Author Archives: Caralee Adams

TV Historian Relies on Internet Archive for Teaching and TikTok

Whether Taylor Cole Miller is assigning a project for his communication studies classes or putting together a video for TikTok (@tvdoc), this TV historian says he appreciates tapping into vintage video and audio material from the Internet Archive.

The vast collection of old radio and television shows available at archive.org has allowed his students to analyze the early days of broadcasting and inform their work, says Miller, an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. While the wide variety of materials help students understand the breadth of media history, one item in particular has become an indispensable part of Miller’s curriculum: On September 21, 1939, CBS affiliate WJSV was asked by the National Archive to record an entire day of radio programming — a gem now for students to get a glimpse at 19 hours of news, soap operas, and commercials that aired.

Listen to Complete Broadcast Day (1939) at the Internet Archive

“What you get is basically everyday radio, which you wouldn’t normally have access to,” Miller said of the resource available through the Internet Archive. “It’s a real opportunity for my students to listen and get a sense of what broadcasting was like.”

What his students hear that day is Franklin Roosevelt addressing the U.S. Congress about the proposed revision to the country’s Neutrality Act in WWII. Students are exposed to racism in the dramas, and ways advertisers were influencing people to buy products from Alka-Seltzer to Mounds candy bars. 

At the time, federal regulations mandated and enforced balanced coverage of news — rules like the Mayflower Doctrine and its predecessor the Fairness Doctrine, which President Ronald Reagan eliminated in 1987. This provides an important lesson in navigating today’s media landscape. “Getting them to experience what news was, in order to understand what news is, is also broadly useful,” said Miller, who is director of the university’s Communication and Media Lab

Just as an English professor needs books to teach, Miller said, he relies on the artifacts at the Internet Archive to show his students different samples of media over time. Miller’s students review episodes of The Shadow and listen to War of the Worlds to discuss media literacy as the supposed panic from the fictional radio show about a Martian invasion was more likely newspapers perpetuating a myth to delegitimize radio news.

Miller also teaches digital media production, where students make their own podcasts, and the historic audio can demonstrate techniques of storytelling, the power of sound effects, and the influence of advertising on the process. Students choose events to research and make their own radio dramas or TikToks.

Miller said he finds students invest more time in the research and production of assignments that are posted for the public since they know they will be seen by a wider and more critical audience.

That reach is also why Miller himself has been active on TikTok since 2021. As @tvdoc, Miller regularly creates 3–6 minute videos about everything from coverage of the O.J. Simpson car chase to behind-the-scenes tales from the classic sitcom, Bewitched. Miller said he likes to introduce viewers to publicly available resources so they can discover more about TV history on their own.

“The Internet Archive provides opportunities for amateur researchers to make a difference in our understanding of media history — and that is so critically important, particularly for local or syndicated television,” Miller said.

Miller’s TikTok audience includes other academics, fans of early TV, and the public at large.

“I think of it as an extension of my teaching,” Miller said. “I’m providing an opportunity to show the nuance of media history as it relates to American cultural history.”

Miller hopes his efforts bring needed attention to the role of preserving and analyzing media history. He was recently asked by the U.S. Library of Congress and its National Radio Preservation Task Force to promote the work of scholars in this field.

“Teaching the public is not only rewarding, personally, but it’s important for helping expand media literacy,” Miller said.

Eyeing the Future: Harkness Eye Institute’s Ophthalmology Journals Preserved at Internet Archive

When the decision was made to move the Harkness Eye Institute in New York City from its home of nearly 90 years, no one knew what to do with its vast collection of academic journals. Dr. Daniel Casper, Columbia University professor emeritus of ophthalmology, found himself tasked with the job.

Dr. Daniel Casper, Columbia University professor emeritus of ophthalmology

The Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s Department of Ophthalmology had operated the Institute on Manhattan’s 165th Street in Washington Heights since 1933. Its stately brick building was possible thanks to a $5 million gift from philanthropist Edward Harkness. In 1922, NY-Presbyterian Hospital announced that the current location would be demolished to create a new cancer center, and the Eye Institute would be relocated to other locations on the Medical Center campus.

The move meant emptying the 9-floor Institute, including the John M. Wheeler Library. The collection consisted of a rare book collection; more than 160 ophthalmology journals (7,000 volumes) published in English, French, Japanese, German, and Spanish, dating back to the 1800s; ophthalmic textbooks; and a collection of ophthalmic and medical memorabilia. For many years, the library maintained a small museum with antique ophthalmic instruments and other memorabilia on the first floor of the Eye Institute. In the 1950s the space was converted to clinical use so most of the museum artifacts were placed in storage. With its recent move, the department could accommodate the rare books and memorabilia, but not the large collection of journals and some textbooks—leaving the fate of the remaining items in the air.  

E. S. Harkness Eye Institute, circa 1933.

It was the end of an era for Casper, who has worked at the Institute since 1986 and was a frequent user of the library’s resources. He said he felt somewhat responsible for saving as much of the library contents as possible. “The Wheeler Collection really was on the brink of a landfill,” said Casper. 

He spent his first year of retirement looking for a suitable home for the library contents. Recognizing the unique historic value of many of the journals, he approached the National Library of Medicine, the National Eye Institute, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology Museum, among others, all of whom replied in a similar manner—they had neither the space nor the resources to maintain the collection. 

Casper had no luck finding a place to rehouse the sizable donation, until he reached out to the Internet Archive. Soon after making contact, an Archive staffer in New York came to take measurements to ship the remaining Wheeler Collection to the Archive. A few days later, a truck arrived and 23 pallets of journals and books were loaded. The items will be safely stored in a physical archive and scanned so the public can have digital access online.   

“The preservation and electronic dissemination of this collection is truly a dream come true,” Casper said, who appreciates that the donation process was seamless, with no charge to the university, and the journals will live on for future generations in a more accessible format.

“I did not realize the Internet Archive would take a collection like this. People spent huge amounts of effort putting these works together. It would have been unfortunate to just throw it all away.”
Dr. Daniel Casper,
Columbia University professor emeritus

Tracking older print articles that have never been digitized can be time consuming for researchers, and many previous studies are overlooked because they can be difficult to identify and locate, Casper said. With digital access to journals, researchers can avoid reinventing the wheel in their research and build on past scholarly evidence more easily, he said.

“I did not realize the Internet Archive would take a collection like this,” Casper said. “People spent huge amounts of effort putting these works together. It would have been unfortunate to just throw it all away. That would imply the collection is worthless, but it has value.”

Casper hopes the digitization of the Wheeler Collection leads to an acceleration of advances in science as researchers will eventually have free, online access to this invaluable collection of knowledge.

“I’ve become an Internet Archive booster. It saved us,” he said. “The Internet Archive is an incredible resource.”

New Audiobook Anthology Highlights Public Domain Folktales from 1928

After Laura Gibbs retired from teaching mythology and folklore at the University of Oklahoma, she wanted to continue sharing her love of storytelling with digital learners everywhere. Following her own passion for making folk stories as accessible to all as possible, she began volunteering with a nonprofit that produces free audio books for the public.

Gibbs, who now lives in Austin, devotes one to two hours each day to recording and reviewing audio for LibriVox, a volunteer community of readers who record free public domain audiobooks. Her most recent project involved finding folktales, fairy tales and mythology in the Internet Archive that were recently released into the public domain to compile an anthology, “Tales from 1928,” available to read at Internet Archive or listen via LibriVox.

Tales of 1928: Listen | Read

Gibbs selected short stories from 20 books that were published in 1928, as those works are now in the public domain in the U.S. and can be shared, remixed and reused without copyright restrictions. In curating her collection, she was thoughtful about how to remix the creative works in a package that would appeal to listeners. 

“The variety of folktales and fairy tales in the world is just enormous. So many think it begins and ends with the Brothers Grimm,” said Gibbs, of the German folklorists. “My number one goal was to have worldwide coverage—stories not just from Europe, but also from Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and the Americas.”

Overall, Gibbs has recorded nine books of African folktales with more than 200 stories available for listening here.

Gibbs also wanted stories with accessible language—not too many old fashioned “thee” or “thou” references. Once she decided on the line up, she invited people to record each story, and was pleased with the response from new and experienced readers to volunteer for the project.

In addition to producing the anthology, Gibbs “proof listens” to book chapters by other readers before they are shared with the LibriVox community. The work involves careful attention to detail—listening for background noise (a car honking, phone ringing, etc.) or misspoken words. Gibbs flags the noise by marking the exact time, which she then reports back to the readers for re-recording.

Gibbs said she’s enjoyed the range of materials she gets to review. “It’s fun discovering weird, random stuff in the public domain,” she said. Her proof listening projects are listed here.

Bambi: A Life in the Woods: Listen

Recently, Gibbs proof listened to the English translation of the 1928 classic, “Bambi: A Life in the Woods,” by Felix Salton, translated by Whittaker Chambers. “The book is fantastic, and the reader is the best…she performed all the different voices of the animals and even the individual fawns,” she said. “If anybody wants something beautiful and inspiring to listen to, it’s now available at LibriVox and also at the Internet Archive, where LibriVox hosts all its audio files.” 

Gibbs plans to continue creating audio folktale anthologies by year. She’s already started on works from 1927. She added: “For the rest of my life, we are going to have new content entering the public domain, year by year, so I’ll keep going.”

For more on Gibbs’s curation of African folk tales see: Library as Laboratory Recap: Curating the African Folktales in the Internet Archive’s Collection | Internet Archive Blogs

For more on the public domain works from 1928, see: Public Domain Day Celebrates Creative Works from 1928 | Internet Archive Blogs

Aruba Becomes First Country to Endorse Statement Protecting Digital Rights of Memory Institutions

From left: Aruba’s National Librarian, Astrid Britten (Director, Biblioteca Nacional Aruba), signs the statement protecting memory organizations online as Raymond Hernandez (Director, Archivo Nacional Aruba) and Brewster Kahle (Founder, Internet Archive) look on.

This was a week of firsts in Aruba. The small island nation in the southern Caribbean launched its new heritage portal, the Aruba Collection (Coleccion Aruba), and it became the first country to sign a statement to protect the digital rights of libraries & other memory institutions.

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle and Chris Freeland, director of library services at the Archive, attended the signing ceremony in Aruba, a country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands located 18 miles north of Venezuela.

Support for the statement, Four Digital Rights For Protecting Memory Institutions Online, was spearheaded by Peter Scholing, information scientist and researcher at the country’s national library, Biblioteca Nacional Aruba (BNA). Last fall, he learned about the need for library digital rights to be championed during a conference at the Internet Archive in San Francisco. While much of that discussion was based on the 2022 report, “Securing Digital Rights for Libraries: Towards an Affirmative Policy Agenda for a Better Internet,” authored by Lila Bailey and Michael Menna, and focused on protecting library access to e-books, Scholing was interested in Aruba making a broader statement—one encompassing all memory institutions and the diverse types of materials they house.

“Over the last few months we’ve brainstormed about these digital rights and how to broaden the statement to make it relevant to not only libraries, but also for memory institutions and GLAMs in general,” said Scholing, using the acronym for galleries, libraries, archives & museums. “In that sense, it has become a near universal declaration for open access to information, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN 2030 Agenda/Sustainable Development Goals, #16.10) or other statements on open access to documentary, cultural or digital heritage. This aligns almost perfectly with what we aim to achieve here on Aruba—universal access to “our” information.”

Many memory institutions on the island have long worked together to digitize collections including books, government documents, photos and videos. The statement reinforces the importance of libraries, archives, museums and other memory institutions being able to fulfill their mission by preserving knowledge for the public to access.

Initial Signing Organizations

  • Archivo Nacional Aruba (ANA)
  • Aruban National Committee for UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme
  • Biblioteca Nacional Aruba (BNA)
  • Coleccion Aruba
  • Museo Arkeologico Nacional Aruba (MANA)
  • Stichting Monumentenfonds Aruba
  • Union di Organisacionnan Cultural Arubano (UNOCA)

The statement asserts that the rights and responsibilities that memory institutions have always enjoyed offline must also be protected online. To accomplish this goal, libraries, archives and museums must have the legal rights and practical ability to:

  • Collect digital materials, including those made available only via streaming and other restricted means, through purchase on the open market or any other legal means, no matter the underlying file format;
  • Preserve those materials, and where necessary repair or reformat them, to ensure their long-term existence and availability;
  • Provide controlled access to digital materials for advanced research techniques and to patrons where they are—online;
  • Cooperate with other memory institutions, by sharing or transferring digital collections, so as to provide more equitable access for communities in remote and less well-funded areas.

DOWNLOAD THE STATEMENT

In Aruba, Scholing said library and archive leaders believed strongly that these rights should be upheld with a public endorsement. Michael Menna, co-author of the statement and the 2022 report, saw this as a key first step in building a coalition of memory institutions.

“Aruba has been brave to make such a clear and unequivocal statement about the many challenges facing libraries, archives, and museums,” said Menna. “Simply put, these essential institutions need better protections to adapt their services to today’s media environment. Hopefully, after hearing Aruba speak out, others can follow suit.”

Report co-author Lila Bailey, senior policy counsel at the Internet Archive, said that seeing the statement embraced and endorsed by memory institutions is rewarding.

“It is a thrill to see Aruba leading the way towards a better digital future for memory institutions worldwide,” said Bailey. “These institutions must meet the needs of a modern public using the best tools available. It is good public policy and basic common sense that libraries, archives and museums should be not only permitted but encouraged to leverage digital technologies to serve their essential public functions.”

The statement can be endorsed by governments, organizations, and individuals following a verification process. If you are interested in signing the statement, or would like to learn more, please complete the initial online inquiry, or e-mail Chris Freeland, Internet Archive’s director of library services, at chrisfreeland@archive.org.

Aruba Launches Digital Heritage Portal, Preserving Its History and Culture for Global Access

Many know Aruba as a popular tourist destination with beautiful beaches. The small island nation just north of Venezuela is also home to 110,000 inhabitants with a rich history—that many are working to preserve.

Aruba’s memory institutions have been digitizing materials for years. Initially, residents and international scholars could only view the items at the library on the island. But now with the help of Internet Archive, the Aruba Collection (Coleccion Aruba) is available to anyone for free from anywhere.

EXPLORE THE COLECCION ARUBA

A celebration of the heritage portal’s launch is being held via livestream on April 8.

COLLABORATION IS KEY

Digitizing the island’s historic materials was a collaborative effort. After Aruba became a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1986, the national library (Biblioteca Nacional Aruba; Aruba National Library – BNA) and the national archives (Archivo Nacional Aruba; National Archives of Aruba – ANA) were established. Leaders from the two institutions worked together to curate and scan artifacts including newspapers, government reports, and cultural items.

“Aruba has a challenging past due to migration, colonization, and slavery,” said Peter Scholing, information specialist/researcher at BNA, the national library. “That means there has been a diaspora of people coming in and spreading out throughout the world—the same goes for our collection and documents.”

Locating materials to digitize involved several local institutions on the island. Because the materials are scattered, Aruba has branched out to collaborate with others in the Caribbean, Venezuela, Netherlands and the United States. The local leaders established protocols and standards for the collection, but didn’t have enough resources to make the materials available in a robust digital library.

Kaart van het Eiland Aruba (1825) / Map of the Island of Aruba (1825)

Connecting with the Internet Archive to host the digital collection provided the missing piece of the puzzle, according to leaders in Aruba. “Because of the reality of our small island state, we don’t have much funding for big company servers,” said Raymond Hernandez, head of the Aruba National Archives (ANA). “If you have a limited budget, it’s not possible. The dream has come true, thanks to the Internet Archive. We are very grateful.”

The new portal on the Internet Archive devoted to Aruba includes links to the several other institutions such as UNOCA (Union di Organisacionnan Cultural Arubano (UNOCA),  Museo Arkeologico Nacional Aruba (MANA); National Archaeological Museum Aruba; Stichting Monumentenfonds Aruba (SMFA); Monuments Fund of Aruba), Departamento di Cultura Aruba, University of Aruba, TeleAruba and UNESCO Aruba.

EXPLORE THE COLECCION ARUBA

The collection has more than 100,000 items to date — nearly a one-to-one ratio for the island’s population. This includes about 40,000 documents, 60,000 images, 900 videos, 45 audio files and seven 3D objects for a total of 67 thematic and/or institutional (sub)collections.

As an additional layer of protection, the materials are being uploaded to the Filecoin  decentralized storage network, thanks to a longstanding relationship between the Internet Archive and Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW).

[See paper on the Aruba Model – Coleccion Aruba: Intersectoral Collaboration on Aruba as a Model for the (Dutch) Caribbean : A collaborative approach for preservation and access of collections in small island states]

RESEARCH USE OF THE COLLECTION

Chelsea Schields, University of California, Irvine

For Chelsea Schields, associate professor of history at the University of California, Irvine, the materials were so compelling and easy to use that she integrated them into her undergraduate course, “Oil and Capitalism.” Students learn about the global history of petroleum and develop research skills to build an argument based on evidence. “Students use the Aruba Collection to write research papers related to the culture of oil towns,” Schields said. “It is often their favorite part of the course because they get to dig into the sources themselves and identify the themes that resonate across those materials.”

Unlike other primary source collections, which are often cumbersome and hidden behind a costly paywall, the diverse sources found enabled students to write papers on topics ranging from migrant domestic workers in Aruba to the spatial organization of oil towns. 

In her own research for a book on the social histories of oil refineries on Aruba and Curaçao, Schields said the Aruba heritage portal was extremely useful when the COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel in the summer of 2020. “The Aruba Collection provided such an indispensable, bottom-up portrait of the history of the island’s Lago Refinery, which at its peak was among the largest plants in the world,” she said. “From photographs of refinery workers and their families to digitized copies of employee publications, these sources allowed me to see the labor required to transform oil into the commodities we rely upon today.”

Adi Martis, Utrecht University (emeritus)

Since the launch of Coleccion Aruba, Adi Martis said he uses the website almost every day. The emeritus associate professor at Utrecht University in The Netherlands appreciates how easy it is to access a variety of materials in national archives and the national library collections.  For example, by combining data from digitized historical maps and land ownership register books from the Aruban Land Registry, users can gain an insight into the history of land ownership on the island, he said. 

By applying AI-based, Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) algorithms, the digitized, difficult-to-read handwritten texts are made accessible to the public and transformed into searchable data. Martis said in some cases, digitized archives from Aruba, Curaçao and the Netherlands are combined and search results are sometimes surprising—in particular with data about the history of slavery. Users can search using different keywords and the site can even create family trees, which normally can be difficult because the slaves had no surnames.

“For the past 50 years I have been doing archival research and I must admit that I am proud of my small island that was able to achieve such incredible results in such a short time with the help of Internet Archive,” Martis said.

Jan Bant, a doctoral student in history from Aruba who lives in The Netherlands, relied heavily on the Coleccion Aruba when doing research for  his master’s thesis in 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown. Although he was unable to return to the island, he accessed journals and newspaper articles from Europe to examine Aruba’s political climate between in the 1970s and 80s. Being able to enter key words and dates in the search function was particularly helpful in locating sources. Bant was able to uncover documents about protests, revealing the country’s somewhat radical traditions of commenting on world affairs despite its image as a calm player in the Caribbean, he said.

As Bant continues his PhD research on the role of sports in Dutch Caribbean communities, he is tapping into the Coleccion Aruba, including materials about the oil refinery and laborers who brought baseball to the island.  

Bant contributed back to the portal by uploading his completed master’s thesis, which was completed in 2021. “There is a lot of research about Aruba that gets written but it’s never really used—often because people don’t know where to find it,” Bant said. “The Aruba Collection can also serve well as a repository to store research that has been done about Aruba. That’s what I think is very valuable.”

SERVING PATRONS

Aruba’s UNOCA Managing Director Ray-Anne Hernandez said the heritage portal allows users to easily search her foundation’s work of arts and culture. Researchers now can go to one place to locate digitized images and documents. 

“We have collections that we want to share and have accessible to the public, so this was a logical step to be part of this collaboration,” Hernadez said. “In the collection, we have history. We have art, music, and education. It’s so much more than we initially thought it would be and that fills us with great pride and great joy. It’s not just that we made a website. It’s something that’s continually growing and everybody is using it.”

The Dutch Caribbean Digital Heritage Week will be held on Aruba April 8-12. For the first day, April 8, a day-long symposium is planned, titled “Connecting our Shared Heritage: Linking (Dutch) Caribbean Heritage Institutions and Collections”, with keynote speeches from Brewster Kahle (Internet Archive), Eppo van Nispen (Dutch Network for Digital Heritage NDE and Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision), and contributions from a wide range of heritage professionals from across the Dutch Caribbean, and the world. It will be livestreamed via https://coleccion.aw/stream.

[Editorial note: For another take on the Coleccion Aruba, see, “The Internet Archive Just Backed Up an Entire Caribbean Island” from Wired.]

The Book Collector’s Legacy: Preserving the Personal Library of Rabbi Simon Noveck

Growing up in New Jersey, Beth Noveck says she was surrounded by so many books in her home that it felt like a library.

Simon and Doris Noveck. Image credit: Reiner Leist, American Portraits
Prestel Publishing, 1999

Her father, Simon Noveck, was a voracious reader. A rabbi with a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University, Simon collected books about Jewish philosophy, history, and sociology. Her mother, Doris, was interested in books about the arts and cooking. Together, they traveled around the world and often brought home souvenirs in the form of books, including a Turkish dictionary and a guidebook from a Jewish cemetery in Prague.

Over the years, the Novecks amassed a collection of more than 10,000 volumes. After they died (Simon in 2005; Doris in 2022), the family had to decide what to do with all the books.

“My parents had always talked about the idea of building a lending library, creating a home for the collection that people could access,” said Beth, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston.

While storing the items in a physical library was not feasible, Beth said the Internet Archive provided the perfect solution: Digitizing the collection.

Donating the collection

The donation process started by completing the Internet Archive’s physical item donation form. She then got in touch with the Internet Archive team who helped answer questions about the deduplication, packing and shipping process.

“We work with prospective donors to make sure that the valuable information in their collections will be unique to our library,” said Liz Rosenberg, Internet Archive’s donations manager. “Once we determine the collection will help add new resources to our library we help coordinate the logistics of getting the collection to the physical archives. There can be all sorts of logistics puzzles involved in physical item donations, especially for sizable donations like this one, like how to box books for efficient storage and transport. It’s always meaningful to work with families to help honor the legacy of their loved ones by preserving the materials they curated over time.”

Boxing and moving the collection.

In November, the family donated approximately 5,000 books in 200 boxes—every book from the collection that the Archive did not already have online. Staff from the Internet Archive provided the boxes, staff and two trucks to move the items from New Jersey to the physical archives. The items will eventually be scanned, cataloged and available for free to the public online.

“I can think of no better way to honor my father’s memory and all the work that he did to create this collection,” Beth said. “This way his legacy continues, and other people get to benefit from the work that he did. I’m so thrilled and grateful for this opportunity.”

Download for iPhone / Android

To decide what to donate, Beth and her son, Amedeo Bettauer, 14, used the Donate Books app (iPhone / Android) from the Internet Archive to review each book to see if it would be new to the collection or a duplicate. The books had been moved to a family member’s house in New Jersey, where Beth and Amedeo went over the course of five weekends last fall (by plane, car or train) to sort out the collection.

“It was an occasion for a lot of reminiscence, wonderful stories and exchange of memories,” Beth said.

Understanding the collection

Born in 1914, Simon had served congregations in New York City and Hartford, Connecticut; was the head of adult education for B’Nai Brith; and wrote several books about Jewish history, sociology and philosophy. Living far from a research library in rural New Jersey, Beth said her parents frequently bought books and remained in touch with the wider world through their reading.

Sample book from the donation.

For Amedeo, who never met his grandfather, the process was a chance to learn more about his family’s history.

“Books really do reflect a person,” Amedeo said. “Getting to see my grandfather’s entire collection gave me a window into who he was, as a man, which was very interesting. There were some moments where I thought, ‘Wait, that’s a book that I might have gotten or that I even have.’ It was very enlightening to see.”

Amedeo and Beth said they were amazed at the breadth of the collection, including papers from U.S. presidents, and rare books on a variety of topics. The process was both sentimental and enjoyable, Beth said, knowing that her father had read every book they sorted. A long-time fan and supporter of the Internet Archive, she said it was very satisfying for the family to know that so much of the collection will be preserved.

“A lot of my grandfather’s books were very esoteric, so he might have been the only person left that had a physical copy of a certain book,” Amedeo said. “To have that be lost or destroyed would be a catastrophic loss of knowledge. This way the collection is digitized and forever available to everyone for free. I think it’s what my grandparents would have wanted.”

Once Upon a Click: Librarian’s Fairy Tale Journey with the Internet Archive

Once upon a time, Liz Gotauco fell in love with fairy tales. That is, making videos while retelling them with some quirky twists.

Librarian Liz Gotauco, aka “Cosbrarian” across social media.

By day, Gotauco is a full-time public librarian in Rhode Island. On nights and weekends, she creates content for TikTok, Instagram and YouTube under the name Cosbrarian (a portmanteau of “cosplay” and “librarian”). Gotauco takes a traditional fairy tale or folk tale, writes her own scripts, and films herself telling it — often wearing costumes and using props to make it come alive.

To find the original fairy tales, many of which are in books that are out of print, Gotauco often uses the Internet Archive. She lists her more than 100 stories and sources on her website.

“It has been invaluable to me to have an easily accessible resource like the Internet Archive at my fingertips,” Gotauco said. “Sometimes I’m writing my content on the fly—but I don’t want my time constraints to compromise my research. Being able to quickly find a reputable source is such a gift, especially to those of us without academic library access.”

In her saucy, darker, and wilder versions of fairy tales for adult audiences, she weaves in humor and commentary. Gotauco likes to feature lesser-known folklore from a variety of cultures for her series, “Around the World in 80 Folk Tales.”  Many of these books are old and no longer on library shelves, but she often finds them at the Internet Archive.

“I was blown away that there was so much in the collection,” she said. Gotauco recently found Inuit folk tales and stories from Latin America that she adapted. Her online audience also requests stories from their home countries, and she is intentional about representation in her work.   

Once she discovers books in the Archive, Gotauco said she then sometimes buys a copy to add to her collection at home.

Follow Liz across social media:
TikTok
Instagram
YouTube

Gotauco started as a freelance content creator in 2021. It has almost become a part-time job, as she produces about two videos a week, which are available for free to viewers.

“The responses I’m most happy to get are when I make people laugh,” she said. “Especially since I started during the early pandemic, some people were like, “Wow, I just really needed to smile today and this did it for me.’”

Gotauco is busier these days, but plans to continue producing new content and hopes material continues to be available through the Archive to support her endeavor.

“Fairy tales have always been a part of my life. It’s been nice to indulge in that interest and find other people whose interests are the same,” said Gotauco, who has enjoyed tapping into her love for theater. “It’s partially a performance piece, as well as storytelling. I’ve been able to merge my two personas: the theater kid Liz and librarian Liz.”

Public Domain Day Celebrates Creative Works from 1928

Hundreds of people from all over the world gathered together on January 25 to honor the thousands of movies, plays, books, poems and songs that recently entered the U.S. public domain.

Steamboat Willie, Walt Disney’s 1928 animated film featuring Mickey Mouse, had top billing at the virtual event. Literature now free from restriction for reuse includes Orlando by Virginia Woolf and Tarzan Lord of the Jungle by Edgar R. Burroughs. Sound recordings from 1923 (released on a different schedule) joined the public domain such as ”Down Hearted Blues” by Bessie Smith and ”Who’s Sorry Now” by Isham Jones Orchestra.

WATCH RECORDING:

“There’s so much to rediscover and to celebrate,” said Jennifer Jenkins, director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School. For example, the release of The Great Gatsby into the public domain in 2021 inspired a creative flurry — new versions of the novel from the perspective of different characters, a prequel telling the backstory of Nick Caraway, a young adult remix, and song. “From the serious to the creative, to the whimsical to the wacky, these are all the great things we can do…now that [these works] are in the public domain and free to copy, to share, to digitize and to build upon without permission or fee.”

For an overview of new works in the public domain, view the curated list from the Center for the Public Domain.

Remix Contest

The winning film from the Public Domain Day 2024 Remix Contest was shown as well: “Sick on New Year’s,” by Ty Cummings. Every year since 2021, this contest has invited artists to remix works from its collection to showcase new and creative uses of public domain materials. Fifty films were submitted to this year’s competition, according to Amir Esfahania, artist in residence at the Archive. Learn more about the finalists or watch all the submissions in our recent blog post.

Advocacy

“Celebrating the public domain is not just about vintage references and period-appropriate clothing. It’s about understanding history to inform the present day,” said Lila Bailey, Internet Archive senior policy counsel and co-host of the virtual festivities. “We think there should be time set aside every year to celebrate the immense riches that free and open culture provides to everyone.”

While federal holiday recognition (like MLK Day or Presidents’ Day) for the public domain is unlikely, there was a discussion of an advocacy campaign for establishment of a commemorative Public Domain Day (more along the lines of National Data Privacy  Day or National Whistleblowers Day).

“It only requires a simple resolution in the Senate with high chances of recognition,” said Amanda Levendowski, director of Georgetown Law School’s Intellectual Property and Information Policy Clinic. “Prospects for passage are way better than possible. About 80 percent of proposals are passed — and maybe next year, Public Domain Day will be among them.”

Experts said a successful drive for the designation will require a collaborative effort. A kickoff event will be held February 29 in New York City, hosted by Library Futures, executive director Jennie-Rose Halperin announced.

AI and the Public Domain

The online program also featured a panel discussion on generative artificial intelligence, copyright and artist expression. Experts weighed in on just what should be the copyright status of the outputs of generative AI.

Panelists (clockwise from top left): Lila Bailey (Internet Archive), Heather Timm (artist), Maxximillian (artist), Matthew Sag (Emory Law), and Juliana Castro Varón (Cita Press).

Now, AI tools can turn text or simple descriptions into images that are  genuinely new and often look like exactly the kind of things that people get copyrighted if a human made them, explained Matthew Sag, professor of law, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science at Emory University.

“The copyright office is quite clear that to get copyright, you have to have human authorship. So something created entirely by an unsupervised machine is not eligible for copyright,” Sag said, noting that the courts have recently agreed. “The interesting question is what about when humans are using AI as a tool and directing the output. This is where the controversy really is.”

On the panel, two artists, Heather Timm and Maxximillian, shared how they both leverage AI in the creative process.

Timm said she started using generative AI in 2021 and thinks the copyright office should cover works that have results from it. She has trained AI models on her own physical work and then created something new collaborating with the machine, as well as conceptualized how to blend different pieces of work in a collage or sculpture.  

“I use it almost as a notebook,” Timm said. “If I have a concept or an idea about something on the go, I can immediately prompt that and have it as a placeholder to explore it later.”

As a filmmaker and musician, Maxximillian said she feels passionate about AI and it has saved her time creating animated characters and helping refine her text. “As a professional artist, I rely on copyright to keep viable the works that I produce for clients legally,” said Maxximillian. “It’s important to understand that copyright protection enables the creator to be a steward of that work. The question to consider: Who benefits by denying copyright on AI? I think nobody benefits.”

An open access publisher, Juliana Castro Varón, design director and founder of Cita Press, also addressed the issue. “I believe that AI may pose economic, power, and labor challenges, but I feel very confident that creativity will survive technology,” she said. All books Cita produces are in the public domain for everyone to download. “We are not at all against people using AI for their work, but we continue to hire humans…elevating the work of people is core to our mission.”

***

The event was co-hosted by Internet Archive and Library Futures with support from Creative Commons, Authors Alliance, Public Knowledge, SPARC and Duke Law’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

Internet Archive an ‘Information Lifeline’ for Librarian Professionally and Personally

When Zeau Modig began as the graduate school librarian at the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) nearly a decade ago, many of the students lived nearby. They came to the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, campus to check out some of the library’s 1,500 print books and make photocopies.

Zeau Modig, librarian

Today, the majority of students live elsewhere in a dozen different countries from Brazil to Hungary—and instruction has moved online. This is driving up demand for e-books. Modig has found resources on the Internet Archive to fill the gap between what her physical library can provide and the needs of her community.

“The Internet Archive has been amazing for us to be able to get material into our students’ hands, and making it accessible, especially for the people overseas studying in less developed countries,” Modig said. “If you’re not in the United States it’s not as easy to get books because of shipping—it could take weeks to get there. The Internet Archive has really been a tremendous help to our students.”

The graduate program attracts students who are often mid-career, working in education, criminal justice, business or any field looking for strategies and scholarship to address conflicts, repair harm, and restore community among individuals and groups. To understand the foundational ideas behind restorative practices, the classes sometimes assign readings of theoretical models that are hard to find. Modig said students often turn to the Internet Archive to find obscure books or journals that have otherwise vanished.

Modig said she values the Archive’s collaboration with Wikipedia to turn reference links in Wikipedia articles blue, connecting citations to the original source content in Archive’s digital collections. This effort gives scholars single-click access to verify information for their research.

“It’s made my life as a librarian so much easier,” Modig said of the Archive. “The faculty, too, most of whom work remotely, really appreciate having books at their fingertips.”

Outside her job, Modig said she uses the Archive for genealogy research, leisure reading and entertainment. She recently discovered a commemorative family reunion volume from 1883 on her French Huguenot relatives that gave her insight into her family history. Inspired by the Netflix series, “The Queen’s Gambit,” Modig checked out the original novel on which the show was based.

“Internet Archive has become an essential information lifeline for my graduate institution’s students and faculty, and also for me personally.”

Zeau Modig, librarian, International Institute for Restorative Practices

Unfortunately, as a result of the publishers’ lawsuit against the Internet Archive’s lending library, “The Queen’s Gambit” is no longer available for borrowing. 

When Modig learned that the book can no longer be checked out to one reader at a time, she paused. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to enjoy this book while I could,” she said. “I hope that the publishers involved in the lawsuit against the Internet Archive will come to realize the advantages that controlled digital lending holds for them as well as for readers, and allow the Internet Archive to restore access to their content.”

“Overall, the Internet Archive has become an essential information lifeline for my graduate institution’s students and faculty, and also for me personally,” Modig said. “It would be deeply disappointing for us if this rich trove of content is no longer available through the Internet Archive.”

Genealogist uncovers family histories with help of Internet Archive

In tracing her family history, Taneya Koonce discovered stories about her African American ancestors in records going back to the late 1700s. Many were enslaved. She followed the path of some descendants from North Carolina to New York in the Great Migration. 

Taneya Koonce

The Internet Archive is among the many sources that Koonce has relied on in her research. From her home in Tampa, Florida, she regularly accesses the collection’s online yearbooks, newspapers, location histories, and government records to piece together her family’s story—and has also contributed material in hopes of helping others.

“As a genealogist and family historian, the breadth of digitized materials in the Internet Archive is essential to my research and an invaluable source of information in my family history quest,” said Koonce, who works as an information scientist at an academic medical center.

Koonce began to record stories in her family by interviewing her grandmothers nearly 30 years ago. She learned about several siblings of her maternal grandmother who died in infancy and the hardships they faced in life. Rediscovering her notes from those conversations after they died, Koonce began to dive into genealogy in earnest in 2005.  

Her interest turned from a hobby to a passion in recent years. Koonce maintains a family genealogy website, created a web database for research of Koonce surnames from all over the country, publishes on her genealogy blog, and runs a collaborative genealogy-focused online community, the Academy of Legacy Leaders.

Having found so many historical items on the Internet Archive, Koonce teaches others how to use the collection in their own research. She’s active in genealogy societies, frequently presenting to others about the wealth of materials online.

Koonce applauded the Archive for preserving New York voter lists that helped her find one of her ancestors. After researching slaveholders by the name of Koonce, she connected with a man in Wisconsin who had published a “Koonce to Koonce” newsletter on the family’s history. With his cooperation, Taneya digitized and uploaded the newsletter to the Archive to preserve it for others. She always documents her findings, should they be of interest to others pursuing their family history.

“I specialize in helping family historians be very cognizant about planning for the future and leaving a legacy,” said Koonce, who has presented about the importance of saving family history research for the next generation. “One strategy is sharing material on the Internet Archive. I want to help educate people that it is a library. It’s dedicated to preserving content for the future. If we can contribute information to the collection, we can spread the word about what we’re doing and make sure it’s long lasting.”