found, and so there will be no one to distribute the collected fees to.  Many nonprofit sites wishing to make potentially culturally important materials available have no revenue stream to pay these taxes and would be forced to take materials down. Works that scholars, researchers and the general public may find valuable would go dark, to the benefit of no one at all. This regulatory regime would ultimately become a system for controlling what is in libraries and on websites via taxation, with much of the proceeds going to fund private collecting societies.

For years now, libraries, web communities, and individuals have been posting older works online, and for some commercially viable works, there is a small industry that sends take-down notices. It turns out that a vanishingly small fraction of these older materials are ever objected to. While this system is not perfect, it has allowed for many older cultural materials to join the the valuable and growing resource that is the web.

Internet Archive CommentsAlthough it is encouraging that the Copyright Office is trying to help bring our analog cultural heritage into the 21st Century, this proposal seems detrimental to that goal.

We submitted comments in coordination with Creative Commons and Wikimedia, who will submit their own comments tomorrow. Together, we hope to convince the Copyright Office not to ask Congress for a regulatory regime that inhibits fair use and undermines existing and future freely accessible mass digitization projects.

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IMLS National Digital Platform Grant Awarded to Advance Web Archiving

imls_logo_2cWe are excited to announce that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has recently awarded a National Leadership Grant, in the National Digital Platform category, to a proposal by Internet Archive’s Archive-It, Stanford University Libraries (DLSS and LOCKSS), University of North Texas, and Rutgers University. The $353,221 grant will support the project “Systems Interoperability and Collaborative Development for Web Archiving,” a two-year research project to test economic and community models for collaborative technology development, prototype system integration through development of Export APIs, and build community participation in web archiving development and new research and access tools. In addition to the technical development included in the scope of work, the project will also host a National Symposium on Web Archiving Interoperability in early 2017.

The project supports the National Digital Platform funding priority of IMLS by increasing access to shared services and infrastructure while building capacity for broader community input in technology development. Project outcomes will promote system integration, facilitate increased distributed preservation of archived data, and help support new global and local access models possible through export APIs, with an eye towards modeling post-grant interoperable systems architectures. Archive-It’s status as widely-used, shared web archiving infrastructure ensures broad community impact and makes possible the involvement of institutions of all sizes in project work. The involvement of Stanford University Libraries builds on their work in the Hydra community and with digital preservation services. UNT contributes experience in digital library and web archiving technology development and Rutgers’ work on research uses of web archives ensures the involvement of downstream user communities. Overall, the project will lay the groundwork for future collaboration around interoperability that will enhance the integration of disparate systems, increase local preservation, and improve the discoverability and use of web archives.

The outcomes of the project will build on the past and current collaborations of project partners, as well as Archive-It’s work on API development internally and in related collaborative development work. Project partners’ roles in affiliated groups like the IIPC, LDCX, NDSA, and the Web Science community ensures the involvement of the larger digital library and internet researcher communities. The two-year project will run from January 2016 through December 2017 and Jefferson Bailey, Director, Web Archiving Programs, Internet Archive, will serve as Project Director.

We thank IMLS for their generous support of this project and their ongoing support for libraries and archives working collaboratively towards building a sustained National Digital Platform. The complete list of IMLS-funded projects this award cycle is available online and the full narratives of all projects funded as part of the National Digital Platform were published on the IMLS blog . Go IMLS!

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Dynamic New Team Leads the Internet Archive’s Web Group

The Internet Archive is proud to present a dynamic new leadership team at the helm of our growing Web Services group.  Whether you are among the 400 partners capturing the Web through an Archive-it subscription, a national library preserving your digital heritage, or a researcher doing cutting-edge work in web archiving, you will appreciate the passion and professionalism of the Internet Archive’s new web team leaders.


Director of Global Web Services

Helen Hockx-Yu joins us this month in a new position focused on advancing the practices of preserving the web with libraries and national archives around the world.  Born in China, educated in the Netherlands, while developing her professional skills in the United Kingdom, Helen is a strategic thinker who understands the diverse needs of our multi-cultural partners.  Fluent in English, Dutch and Chinese, our newest director will help steer the strategic direction of the Internet Archive’s growing Web Services division as we expand our work with scholars and institutions worldwide.

“I am very excited to be joining the Internet Archive. This is the place where the idea of archiving the global web was born and the team has continued with a visionary approach to preserving and providing access to the world’s digital heritage,” remarked Hockx-Yu.  “ I admire the Internet Archive’s ‘can-do’ attitude and I hope my experience can help break barriers and contribute to more collaboration.  No single organization can be responsible for the digital libraries of the future. We need to work together.”

As Head of Web Archiving at the British Library (BL), Helen led the BL’s web archiving activities from 2008, building the British Library’s capability for archiving the UK web at scale and from 2013, implementing legal deposit of over four million UK websites. She has published and spoken extensively about web archiving, addressing national and international audiences at various academic and professional conferences. Helen was also the Project Manager of the Planets Project, a four-year endeavor co-funded by the European Union under the Sixth Framework Programme to address core digital preservation challenges. Before joining the British Library, she worked as a Programme Manager at the UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), overseeing JISC’s research and development activities in the area of digital preservation.

Hockx-Yu is a member of the British Computer Society and served on the Steering Committee of the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC.)  She will be based in the Internet Archive’s London offices inside the Wellcome Trust.


Director of Web Archiving Programs

Taking the helm of our many web archiving programs is library veteran, Jefferson Bailey.  Moving West to San Francisco to join the Internet Archive in 2014, Jefferson brought with him a host of professional experience with many of our biggest partners, including the Library of Congress and National Archives. He now oversees Archive-It, our subscription web archiving service used by nearly 400 partner organizations to preserve the web and also manages a number of collaborative grant-funded projects. Under Bailey’s stewardship, the Internet Archive is a lead or partner in many research projects supported by the likes of IMLS, NSF, NEH, and the Mellon Foundation, pursuing cutting-edge web archiving technology development, access models, and community building, with partners as diverse as Old Dominion University’s Web Science Group, Stanford University Libraries, New York University Libraries, Virginia Tech, Rutgers University, and the L3S Group in Hanover Germany.

“The web is perhaps the signature communication and publication medium of our era. It offers archivists, memory organizations, and others an unparalleled opportunity to collect and preserve a breadth and plurality of voices not previously possible. Yet it is also highly ephemeral and far too expansive for any one institution to preserve alone,” says Bailey.  “I am thrilled to work internally and especially with partner institutions to preserve as much as possible of the historical, cultural record as published on the web, to build new tools, expand access, and advance the state of web archiving and digital preservation.”

Prior to joining the Internet Archive, Jefferson worked on strategic initiatives, digital preservation, archives, and digital collections at institutions such as Metropolitan New York Library Council, Library of Congress, Brooklyn Public Library, and Frick Art Reference Library and has worked in the archives at NARA, and Atlantic Records. He has a Masters in Library and Information Sciences in Archival Studies from University of Pittsburgh and a BA in English from Oberlin College. Jefferson serves on the Steering Committee of the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC), is a co-chair of the Innovation Working Group of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA), and active in the Society of American Archivists. He has taught digital preservation and is a graduate of the Archives Leadership Institute.


Senior Program Manager, Archive-It

It was a passion for open access and long-term preservation that brought Lori Donovan to the Internet Archive in 2009. Starting as an intern, this month Lori assumes the role of Sr. Program Manager of Archive-It, where she will guide the evolution of Archive-It services. Donovan enjoys working directly with Archive-it’s many partner organizations throughout the archival process, establishing and growing their web archiving programs, and bringing the voices of those partners into development of new applications. She is a prolific speaker and has led many workshops and community building opportunities at library, archives and cultural heritage conferences.

Donovan graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with a Masters of Science in Information, specializing in Archives and Digital Preservation. She previously studied history and political science at Boise State University. In her new role as mom, she is delighted that the hours of sleep and baby smiles continue to increase each day.

CMumma-head-outsideCOURTNEY MUMMA

Program Manager, Web Archiving Programs

Courtney Mumma joined the Internet Archive in September of 2015 as Program Manager, with a focus on web archiving collaborative partnerships, grants management, community development, research initiatives, and new services. Her career has been dedicated to building and fortifying the digital cultural heritage preservation sector. Courtney helped to build the Archivematica open source digital preservation system and community. She has worked to advance the field through multiple collaborative efforts, including Artefactual’s other open source projects, Access To Memory (AtoM) and Binder, InterPARES, Digital Records Forensics, BitCurator, and 4C. Courtney has also been a guest instructor for the MIT Digital Preservation Management Workshop and has taught and lectured in several other cultural heritage venues on topics related to digital preservation, and curation. She earned her MAS and MLIS degrees from the University of British Columbia.

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Peter Schumann and his critically acclaimed Bread and Puppet Theater to Tour the West Coast


FIRE will be performed by the Bread and Puppet Theater in the Bay Area on Oct 7 and 9th. Photo Credit: ©Mark Dannenhauer

For the first time in fourteen years, artist Peter Schumann and the Bread and Puppet Theater will tour the West Coast, from Los Angeles to Seattle, with a series of performances, workshops, lectures, exhibits and parades. In the Bay Area from October 7-13th, Bread and Puppet Theater will be performing its original play, FIRE, which catapulted the company to international acclaim 50 years ago.

Founded by Peter Schumann in the early 1960’s, Bread and Puppet was enmeshed in the radical counterculture and earliest demonstrations against the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, becoming a familiar presence in the protest movement. Meanwhile, the puppets grew bigger and bigger—some up to 18 feet high—leading processions that spanned blocks and mobilized hundreds of people. Bread and Puppet became a seminal part of the avant-garde movement that included companies such as the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Living Theater and Robert Wilson.

©2012. Mark Dannenhauer. No commercial use without license. 16 Wilson Road, Shutesbury, MA 01072 413-259-1096.

©2012. Mark Dannenhauer

At a time when an economic divide threatens to tear San Francisco into the haves and the have-nots, Bread and Puppet brings its art and philosophy to everyone—from children to the elderly, artists to tech workers. Not only will members of the troupe lead a hands-on participatory workshop with local teachers and arts coordinators in the SF public schools, interact with theatre students at SF State, but they will also create free community events in San Francisco’s Dolores Park and the Tenderloin.

Bay Area supporters of the troupe’s accessible, radical art making can partake in a feast of events this October: 

  • FIRE Performance, followed by a Bread Reception at Omni Commons, 4799 Shattuck Ave, Oakland Tuesday, October 6th, 7pm.  Tickets $10 or donation. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.  (This show may not be appropriate for young children.)  Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with music by the Brass Liberation Orchestra.
  • Pop-Up Exhibition:  JINGLES & GIANTS–Bread and Puppet Books at the San Francisco Center for the Book375 Rhode Island St, SFOpening reception with Peter and Elka Schumann, Oct 7, 6-8 p.m.  Pop Up exhibit runs Oct 7-12. Free to the Public.
  • FIRE Performance, followed by a Bread Reception at Sebastopol Grange, 6000 Sebastopol Ave, Hwy 12, Sebastopol.  Wednesday, October 7th, 7pm.  Tickets $20 or donation. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.  (This show may not be appropriate for young children.)
  • FIRE Performance, preceded by a Fiddle Talk by Peter Schumann, and followed by a Bread Reception at the Internet Archive, 300 Funston Ave, SF.  Friday, Oct 9, 7pm.  (Pre-show reception begins at 6 p.m.) We will also celebrate the dedication of the  Bread & Puppet Archive with filmmaker Dee Dee Halleck.  Tickets $20 or donation. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.  (This show may not be appropriate for young children.)
  • We are All in the Same BoatParade at Dolores Park, San Francisco, Saturday, Oct 10, 2pm. (Parade participants are welcome–wear white and meet at 10 a.m.., look for the big banners and boat!) Bread and Puppet will lead the We are All in the Same Boat parade with volunteers, musicians and community members, asking a provocative question for the Bay Area in 2015:  “What if we could all swim together?”
  • Bread and Puppet: Play in The Tenderloin, Luggage Store Annex/Tenderloin National Forest, 511 Ellis Street (between Hyde & Leavenworth) on Sunday, October 11, 1-4 p.m.  Bread and Puppet Cantastoria performances in the Tenderloin National Forest with bread and aioli; stew made “Fresh from the Oven” by Amara Tabor Smith; sewing with The Mending Library. In the Luggage Store Annex Gallery: Bread and Puppet’s “Cheap Art” Sale and art activities for children with ArtsEd4All. Free and open to all.

At the Internet Archive on Friday, Oct 9, come early for reception and sale of the company’s “Cheap art” from 6:00 p.m.  At 7 p.m. we will be dedicating the  Bread & Puppet Archive with Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle and filmmaker Dee Dee Halleck.  Thanks to Halleck’s generosity, the Internet Archive is preserving 150 hours of video of circuses, pageants, passion plays, 250 puppeteers, and making it available to the public.  You can stream Halleck’s documentary, compiled over many years, Ah! The Hopeful Pageantry of Bread and Puppet.  Then Peter Schumann, 81, will perform one of his famous Fiddle Talks, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the philosophy of this visionary artist.  All this is leads up to a performance of FIRE.


“Humans wage war against each other and their own mother: Nature.  Essentially war is the ferocious stupidity that insists on the application of brutality for problem solution, whether the brutality is directed at humans or mountaintops.  “FIRE” is a chapel against war, where you sit down to witness the effects of war while contemplating its opposite.”           

                                         –Peter Schumann


Photo Credit: ©Mark Dannenhauer

In 1965, Schumann and his troupe presented FIRE, a hard-hitting piece about the Vietnam War, to critical acclaim at the Nancy Theater Festival in France.  FIRE shows six days in a Vietnamese community, followed by a bombing raid and ending with a self-immolation. Dedicated to three Americans who immolated themselves in protest against the Vietnam War, FIRE is performed with life-size puppets that resemble their masked manipulators. 


gm 1 (1)

Photo Credit: ©Mark Dannenhauer

“We believe in puppet theater as a wholesome and powerful language that can touch men, women and children alike,” says Bread and Puppet Founder, Peter Schumann. “We hope that our plays are true and are saying what has to be said.” In 1963, Schumann started performing on New York’s Lower East Side with simple rod and hand puppet shows for children. The concerns of the first productions were rents, rats, police and the other pressing problems of the neighborhood. A dancer, sculptor and baker, Schumann starting baking and serving bread to his audiences.  As he notes in his Cheap Art Manifesto, “Art is food. You can’t eat it, but it feeds you.” Peter and his wife Elka called their work Bread and Puppet Theater. The name stuck.  

Since 1974, Bread and Puppet has spun its magic from a farm in Vermont, with hundreds of apprentices guided by a philosophy of living and working within available means, making “cheap art” that is easily accessible to the people. This frugal ethos permeates Bread and Puppet’s aesthetic, inextricable from the paper-mache, burlap, twine and cardboard that literally hold the puppets and shows together.

Internet Archive founder, Brewster Kahle, and his wife Mary K. Austin experienced Bread and Puppet parades in the ’80s and 90s, and ten years ago they brought their family to Glover, VT to experience the artmaking in person.  The Austin-Kahles milked cows and created paper mache puppets.  They paraded as chickens in Bread and Puppet pageants.  “I’ve never seen anything like it:  tremendous art created in a communal way.  Bread and Puppet forged a practice grounded in New England thrift that permeates everything they do,” explained Kahle. “ I’ve been a supporter ever since.  When I heard they were coming West,  I saw it as a chance to plant the seeds for a new era of  radical theater and creativity in San Francisco.”

Follow Bread and Puppet Theater’s Facebook Page.


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Who’s Really Winning the Media Wars in the 2016 Campaign?

When it comes to media coverage, it seems as if Donald Trump is “trumping” all his rivals, Republicans and Democrats alike.  But is that true?  And how does it vary by print, digital and television media?  Using the Internet Archive’s Television Archive and the GDELT Project, researcher Kalev Leetaru is able to analyze daily data to see who is winning the media wars of 2016.  Today we are excited to announce three new visualizations that explore American politics through the lens of television: a live campaign tracker hosted by The Atlantic that offers a running tally of all mentions of the 2016 presidential candidates across national television monitored by the Archive, and two visualizations that show which statements from the first Republican debate went viral on television.  Finally, an analysis published in The Guardian shows just how unique television coverage of the campaign is and how much it differs from print and online coverage.  Candidates live and die by their ability to capture media attention.  Now, thanks to Leetaru, citizens have the tools to examine the election media data daily.

A Live 2016 Campaign Tracker



Media coverage of the 2016 presidential candidates has been dominating the news cycle for the last few months, with article after article asking which candidate is dominating the headlines at the moment.   Working with The Atlantic, we created the visualization above that tallies how many times each candidate has been mentioned on domestic national television networks thus far in 2015.  The list updates each morning, providing an incredibly unique peek into who is pulling ahead at the moment.  For those interested in drilling further into the data, an interactive explorer dashboard allows you to drill down by candidate and network.

Who Won the First Republican Debate?


This past July we used audio fingerprinting technology from the Laboratory for the Recognition and Organization of Speech and Audio at Columbia University to scan the audio of all monitored television shows for two weeks after the President’s January 2015 State of the Union address and identified every time an excerpted clip of his speech was broadcast on another television show.  In this way we were able to create an interactive timeline of which portions of his speech went “viral”.

We’ve repeated that process for the first Republican debate, both the “prime” and “undercard” events, exploring which soundbites made the rounds across television news shows in the week following the debate.

For the undercard debate, Carly Fiorina was the clear winner, account for 45% of the soundbites from the debate that subsequently aired elsewhere in the following week, followed by Rick Perry at 15.7%.  Both of the most-excerpted responses from the undercard debate belonged to her, with her quote “Hillary Clinton lies about Benghazi, she lies about emails. She is still defending Planned Parenthood, and she is still her party’s frontrunner” appearing 53 times and her quote “Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t given money to the foundation or donated to his wife’s Senate campaign.” appearing 47 times.

For the prime debate, Trump was the overall winner, with 30.7% of the subsequently aired soundbites being his, followed by Rand Paul at 14.1% and Chris Christie at 13.7%.  The two most-excerpted statements of the debate were both by Trump, one regarding his refusal to pledge not to run as an Independent, which aired 199 times, and the second about his past misogynic Twitter comments, which aired 337 times.  Rand Paul and Chris Christie’s exchange about the fourth amendment and government surveillance aired 190 times, culminating in Rand Paul’s now-famous “I know you gave [President Obama] a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.”  Ben Carson’s closing remarks about his work as a surgeon were the most-repeated of any of the candidates, with 86 rebroadcasts over the following week.

How Much Coverage is Trump Really Getting?


Finally, with all of the hyperbole swirling about Trump’s utter domination of media coverage of the Republican race, a key question is just how much his lead differs across media modalities.  Is online news coverage of 2016 campaign cycle identical to print coverage identical to television coverage?  In a piece for The Guardian’s Data Blog, I explored election coverage across these different forms of media and found that Trump’s lead is entirely dependent on where you look, emphasizing just how important it is to be able to analyze television coverage directly.

As the 2016 political season begins to shift into high gear stay tuned for so much more to come as we explore television and politics!

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