What if you could wander the library stacks…online?

Open Library Explorer is an experimental new interface that allows patrons to search our shelves of 4+ million books.

Introducing the new Open Library Explorer

As a student at the University of Waterloo, whenever Drini Cami felt stressed, he’d head to the library. Wandering through the stacks, flipping through 600-page volumes about quantum mechanics or the properties of prime numbers never failed to calm him down. And the best thing? “I would always leave the library having discovered something new—usually a variety of new things,” Cami explained.  “This is something I haven’t been able to replicate at a digital library like Open Library.” What Drini longed for was the ability to discover new books serendipitously, browsing bookshelves organized by a century of librarians. But unlike most readers, Drini Cami wields a superpower: he is a designer and software developer at the Internet Archive.

Enter the Open Library Explorer, Cami’s new experiment for browsing more than 4 million books in the Internet Archive’s Open Library. Still in beta, Open Library Explorer is able to harness the Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress classification systems to recreate virtually the experience of browsing the bookshelves at a physical library. Open Library Explorer enables readers to scan bookshelves left to right by subject, up and down for subclassifications. Switch a filter and suddenly the bookshelves are full of juvenile books. Type in “subject: biography” and you see nothing but biographies arranged by subject matter.

Why recreate a physical library experience in your browser?

Now that classrooms and libraries are once again shuttered, families are turning online for their educational and entertainment needs. With demand for digital books at an all-time high, the Open Library team was inspired to give readers something closer to what they enjoy in the physical world. Something that puts the power of discovery back into the hands of patrons.

Escaping the Algorithmic Bubble

One problem with online platforms is the way they guide you to new content. For music, movies, or books, Spotify, Netflix and Amazon use complicated recommendation algorithms to suggest what you should encounter next. But those algorithms are driven by the media you have already consumed. They put you into a “filter bubble” where you only see books similar to those you’ve already read. Cami and his team devised the Open Library Explorer as an alternative to recommendation engines. With the Open Library Explorer, you are free to dive deeper and deeper into the stacks. Where you go is driven by you, not by an algorithm..

Zoom out to get an ever expanding view of your library
Change the setting to make your books 3D, so you can see just how thick each volume is.

Cool New Features

By clicking on the Settings gear, you can customize the look and feel of your shelves. Hit the 3D options and you can pick out the 600-page books immediately, just by the thickness of the spine. When a title catches your eye, click on the book to see whether Open Library has an edition you can preview or borrow. For more than 4 million books, borrowing a copy in your browser is just a few clicks away.

Ready to enter the library? Click here, and be sure to share feedback so the Open Library team can make it even better. 

Internet Archive Celebrates Public Domain Day

Leaders in the open world, intellectual property & social justice came together with hundreds of supporters to celebrate the works moving into the public domain in January 2021. Livestream available.

Professor Kevin J. Greene offered an “Ode to the Public Domain” during last week’s Public Domain Day celebration. Watch the full stream now.

The Internet Archive celebrated the upcoming release of works created in 1925 for unrestricted use, from the jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown” to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic The Great Gatsby, at a virtual party December 17.

The gathering marked Public Domain Day, January 1, when copyright will be lifted from an array of movies, books, and other works of art produced 85 years ago. A quartet played a medley of songs that will enter the public domain in 2021; the winning entry of a short film contest was shown, paying tribute to works from 1925; and a panel of copyright experts and open advocates discussed today’s information sharing landscape. Watch the celebration now on the captured livestream.

“Why openness? To make the world more equitable, promote social justice, and to find answers in times of pandemic,” said Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. “Public domain gives freedom to enjoy, freedom to share, freedom to fly. It is the gold standard of openness.”

A robust public domain is essential for the future free knowledge, said Katherine Maher, chief executive officer of the Wikimedia Foundation and guest panelist. More than just artifacts of the past (old movies, painting, and books), the public domain includes government works, 3D models of asteroids, and massive data sets to help people better understand the world.

 “We all benefit when work enters the public domain and when people choose to dedicate things to the common good – whether it’s art or research or data,” Maher said. “When these works become available for public access and use, everyone can participate in culture and knowledge and we can begin to address vast inequities.”

The recent release by the Smithsonian of nearly three million images and data into public domain was a “big win,” noted Catherine Stihler, chief executive officer of Creative Commons. However, the community needs to remain vigilant.

“We still have to fight the good fight and push back against misguided proposals to extend copyright and ways that lock up our shared cultural heritage,” Stihler said.  

We all benefit when work enters the public domain and when people choose to dedicate things to the common good – whether it’s art or research or data…

Katherine Maher, Wikimedia Foundation

Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) said the fastest development of a vaccine in history demonstrates the value of open.

“Access to knowledge is a fundamental human right,” Joseph said. “There has never been a moment in time when the need to promote and protect our ability to quickly and freely share science has been more urgent…For all darkness of 2020, to witness this amazing progress powered by openness has provided some really welcome light.”

The public domain was designed to empower everyone – regardless of economic or political status – to give access to knowledge and all of its building blocks from data to facts, ideas to theories to scientific principles, said Joseph.

Still, there is a history of copyright being used to exploit African Americans and other marginalized communities, as opposed to a tool of benefit and empowerment, said Lateef Mtima, professor of law at Howard University School of Law, and founder and director of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice.

“For the intellectual property system to work properly, it has to adhere to social justice obligations, principles of equitable able access, inclusion and empowerment for everyone,” said Mtima. “The way we get to create new works is to make sure everyone has an opportunity to be exposed to as many works as possible in the first place, because then they become inspired to produce new work.”

The Public Domain Day celebration reflects a positive inflection point in the social justice trajectory of copyright. With digital technology, there is a way to make the rich harvest of public materials available to everyone. But in order to do this, Mtima emphasized the need for broad societal investment in conquering the digital divide.

Amplifying some of the inequities, Kevin Green, chair and professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, shared an “Ode to the Public Domain” that he wrote for the event. 

As part of the celebration, Amir Saber Esfahani announced the winner of the Public Domain Day Short Film contest: Danse des Aliénés (Dance of the Insane), an entry that incorporated music and images into a video collage paying tribute to works of 1925.

“A Toast to the Pubic Domain” by Martin Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Libraries & Archives. Watch the livestream now.

Wrapping up the evening, Kyle K. Courtney, a copyright lawyer and librarian at Harvard, mixed a Gin Rickey, a cocktail mentioned in The Great Gatsby. Then, Martin Kalfatovic, associate director of digital programs at the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, offered a toast:

“Here’s to the progress of science and the useful arts, the explosion of creativity remixed in multiple formats. And as the new year passes again and again, we replenish the cup of our public domain.”

Added Kahle: “Public Domain Day is a fabulous holiday that should be enshrined forever. Long live the public domain and the community that supports it.”

A full livestream of the event is available for viewing.

Looking Back on 2020

2020 has been a year to remember—and as we approach the new year, we’re taking some time to reflect. In the spirit of giving, the Internet Archive has worked hard to give back to those who need our services most, and we’re incredibly grateful for those who have lent us a hand. Thanks to the support of our community, patrons, partners, and donors, we’ve been able to accomplish some significant achievements in the past twelve months. Here are a few highlights from a year nobody can forget.

Unprecedented Growth

In 2020 we grew from 40 million to 65 million public media items, including texts, images, videos, and audio files. Right now, we’re storing over 70 petabytes of data (equivalent to the contents of 186 million filing cabinets) and serve more than 1.5 million visitors daily. The Wayback Machine has grown rapidly, too; right now there are 475 billion web pages archived inside it, and we’re capturing another 750 million pages every single day! We made a number of improvements to our systems to handle this growth—this fall, we installed a fiber optic connection at our headquarters in San Francisco, allowing us to drastically expand our bandwidth in response to increased demand.

Some Literary Love

As a  library, we pay special attention to books, and this was a year to remember. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we launched the temporary National Emergency Library this spring. In the middle of a massive public health crisis, we provided digital access to essential books for students, teachers, library patrons, and quarantined citizens who were cut off from their libraries and schools. Educational professionals everywhere relied on us for access to digital materials, and the National Library of Aruba utilized our resources to provide study resources for thousands of students preparing to take high school graduation exams while their island was shut down.

New Collections

This year we also added to and expanded our collections with some fascinating new finds. In August, the Tytell Typewriter Company donated thousands of manuals, records, books, and even historic machines to be preserved for future generations. Marygrove College, a social-justice oriented liberal arts college that was forced to close this year, donated its entire library to be digitized and shared on the Internet Archive, reopening the stacks in October. And although support for Flash is ending in just a few weeks, this November we launched browser emulation for hundreds of games, animations, and other cultural artifacts—letting anyone take a trip back in time to the early 2000s.

Building a Better Web

In 2020, we also took steps to make the web a better, more reliable place. Through a partnership with Cloudflare, we made it possible in September for website creators to provide archived versions of their pages when the current site is down. A new integration in February allowed us to bring the Wayback Machine natively into the Brave web browser. And when alarms were raised about open access journals disappearing, we took steps to preserve crucial scientific knowledge for future use.

Paying It Forward

Finally, we had a record-breaking year when it came to philanthropy. Although the challenges we faced were greater than ever before, our donors stepped up in a big way. More than 73,000 people donated to the Internet Archive this year, making contributions big and small—from the thousands of patrons who gave a few dollars apiece, to a $250,000 gift from Fiona and Toby Lütke, founder of Shopify. We’ve been hard at work making sure that all donations are put to good use; when an anonymous donor this season asked that we invest a portion of his gift in our staff, we chose to pay it forward to promote diversity and equity. This year we also implemented new ways to donate, and came up with new ways our supporters can lend a hand without leaving the house. We’re so incredibly grateful for everybody who chose to help us out!


2020 has brought unprecedented challenges—but this year as in every year, the Internet Archive has been hard at work ensuring that trustworthy information is available to anybody who wants it. Thank you for supporting our preservation efforts.

Be safe, have a happy holiday season, and enjoy the archive!

On Preserving Memory

When we talk about the Internet Archive, it’s so easy to throw massive numbers around: 70 petabytes stored and counting, 1.5 million daily active users, 750 million webpages captured per day. What’s harder to quantify is the human element that underlies all those numbers.

As I reflect back on 2020, I can’t help but think about the importance of memory. It’s hard to believe that in the same year of the nightmarish Australian fires, we experienced a sheer medical miracle in the form of Coronavirus vaccines. How much has happened in such a short time? How many stories, tragedies, triumphs in just 11 months?

These memories — the personal stories, collections, family histories — are our threads to the past, and our roadmaps going forward. Both precious and fragile, it’s on us to keep them safe.

Here’s one memory I’ll always treasure. I come from a sports family—all sports, really, but baseball in particular. My dad grew up playing little league, eventually making his way to the Softball World Series in the 1950s. His friend Bob went on to play for the San Francisco Giants. I grew up hearing about the time my dad was invited down to the dugout to meet the Yankees: Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra. I’ve probably listened to these stories a thousand times. 

When my dad’s dementia started to get really bad, we’d retell these old stories to cheer him up. So much of his frustration had to do with the inability to create new memories. But these old ones were still vivid, very much intact—something we could all still share and remember together. 

Finding the Classic Baseball Radio Broadcasts on the Internet Archive was such a godsend. When he listened, his anxiety would dissipate: Sandy Koufax’s 3-hit shutout, or Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. The audio calmed him. I liked to think it shook loose a ton of old memories — hanging out with his own dad, listening to the radio broadcasts of the games. 

Sometimes if I want to feel close to him, I’ll throw on one of these classic games. The 1951 Giants v Dodgers NL Championship, the ‘shot heard ‘round the world.’ My dad would have been 11 years old, listening to that same broadcast. Or cheering on Willie Mays and Willie McCovey in the 1962 Yankees v Giants World Series. He would’ve been 22, with his friend pitching for the team that year. 

When talking about the Internet Archive, we often use the term ‘memory institution.’ On a macro level, we’re talking about over 70 petabytes of data stored in hard drives inside massive buildings. But personally? We’re talking about some of the last threads between me and my dad. On a macro level, we’re talking about millions of texts and images and videos and webpages—but on a personal level, we’re talking about genealogists striking gold as they uncover the past. We’re talking about grandparents reading digital books to their grandchildren over video calls. We’re talking about the nostalgia of tracing a loved one’s online footprints, about the legacy of a unique family business, about the thrill of rediscovering yesteryear’s pop culture phenomena.

The personal stories, family histories, and threads to the past—are precious. And fragile. That’s why it’s on us, all of us, to protect and keep them safe. That’s why I work at the Internet Archive, and why its mission is more critical than ever.

Right now, we’re in the middle of our yearly donations drive. The end of the year is a time both to look back and to give back, and the Internet Archive is hard at work on both. So if you’ve found something in the archive that’s meaningful to you, or that brought back memories, or that you think should be preserved, we’d love it if you could chip in.

We hope you have a healthy and safe holiday season—and that this year, you’ll make some memories that will never be lost.

Katie Barrett is the Development Manager at the Internet Archive. When she’s not listening to old baseball broadcasts or raising support for causes she loves, she’s phone banking for the sake of democracy or dressing her dog up in costumes.

Bob Schwartz Quartet to Debut Medley From Songs Published in 1925 at Thursday’s Public Domain Day Celebration

By day, he’s a D.C.-based intellectual property lawyer. By night, he’s the leader of a jazz quartet with numerous private event gigs and plum spots on the D.C. jazz club and brunch circuits. At least that was the story until COVID hit earlier this year and almost all the live sessions vanished. Since March, Bob Schwartz has been more focused on his legal career, and sessions with his band, the Bob Schwartz Quartet, have been few and far between. “It’s been hard going from 70 gigs a year to just a few outdoor events and rehearsals,” he says, adding, ”Of course it’s been far harder on those who rely on music for a living — please find and support their virtual concerts.”

The Bob Schwartz Quartet, with Bob at left.

This Thursday, however, the Bob Schwartz Quartet (BSQ) will be together again—albeit masked and socially distanced with open windows and space heaters—as they play a mini concert during our Public Domain Day celebration, a free, virtual event highlighting the works that will be moving into the public domain in 2021.

Starting at 2:45pm PST, a full 15 minutes before the remarks start, Bob and his bandmates will be welcoming guests to the party with a selection of tunes from the public domain—those works that have passed out of copyright and are free for creators to remix, reuse, and redistribute at will.

In addition to the mini concert at the start of the celebration, BSQ will also be debuting a medley of portions of ten of the many great songs that will enter the public domain in 2021.  “I knew that David Berger and Chuck Israels, the creators of the Music Library Association’s Public Domain Song Anthology, are nearing completion of a 1924-1925 supplement,” Bob recounts. “They sent me their progress sheets on dozens of these wonderful songs. We chose segments from ten to join together into a 6-minute medley.” 

To send our guests off with toes tapping, BSQ will play another selection of public domain songs to close out our show. BSQ’s planned setlist includes:

Entrance Music
Annie Laurie – Lady Alicia Scott ~1834 to fit a William Douglas (~1682 – 1748) poem.
My Melancholy Baby – Ernie Burnett / George A. Norton 1911 / 1912
Look For The Silver Lining – Jerome Kern / B.G. (Buddy) DeSylva 1919

Medley (Mashup) of Songs Published in 1925
If You Knew SusieJoseph Myer & Buddy DeSylva
I’m Sitting On Top of the WorldRay Henderson / Sam M. Lewis
AlwaysIrving Berlin
DinahHarry Akst / Sam M. Lewis & Joseph Young
Five Foot Two Ray Henderson / Sam M. Lewis & Joseph Young
Yes Sir, That’s My BabyWalter Donaldson / Gus Kahn
Clap Hands, Here Comes CharlieBilly Rose, Ballard MacDonald, Joseph Meyer
Bye Bye Blues – Fred Hamm, Dave Bennett, Bert Lown, Chauncey Gray
ManhattanRodgers & Hart
Sweet Georgia BrownBen Bernie & Maceo Pinkard / Kenneth Casey

Exit Music
Who’s Sorry Now? – Ted Snyder / Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby 1923
All By MyselfIrving Berlin 1921
Ja-Da – Bob Carleton 1918 / Jerome Avenue – Bob Schwartz original largely on Jada chord progression. (A note from Bob: Chord progressions are PD—I actually based my tune on Sonny Rollins’ 1954 Doxy, now a jazz standard. A reason why these PD anthologies are so vital for music education.)

Reflecting on the music in the medley, Bob notes that unlike the Anthology, which took years to prefund and is distributed free of charge under the terms of the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication license, there is no prefunding for the 1924-1925 Supplement. If you are interested in helping support its production, you can sign up for notifications about the project. Viewers might also be interested in learning more about Berger’s massive archival project on Duke Ellington’s music.

Tickets are still available for the Public Domain Day celebration, which is being cohosted by Creative Commons, the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Internet Archive, SPARC, and Wikimedia Foundation. Registration for the virtual event is free and open to the public. The session will be recorded for those who cannot attend synchronously.

BSQ (Bob Schwartz Quartet) is:
Bob Schwartz (Constantine Cannon LLP) tenor sax & flutes
Ralph Cornwell (JHU Applied Physics Lab) vibraphone
Herb Nachmann (BAE Systems, Inc., ret.) acoustic bass
Alan Kirschenbaum (Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, P.C.) drums
Nina Schwartz (Impulse Graphics LLC) vocals
Learn more & connect with BSQ

January 1st brings public domain riches from 1925

On January 1st, 2021, many books, movies and other media from 1925 will enter the public domain in the United States. Some of them are quite famous — jump ahead to see lists of those well known books and movies that you can enjoy on the Internet Archive — or take the scenic route with me.

Book cover: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

What does this all mean? Essentially, many items created in 1925 in the US that are still under copyright will become free and open for people to use in any way they see fit in the new year. But check out Duke Law’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain article for a more in-depth explanation.

We have a party every year to celebrate the new works entering the public domain, and this year is no exception. Join us on Thursday, Dec. 17th to toast these newly available additions.

Traveling from Home

As part of this yearly ritual, I explore our collections to unearth these newly freed items, and I invariably run across a few things that hit a nerve. This year, it started with this intertitle in “Isn’t Life Terrible?” Less than 20 seconds into this 1925 film, and suddenly I’m dumped back into 2020.

Silent film intertitle that reads, "Charley Chase as The poor young man with only two places to go -- Front yard and back yard"

Rude, right? I don’t even have a front yard to enjoy during shelter in place.

But the magic of media is that it can transport us to different places and times. Photo books like Picturesque Italy, Picturesque Mexico, and Picturesque Palestine, Arabia and Syria show us both how much and how little has changed in the past 95 years.

Screen shot thumbnail images from the book Picturesque Italy. The 12+ photos feature tourist sites in Venice, Italy like the Doges Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and Piazza San Marco.

Gondolas still glide under the Bridge of Sighs, and the Tower of Pisa is still leaning, but the 1925 version of the Colosseum certainly lacks today’s fake gladiator photo ops.

Looking at the past with the eyes of today

Every toe dipped into the past has the potential to surprise or shock. The story of a pantry shelf, an outline history of grocery specialties is only mildly interesting on the surface. Essentially, it’s a sales pitch to food manufacturers encouraging them to advertise in a set of women’s magazines. The book contains short case histories of successful food brands like Maxwell House Coffee, Campbell Soup, Coca Cola, etc. (all of whom advertise with them, naturally).

The book gives you a glimpse of why people were so enthusiastic about mass produced, packaged foods. Unsanitary conditions, bugs in your sugar, milk going bad over night; things modern shoppers never think about.

It puts this glowing praise of Kraft Cheese into perspective: “…a pasteurized product, blended to obtain a uniformity of quality and flavor, a thing greatly lacking in ordinary types of cheese.” (page 149)

That’s pretty entertaining if you’re a cheese lover. I think most people would agree that Kraft cheese is no longer on the cutting edge.

But keep poking around and you find a much deeper cultural divergence. While The story of a pantry shelf is extolling the virtues of the home economics training available at Cornell, you stumble across this horrifying sentence (page 12).

Passage from "The Story of a Pantry Shelf" which reads, "Indeed, the Practice House, where students learn housekeeping in its every phase, even includes the complete care of a baby, adopted each year by Cornell for the benefit of these 'mothers' who, under the direction of trained Home Economics women, feed, bathe, dress and tend an infant from the tender age of two weeks throughout the session."

I was not expecting to read about orphaned babies being used as “learning aids” while flipping through stories about Jell-O. Intellectually, I know that attitudes towards children have changed over the years — the Fair Labor Standards Act, which set federal standards for child labor, wasn’t even passed until 1938. But this casual aside tossed in amongst the marketing hype still packs an emotional punch. It’s important to remember how far we have come.

Even writing that was forward-thinking for the time, like the booklet Homo-sexual life, is terribly backward according to today’s standards. It’s from the Little Blue Book series — we have many that were published in 1925, and the publisher was quite prolific for many years. The series provided working class people with inexpensive access to all kinds of topics including philosophy, sexuality, science, religion, law, and government. Post WWII, they published criticism of J. Edgar Hoover and the founder was subsequently targeted by the FBI for tax evasion. But in 1925, they were going strong and one of their prolific writers was Clarence Darrow.

Controversies of the Age

Darrow was writing about prohibition for the Little Blue Book series in 1925, but that is also the year he defended John T. Scopes for teaching evolution in his Tennessee classroom. The Scopes Trial generated a huge amount of publicity, pitting religion against science, and even giving rise to popular songs like these two 78rpm recordings from 1925.

The John T. Scopes Trial (The Old Religion’s Better After All) by Vernon Dalhart and Company

Monkey Biz-ness (Down in Tennessee) by International Novelty Orchestra with Billy Murray


Like the Scopes trial, prohibition had its passionate adherents and detractors. This was the “Roaring 20s” — the year The Great Gatsby was published — with speakeasies and flappers and iconic cocktails. And yet the pro-prohibition silent film Episodes in the Life of a Gin Bottle follows a bottle around as it lures people into a state of dissolution.

We even see an entire book about throwing parties that includes no alcoholic beverages at all.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

But as much as some things have changed, other aspects of our lives remain unchanged. People still want to tell you about their pets, rely on self help books, read stories to their kids, follow celebrities, tell each other jokes, and make silly videos.

And the most unchanging part of this particular season, of course — children still anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus with questions, wishes and schemes.

The silent film Santa Claus features two children who want to know where Saint Nick lives and how he spends his time. We follow him to the North Pole (Alaska in disguise) to see Santa’s workshop, snow castle, reindeer, and friends and neighbors. Jack Frost, introduced around 14:20, appears to be wearing the prototype for Ralphie’s bunny suit in “A Christmas Story” (but with a magic wand). Stick around for the sleigh crash at 20:45, and right around 22:20 Santa wipes out on the ice.

And just in case you’re still doing your holiday shopping, I feel like I should pass on a recommendation from this ad in a 1925 The Billboard magazine: Armadillo Baskets make beautiful Christmas gifts. And you can still buy vintage versions online – trust me, I looked. You’re welcome.

Advertisement with a picture of an armadillo and a basket made from an armadillo. Text reads, "Armadillo Baskets Make Beautiful Christmas Gifts. From these nine-banded horn-shelled little animals we make beautiful baskets. We are the original dealers in Armadillo Baskets. We take their shells, polish them, and then line with silk. They make ideal work baskets, etc. Let us tell you about these unique baskets. Write for Free Booklet. Apelt Armadillo Co., Comfort, Texas."

The Famous Stuff

And now on to the blockbusters of 1925…

Books First Published in 1925

Movies Released in 1925

Seeking Public Library Participants for Community History Web Archiving Program

Local history collections are necessary to understanding the life and culture of a community. As methods for sharing  information have shifted towards the web, there are many more avenues for community members to document diverse experiences.  Public libraries play a critical role in building community-oriented archives and these collections  are particularly important in recording the impact of unprecedented events on the lives of local citizens. 

Last week, we announced a major national expansion of our Community Webs program providing infrastructure, services, and training to public librarians to archive local history as documented on the web… We now invite public libraries in the United States and cultural heritage organizations in U.S. territories to apply to join the Community Webs program. Participants in the program receive free web archiving and technical services, education, professional development, and funding to build  community history web archives, especially collections documenting the lives of patrons and communities traditionally under-represented in the historical record.

If you are a public librarian interested in joining the Community Webs program please review the full call for applications and the program FAQs. Online applications are being accepted through Sunday, January 31, 2021

“Whether documenting the indie music scene of the 1990s, researching the history of local abolitionists and formerly enslaved peoples, or helping patrons research the early LGBT movement, I am frequently reminded of what was not saved or is not physically present in our collections. These gaps or silences often reflect subcultures in our community.” – Dylan Gaffney, Forbes Library, in Northampton, MA

The program is seeking public libraries to join a diverse network of 150+ organizations  that are:

  • Documenting local history by saving web-published sites, stories and community engagement on the web.
  • Growing their professional skills and increasing institutional technical capacity by engaging in a supportive network of peer organizations pursuing this work.
  • Building a public understanding of web archiving as a practice and its importance to preserving 21st century community history and underrepresented voices.

Current Community Webs cohort members have created nearly 300 publicly available local history web archive collections on topics ranging from COVID-19, to local arts and culture, to 2020 local and U.S. elections. Collecting the web-published materials of local organizations, movements and individuals is often the primary way to document their presence for future historians.

“During the summer of 2016, Baton Rouge witnessed the shooting of Alton Sterling, the mass shooting of Baton Rouge law enforcement, and the Great Flood of 2016. While watching these events unfold from our smartphones and computers, we at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library realized this information might be in jeopardy of never being acquired and preserved due to a shift in the way information is being created and disseminated.” – Emily Ward, East Baton Rouge Parish Library

Benefits of participation in Community Webs include:

  • A three-year subscription to the Archive-It web archiving service.
  • Funding to support travel to a full-day Community Webs National Symposium (projected for 2021 and in 2022) and other professional development opportunities. 
  • Extensive training and educational resources provided by professional staff.
  • Membership in an active and diverse community of public librarians across the country. 
  • Options to increase access (and discoverability) to program collections via hubs, such as DPLA.
  • Funding to support local outreach, public programming, and community collaborations. 

Please feel free to email us with any questions and be sure to apply by Sunday, January 31, 2021.

After Searching for a Decade, Legendary Hollywood Research Library Finds a New Home

Over more than 50 years, Lillian Michelson built one of Hollywood’s most famous libraries for film research.

[Press: Hollywood Reporter]

Need to know what an Igloo really looks like? How about a Siberian hut? Or the inside of a 15th Century jail?  For 50 years in Hollywood, generations of filmmakers would beat a path to the Michelson Cinema Research Library, where renowned film researcher Lillian Michelson could hunt down the answer to just about any question. She was the human card catalogue to a library of more than one million books, photos, periodicals and clippings. But ever since Lillian retired a decade ago, the Michelson Cinema Research Library has been languishing in cold storage, looking for a home. Today it has found one. Lillian Michelson, 92, announced that she is donating her library and life’s work to the Internet Archive. For its part, the nonprofit digital library vows to preserve her collection for the long-term and digitize as much of it as possible, making it accessible to the world.

“I feel as if a fantasy I never, never entertained has been handed to me by the universe, by fate,” mused the legendary film researcher.“The Internet Archive saved my library in the best way possible. I hope millions of people will use it [to research] space, architecture, costumes, towns, cities, administration, foreign countries… the crime business!  Westerns! That’s what is amazing to me, that it will be open to everybody.”

Internet Archive founder, Brewster Kahle, explained why his organization was willing to accept the entire Michelson collection and keep it intact: “A library is more than a collection of books. It is the center of a community. For decades, the Michelson Cinema Research Library informed Hollywood—and we want to see that continue. Many organizations wanted pieces of the collection, but I think the importance of keeping it together is so it can continue to help inspire global filmmakers to make accurate and compelling movies.”

Samuel Goldwyn Studios, circa 1938, where the Michelson Cinema Research Library was housed for many decades.

With $20,000 borrowed against her husband Harold’s life insurance policy, Lillian Michelson purchased the reference library in 1969. Over the next half-century, the Michelson Cinema Research Library had many homes. From the Samuel Goldwyn Studios it moved to the American Film Institute, then to Paramount Studios, and finally to Zoetrope Studios at the invitation of director, Francis Ford Coppola. Michelson later received an offer via Jeffrey Katzenberg to move the Michelson Cinema Research Library to the newly opened DreamWorks Pictures, where it remained until Lillian’s retirement due to health reasons 19 years later.

The Michelson Cinema Research Library includes some 5,000+ books dating back to the early 1800s; periodicals, 30,000+ photographs, and 3,000+ clipping files. In storage they filled some 1600 boxes on 45 pallets—enough to fill more than two 18-wheel tractor trailers. Its contents have now been moved for long-term preservation to the Internet Archive’s physical archive in Richmond, California.

In September 2020, Internet Archive Founder & Digital Librarian, Brewster Kahle, was on hand at the Internet Archive’s Physical Archive in Richmond, CA to accept the 1600 boxes of books, photos, clippings, and memorabilia from the Michelson Cinema Research Library. Michelson’s books were then shipped to one of the Internet Archive’s scanning centers to be digitized and ultimately made accessible to the public.

For six decades, Michelson’s research informed scores of Hollywood films, including The Right Stuff, Rosemary’s Baby, Scarface, Fiddler on the Roof, Full Metal Jacket, The Graduate and The Birds.

Harold & Lillian Michelson fueled the creativity of scores of directors, from Alfred Hitchcock to Mel Brooks, and their influence can be traced through countless Hollywood films.

Bringing this historic Hollywood design resource back to life—a largely digital life—can make it a global design resource for art directors, designers, filmmakers and researchers in search of information and visual inspiration. 

“Lillian Michelson opened my eyes to the importance of a research library to all aspects of motion picture production. At a time when the rich and deep research libraries created and maintained by the motion picture studios were being ‘given away’ or otherwise destroyed, Lillian was a beacon of light guiding us to consider them as treasure.”

Academy Award-winning director, Francis Ford Coppola
Harold & Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story” by director Daniel Raims chronicles the couple who became Hollywood’s “secret weapons,” empowering generations of filmmakers and designers to create their most iconic work.

The story of her long and creative union with renowned storyboard artist Harold Michelson was told in Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story, a 2015 documentary produced and directed by Daniel Raim and currently streaming on Netflix. (To honor this devoted Hollywood couple, the DreamWorks Pictures named the king and queen in Shrek 2 Harold and Lillian.)

Lillian Michelson will preside over a virtual ribbon cutting, panel discussion, and a screening of the documentary on Wednesday, January 27 from 4-6:30 PM Pacific time. There, she will unveil the first phase of her new digital library, available to the world via the Internet Archive’s digital platform, at https://archive.org/details/michelson. Sign up for the screening event here.

Holiday Cheer for a Good Cause

The holidays are the season for giving—a time when many people open their hearts and wallets to support charitable organizations. In that spirit, the Internet Archive’s Development Department collaborated with a generous donor this year to invest both in the people at the archive and in local communities led by black entrepreneurs.

The anonymous donor gave a $150,000 gift to the Internet Archive, choosing to pay a portion of it forward to IA employees. Why? Because he has witnessed firsthand how hard nonprofit employees work, and understands the critical role staff play in providing a better ecosystem to thrive in. As an entrepreneurial leader and philanthropist who has worked for the largest tech companies and launched a variety of startups, this donor feels passionately about giving back to the community and volunteers some of his time to inspire future entrepreneurs and students to reach their dreams. 

Each employee at the Internet Archive will be given a $100 gift certificate to use at one small business or nonprofit to complete the “pay it forward” wish of our anonymous donor. Every business on the list below is Black-owned and operated, and the nonprofits pursue a variety of social justice missions. By supporting both small entrepreneurs and well-respected charities, we’re giving back to our communities and expressing solidarity with groups that focus on diversity and minority equity. Our focus is on making a difference for those who keep economies and communities healthy and whole.

We encourage both our employees and supporters everywhere to please give your patronage and pay it forward in your community—because paying it forward isn’t about the size of the gift, but about the act of kindness. And we could all use a little more kindness this year.


Pay it forward: To repay a kindness received with a good deed to someone else.
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CultureFit Clothing
CultureFit is body-positive activewear for the culturally conscious woman. Founded in early 2018 by a group of West African descendent women, they believe in a place “where wellness, womanhood, and global consciousness intersect with comfort, body positivity, and the pursuit of a healthy, active lifestyle. Featuring leggings, tops, and yoga mats, CultureFit strives to celebrate not just various cultures but all shapes and sizes. They are small and still growing, but over time, you can expect to see a range of sizes added to each collection. https://www.culturefitclothing.com


Farms To Grow
Farms To Grow is an Oakland-based non-profit dedicated to working with Black farmers and underserved farmers around the country. Farms To Grow focuses on sustainable farming and innovative agriculture practices that preserve the cultural and biological diversity and the agroecological balance of the local environment. Subscribers can sign up for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program for local delivery or pickup of their non-GMO and chemical-free CSA Harvest Bag, available once a month on every 2nd Saturday. https://www.farmstogrow.com/


Harlem Chocolate Factory
Harlem Chocolate Factory is an artisan chocolate company where they convey the various cultural experiences and stories of Harlem through their chocolate products. Founded in 2015 by Jessica Spaulding and Asha Dixon, their confections feature the names of some of Harlem’s most historic sites, and ingredients sourced by Fair or Direct Trade, or locally from upstate New York. The Harlem Chocolate Factory is a featured product on the 2020 Oprah’s Favorite Things list. https://harlemchocolatefactory.com


McBride Sisters Collection
McBride Sisters Collection is not only the largest Black-owned wine company in the United States, but among the most inclusive, accessible, socially aware, and sustainable. Founded by two sisters Robin and Andréa McBride, their signature wines are inspired by the endless pursuit of all women who are making their dreams a reality and breaking barriers daily. Their wines include the fun, fab, and eco-friendly SHE CAN and the Black Girl Magic collection. https://www.mcbridesisters.com/

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OUI the People
OUI the People is a beauty brand dedicated to fighting the traditional negative tropes of the beauty industry. Rather than pursuing flawlessness, the company aims to build efficacious products, designed thoughtfully, that help you feel great in the skin you’re already in. Whether it’s dry skin, razor burn, or ingrown hairs, OUI the People’s line of sustainable beauty products aims to feel as great on your skin as it does on your psyche. https://www.ouithepeople.com/


Red Bay Coffee Roasters
Red Bay Coffee Roasters is committed to beans that are not only high-quality and sustainable, but a vehicle for diversity, inclusion, social and economic restoration, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability. Founded in 2014 by Keba Konte, Red Bay seeks to create unity by hiring and serving people of all backgrounds, striving to be diverse and inclusive of those who have traditionally been left out of the specialty coffee industry—especially people of color, the formerly incarcerated, women, and people with disabilities. https://www.redbaycoffee.com/


Savor Blends Seasoning
Savor Blends is a collection of savory salts, rubs, butters, and sauces. Founded by Dulani, Lisa, and Myles Spencer, each artisanal batch is handcrafted with love right from their kitchen. From the Black Garlic Vampire Butter to the “Brown Sugar, Baby” rub, these flavors are sure to spice up your meat and potatoes dinner. https://www.savorblends.com/


Uncle Nearest Whiskey
Uncle Nearest Whiskey celebrates the history and craftsmanship of Uncle Nearest, a former Tennessee slave who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey and is credited as Daniel’s first master distiller. Founded by Fawn Weaver, she built the company to ensure that the legacy of Nathan Green, aka Uncle Nearest, lives on through whiskey. Their premium spirit is the most awarded American whiskey two years running and is a featured product on the 2020 Oprah’s Favorite Things list. https://unclenearest.com/


Nonprofits

United Negro College Fund: https://uncf.org/
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: https://naacp.org/
Black Girls Code: https://www.blackgirlscode.com/
Ignite Mental Health Services: https://www.ignitemh.org/
Black Thrive: https://www.blackthrive.org.uk/

Library Digital Lending Empowers People Worldwide During COVID-19 Pandemic

As part of our #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, we’re asking our community what digital lending means to them. We’ve been flooded with stories of how free access to online books is empowering people and improving lives. Here are some highlights so far. 

Many of you wrote to tell us about how borrowing books through our Archive has been a lifeline during COVID-19. Tudor, a reader from Romania, said, “it’s been immensely helpful during the pandemic. My local library has been closed and I’ve been able to proceed with a translation project because I was able to find the books I needed on Internet Archive.” 

Alejandra, an educator from New Mexico, highlighted the importance of digital lending for the libraries community during the pandemic: “I usually train librarians and during the lockdown, this activity has increased. As we are unable to visit the libraries, I promote the use of the Internet Archive lending library to meet the information needs.” 

For people with disabilities or long-term health conditions, it can be difficult to access a local library even outside of a pandemic. Shari, a reader in Indiana, shared how controlled digital lending empowered her in difficult circumstances.

“When my physical disabilities became overwhelming… I finally had to stop working, and became primarily home bound. I could not travel far, or often, and the limited resources available didn’t make it worth my trouble. But, getting on the Internet at home, and traveling there to any destination I wished through the Internet Archive has provided me with information and images, including photographs, drawings, descriptions, floor plans, and historical information made my days just fly by. It has literally saved my sanity, as I went through a significant period of depression for at least a year.”

Many of you also shared how the Archive helps you gain a global perspective and access texts from diverse cultures. Sean, an author from Oregon, uses the Archive to find design ideas in old magazines, particularly from cultures he believes he wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to. The Archive has given him “a wider understanding of graphic history, and my small place in the global historical context.” Several users also report using the Archive to learn more about their own cultural heritage. Teresa, a reader in Philadelphia, reported that the Archive “has been great helping me to trace and understand my African American ancestry.” 

Your stories show the power of controlled digital lending to unite global communities and connect us to our cultural heritage. They also highlight its necessity for people who struggle to access physical books, as well as those affected by emergency. 

However, a current lawsuit threatens the future of this empowering practice. The impact on the lives of people who rely on digital borrowing would be severe. Our #EmpoweringLibraries campaign aims to defend controlled digital lending and the people who need it most. 

You can support the campaign by sharing your story with us. How does being able to borrow digital books improve your everyday life? Let us know via this Google Form, or on Twitter using this template: As a [your role, eg. student, parent], I use @internetarchive to [eg. research papers/homeschool my kids]. Protect free access to digital books by joining the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign http://blog.archive.org/empoweringlibraries/