Political TV Ad Archive launches today

Political TV Ad Archive 02

New, free website archives political TV ads in 2016 primaries married with fact-checking and reporting from award-winning journalism partners

After sifting through more than 100,000 hours of broadcast television coverage and counting, the Internet Archive today launches its new, free Political TV Ad Archive website —PoliticalAdArchive.org — with more than 30,000 ad airings archived. This new resource will bring journalists, researchers, and the public resources to help hold politicians accountable for the messages they deliver in TV ads.

Each ad is accompanied by underlying, downloadable data on how often it has aired, where, and when in 20 TV markets throughout eight key primary states. In addition, the site links to fact-checking and follow-the-money journalism by the project’s partners: the American Press Institute, the Center for Responsive Politics, the Center for Public Integrity, the Duke Reporters’ Lab, FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, and The Washington Post’sFact Checker.

The ads range from Democrat Bernie Sanders’ ad blanketing Iowa with more than 1,300 airings that proclaims him to be a “pragmatist”; to Marco Rubio’s proclamation that “this is the greatest country in the world, and acting like it,” which aired more than 1,700 times in Iowa and New Hampshire; to the negative ad sponsored by super PAC Right to Rise, which supports Jeb Bush, that takes a swing at rivals Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio in thirty seconds flat.

The ad collection also gathers instances where news broadcasts have played excerpts of ads or even entire ads as part of their reporting — in other words, “earned media.” For example, Trump’s first ad, which focused on immigration, was aired several times as part of news reports.

Political TV Ad Archive 01On the new website, each ad is archived on its own page, along with downloadable metadata on how often the ad has aired, on which TV stations, where, and when. These data also include information on who is sponsoring the ad, the subject(s) covered in the ad, which candidates are targeted in the ad, and the type of legal designation of the sponsor — e.g., super PAC, campaign committee, 501(c), and so on.

“Public libraries are a cornerstone of democracy; by providing information to anyone who seeks it, they give citizens the ability to make better decisions,” said Brewster Kahle, founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “We’re creating this library of political ads so that voters have some control over the messages that politicians and outside groups pile on at election time.”

“Before the primaries are over, the public in key primary states will be buried in campaign ads generating more heat than light. This new website will be a resource for journalists, academics, civic groups and the general public to have a better chance at separating lies from truths and learn who is paying for the ads,” said Roger Macdonald, director of the Television Archive for the Internet Archive.

Internet Archive senior engineer, Dan Schultz, an innovator in harnessing technology for fact checking, tapped an open source audio fingerprinting tool developed by Columbia University known as “audfprint” to track down airings of political TV ads in the television broadcast airwaves. He built on engineering created by Tracey Jaquith, architect of the TV Archive. The new system, whimsically named the “Duplitron,” is also open source and should prove useful in other video/audio analysis projects.

“Thanks to technological advances, we can find a copy of a political ad, create an unique fingerprint, and then match it to other segments of audio that share that same fingerprint. The result: we can figure out how many times ads have aired, where, and when,” said Schultz.

Key findings so far from the project’s journalism partners include:

  • PolitiFact rated a claim in this Donald Trump campaign ad as “Pants on Fire” because it proclaimed that Trump would “stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for,” while showing footage not of Mexican immigrants, but rather of refugees streaming into Morocco that had been pulled from an Italian news network. See the ad here.
  • FactCheck.org reported that a Hillary Clinton TV ad that claimed that drug prices had doubled in the last seven years was inaccurate: “A report, provided by her campaign, says brand-name drug prices on average have more than doubled. But more than 80 percent of filled prescriptions are generic drugs, and those prices have declined by nearly 63 percent, that same report says.” See the ad here.
  • The Washington Post’sFact Checker gave four Pinocchios to a claim in an ad sponsored by Ted Cruz’s campaign charging that Sen. Marco Rubio, Fla., had compromised on the immigration issue. This claim comes from Cruz’ contention that Rubio supported a bill that would give “President Obama blanket authority to admit Syrian refugees…without mandating meaningful background checks…” The fact-checking group pointed to immigration experts who say this interpretation of the immigration bill in question is wrong. See the ad here.
  • The Center for Public Integrity has reported that an ad targeting Trump, Rubio, and Cruz, sponsored by the super PAC Right to Rise, which supports Jeb Bush, was funded by “close confidants of Bush and his storied political family.” This includes scions of banks and equity firms. See the ad here.
  • More than 80 percent of ads run in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries are sponsored by super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, up 71 percent over 2011 and a 12,000 percent jump over 2007. The analysis was done in conjunction with Wesleyan Media Project.

The Political TV Ad Archive is collecting television from key primary states before the primary or caucus in that particular state. Instances of airings captured by the website include both paid media and “earned media” — when TV news broadcasts air significant portions of ads while doing stories about them.

The Political TV Ad Archive is funded by the Knight News Challenge, an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Challenge is a joint effort of the Rita Allen Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the Hewlett Foundation. Christopher Buck and Craig Newmark have made individual contributions to the project. In addition, the Internet Archive has received funding from the Democracy Fund to conduct joint trainings of journalists in key primary states in partnership with the American Press Institute. The launch event is co-sponsored by the National Press Club Journalism Institute.

“This new tool has the potential to bring more accountability to the voting process, providing a resource to uncover and verify important information in the lead up to the 2016 elections,” said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation.

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Netlabel Day opens applications for independent labels

M.I.S.T. Records organizes the new version of this musical event, which in its first edition united 80 labels from all around the world, releasing more than 120 albums for free in digital format.

We’re excited to announce that our 2016 call for digital record labels that want to be part of the second edition of the Netlabel Day is now open. From January 15 to February 29, we’ll be receiving emails at contact.netlabelday@gmail.com for all applicants.

The second edition of Netlabel Day has the mission of continuing to showcase the best of the online independent music scene through widespread music releases (EPs, LPs, singles, compilations) on July 14, 2016. Also this year, we’re going to organize some local gigs and record label expos in Argentina, Canada and Chile, amongst other countries to confirm.

netlabelsThis year we have the lovely support of the Internet Archive and Free Music Archive, two of the most important platforms for netlabels around the globe. We are also proud to announce the sponsorship of Creative Commons, who will help organize the correct use and distribution of all the material released this year.

The original Netlabel Day event was created by the Chilean label M.I.S.T. Records in March 2015, organizing a very successful first edition with 80 labels from countries such as Iceland, Poland, Spain, US, Finland, Norway, Russia, Italy, France, and of course, Chile.

“The goal this year is to discuss, debate, promote, and explore the state of musical management in the participant countries”, says Manuel Silva, M.I.S.T. label head and creator of this celebration.

For more details, please visit netlabelday.blogspot.com, or email us to contact.netlabelday@gmail.com.

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Use the Archive’s resources to help make Wikipedia a better resource

search results with the category finder

So you think you can internet? Help Wikipedia get more citations.

This week is Wikipedia’s 15th birthday and the Wikipedia Library has created the #1lib1ref campaign this week to encourage information professionals and others to add one citation to Wikipedia’s many [citation needed] tags in their articles. If every librarian in the world added one citation, there would be no more [citation needed] tags!

The Internet Archive is a great source for fact checking and our web-native content is easy to cite! Here’s some more information if you’d like to get started.

You can start from our texts collection, use our advanced search or try Open Library’s full text search. You can even add citations to content from our TV News Archive which can search captions or find historical information about the internet using the Wayback Machine. The campaign only goes through the 23rd but please feel free to keep adding citations and increasing the usefulness of Wikipedia by using our primary and secondary source materials.

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Memories of David Bowie by B. George


I learned of David Bowie’s death while watching an old film, The False Madonna (1931). In it a very beautiful young man dies. He is blind, wealthy, kind. Maybe it’s only a coincidence that makes for a good story, but it makes the blow ever harder.

David was on ARChive of Contemporary Music’s Board of Advisors since the late 90s. I only met him four or five times. We had helped with his website finding him copies of some of his singles, and he was kind enough to sign a pile of LPs that we could auction off or give away.  The one above was hand decorated by a fan.  It’s an early US pressing of Hunky Dory (1971), that’s why there’s no lettering on the front cover like the UK release.  Plenty of room for a signature and glitter.


David attended a few ARC parties, and hosted one of our best ones, introducing the re-invented version of Chic. Now this is where you’re going to think me a bit mad, but when he walked into the party, Iman on his arm, he seemed to glow. More remarkably he gave a great deal of his time, staying the full four hours at his table, talking to anyone and everyone who came his way. Truly remarkable for an artist of his stature. Yet even in 2000 his eyes were failing and he was led to the stage by his pal and long-time producer Tony Visconti.

No need for us to recount the innovative and important work. It will stand. The odd little film and David’s unexpected death left me sleepless. He will be missed.

B. GeorgeB. George is the Co-Founder and Director of the ARChive of Contemporary Music in NYC. With over three million sound recordings, ARC is the largest popular music collection in America.  The initial donation of 47,000 discs that began ARC came from his personal collection.  ARC is a partner of the Internet Archive, where B. George and his staff help to curate the physical and digital music collections.

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MY ONLINE MEMORY–Guest Curating the Archive by Jessamyn West

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 6.22.45 PMI work at the Internet Archive via the Open Library project but I was a crate digger here long before that. My earliest memories of the Archive are using the Wayback Machine to find old copies of my first web sites (many now lost to 302 redirects) and other memory-holed content. I lived on the West Coast, was fresh out of library school at the University of Washington and used my nascent blog to yammer on about, among other things, all the great free culture stuff on the Web. The old links to my blog still work but the same can’t be said for an incredible amount of content online. The Internet Archive is the online memory for many of us.

I use the internet to make the local global, and vice versa. Here are some other things I love at the Internet Archive.

Maps of Home (and elsewhere)

I can see my house from here.

I can see my house from here.

My home in Vermont is in a bit of an Internet shadow. This is the good news and the bad news. One of the things this means is that if I want to go hiking or exploring, there may not be a ready online resource I can consult for trail and terrain maps. USGS maps are supposedly free but getting access to them used to be complicated if not impossible. Enter the Libre Map Project where a team of people donated money and time and resources to make USGS maps of all fifty states available and searchable from one central location at the Internet Archive. Oh hey look, there’s a review by me from 2009.

Family Histories (mine and others’)

The last Joseph Thomas West listed on this page is my grandfather. Joseph Thomas West IV was my dad. I found this book once before, digging through Massachusetts libraries shortly after college. I had a bunch of its pages stuffed into a folder someplace. It was a joy to find it again.

page from the town history of princeton

On the other side of my family, my great-grandparents were just arriving in the US at the turn of the last century. Accessing the US Census through the Archive means I could track them as they moved from New Jersey to New York and back out to New Jersey. Morris is my grandfather. In the 1910 census he was six years old.

census form with Cohon names on it.

The Archive has a wealth of searchable and downloadable family history books many of which are unavailable elsewhere online.

Ten+ years of Matisyahu shows

Live at Red Rocks

Live at Red Rocks

For Hannukah or any time, Matisyahu’s hazzan-esque lyrical reggae rapping is a tonic for a hectic life. Even better to listen to (and easier to embed) with the newer version of the Archive’s site. I keep this on background when I answer Open Library emails and do other keyboard-intensive work. Thanks to Matisyahu for allowing the Archive to store and distribute his music as part of their extensive Live Music Archive.


Mole people!

Mole people!

Steam powered color printing!

Steam powered color printing!

Rolling along modern style

Rolling along modern style







When the BookReader was first released as a way for people to read books online using a book-like interface, it was way ahead of the curve. The online reading experience has improved elsewhere but the Archive is still one of the first places I go to find public domain content (books and magazines) to read, share, answer reference questions, or just use in my presentations. So many libraries in North and South America (or Canada specifically) and Africa have great collections at the Archive from the Biodiversity Heritage Library to New York Public Library to the US National Library of Medicine to 13,000 books in Arabic. Comics! Creepy magazines! Yearbooks! Encyclopedias and dictionaries!

And all of it is available for anyone, for free, whenever they want it.

Happy travels!

Happy travels!

Jessamyn West is a librarian and community technologist. She helps run the Internet Archive’s Open Library project and writes a column for Computers in Libraries magazine. She works with small libraries and businesses in Central Vermont to help them use technology to solve problems.

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EXHIBITION OPENING- From Clay to the Cloud: The Internet Archive and Our Digital Legacy– January 23

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On View at the Laband Art Gallery
Loyola Marymount University
January 23 – March 20, 2016

Opening Reception: Saturday, January 23, 2-5pm
Talks by Brewster Kahle, Founder of Internet Archive
and Artist Nuala Creed

Ceramic Archivists being moved from their home at the Internet Archive's San Francisco headquarters

Nuala Creed’s Ceramic Archivists being packed for transport from their home at the SF headquarters of the Internet Archive to the Laband Gallery in LA.

Loyola Marymount University’s Laband Art Gallery and the William H. Hannon Library are collaborating on a new exhibit, From Clay to the Cloud:  The Internet Archive and our Digital Legacy, which runs January 23- March 20, 2016.

From Clay to The Cloud explores the human impetus to preserve our knowledge, our memory, and our cultural heritage. Twenty years ago, the Internet Archive took on the challenge of creating a digital repository—a 21st-century Library of Alexandria—where swaths of our lives from the Internet and other sources will be stored for generations to come. In order to be useful, this unfathomably vast collection of data (over 20 petabytes and growing) needs to be explored and activated by humans who seek to tell stories and make sense of it. The exhibition looks at past and present archival practices and asks what are we saving, how will others be able to access it, and what will our cultural legacy be for the future?

Artist, Nuala Creed, dismantles a sculpture of Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive.

Artist, Nuala Creed, dismantles a sculpture of Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive.

Ancient clay cuneiforms will be on view as well as artist Nuala Creed’s ceramic statues depicting the people who are building the Internet Archive–crucial reminders of the human involvement in this digital library. Hands-on displays will offer visitors the opportunity to dive into the vast “storerooms” of the Internet Archive.  A wall of monitors will convey both the unfathomable vastness of the archive and shine a spotlight on different specific aspects of the archive (pulling needles out of the haystack). A listening stationing made up of music from the Internet Archive’s collection can be perused in comfortable chairs. A gaming station will offer visitors the 3 opportunity to play a handful of video games archived on the Internet Archive. These games span the history and evolution of video gaming from Pong to PacMan to today. There will also be an 3-D Occulus Rift demonstration station

During the course of the exhibition, Laband and Hannon staff will be using a Table Top Scribe—the Internet Archive’s new state-of-the-art book scanner–in the gallery to digitally archive rare materials from the library’s special collections and Laband exhibition catalogues

Exhibition-Related Programs:  (all events are free)

Opening Reception & Talk: Nuala Creed & Brewster Kahle 
Saturday, January 23, 2-5pm  ◊ Artist’s Talk 2:00-3:00pm  ◊ Reception 3:00-5:00pm
Murphy Recital Hall and Laband Art Gallery
Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle and artist Nuala Creed offer insight into the archive and Creed’s unique artistic commission. The talk will be followed by a free reception. The talk is co-organized by the Laband Art Gallery and KaleidoLA: The Speaker Series of the Department of Art and Art History.

Ask An Archivist Panel
Wednesday. February 10, 5:30-7:00 pm
Von der Ahe Suite 322, William H. Hannon Library
Archivists representing diverse archives from across Southern California will discuss the relationship between researchers and archivists in the digital age.

DIY Archiving Workshop & Exhibition Tour
Saturday. February 13, 9:30am-12:30pm
Von der Ahe Suite 322, William H. Hannon Library
Learn how to best preserve your treasured documents, images, and objects, both print and digital. The workshop will be followed by a tour of the exhibition with curator Carolyn Peter.
Conversation: Gaming, Its Past and Its Future, Tracy Fullerton & Tom Klein
Tuesday, March 8, 7pm LMU Von der Ahe Building, Room 190
USC Game Designer/Professor Tracy Fullerton and LMU Animation Professor Tom Klein will discuss how traditions of analog and digital game design inform the creative process of current video game development. This program is co-organized with the School of Film and Television.
Talk: The Dark Side: Your Personal Archive, Data Collection, & Privacy
Date and Time TBD
TBD Location
Other types of archiving and data collection are occurring on a daily basis around our shopping, browsing, and physical location. Where is this information going and how do citizens protect their privacy in a digital age? This program is co-organized with the Department of Communication Studies.

Free Little Libraries
Dotted across LMU’s campus are Free Little Libraries where you can take a book and/or leave a book.
Stop by the Laband or the Hannon Library for a map and go on a treasure hunt to locate them all. For More Information For current program and exhibition information,
call 310-338-2880 or visit http://cfa.lmu.edu/laband.

Gallery Information
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Admission: Admission is free.
Parking is available on campus for a charge on the weekdays and for free on the weekends.

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Washington, DC briefing January 22 on new, free website tracking political ads

Political TV Ad Archive

The Internet Archive will be launching a new project — the Political TV Ad Archive — in Washington, DC. See details below, and stay tuned for updates:

Where: National Press Club, Murrow Room, Washington, DC

When: January 22, 2016, 9:00 am – 11:00 am

What: The Internet Archive launches the Political TV Ad Archive, an online, free digital library resource where reporters can find federal-level political TV ads in key primary states in the 2016 elections, married with fact-checking and information on the organizations funding the ads, along with downloadable metadata. Come hear about what Internet Archive and its partners have found so far:

  • When and where have ads aired?
  • Which ads contain the most egregious truth stretching or full-on lies?
  • Which candidates have been the focus of the most ads?
  • Who is paying for the ads, or is that information hidden?

Why: Political TV ad spending is expected to be in the billions. Yet the same local stations that air the ads provide very little solid reporting on politics. Even fewer correct misinformation in the ads. In partnership with trusted journalistic organizations, and with the support of the Knight News Challenge, an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the new Political TV Ad Archive will help reporters stop the spin cycle by providing contextual data and information to evaluate ads. The National Press Club Journalism Institute is co-sponsoring this event.

How: The Political TV Ad Archive is monitoring television in 20 key markets in eight states, starting with such locations as Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City in Iowa and Boston-Manchester in New England. The project is using experimental audio fingerprint technology to track political TV ads for federal races. On the new website, journalists can find embeddable videos of the ads along with downloadable metadata giving them the scoop on which ads have aired, where, and when. Data will also include information on the sponsor — whether it’s a super PAC, 501(c) group that does not disclose donors, candidate-sponsored ad, or some other entity — as well as the candidates targeted.


Roger Macdonald, Director, Television Archive, Internet Archive

Kathy Kiely, Board of Directors, National Press Club Journalism Institute

John Dunbar, Deputy Executive Editor, Center for Public Integrity

Robert Maguire, Political Nonprofit Investigator, Center for Responsive Politics

Lori Robertson, Managing Editor, FactCheck.org

Louis Jacobson, Senior Correspondent, PolitiFact

Glenn Kessler, Editor, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker

Nancy Watzman, Managing Editor, Television Archive, Internet Archive

Dan Schultz, Senior Software Engineer, Television Archive, Internet Archive

Online video will be available online 24 hours after event. Stay tuned for details and link.

Press Contact:

Nancy Watzman

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(Educational) Film of the Week: Biography (TV Series, 1961-3)

Educational films and TV programs very often center around great events, artworks, books or historical figures, subscribing to a model of historiography that Matthew Arnold summarized as “the best that has been thought and known in the world.” It is thus not surprising that the Internet Archive’s collection of educational films includes many examples of biographical portraits of great men (and they are almost always dead white men). Prominent among these shows was the long-running “Biography” series, hosted by the late Mike Wallace, that ultimately spawned the creation of an entire network of the same name (recently revived as “FYI.”)

Multiple episodes of the original run of the TV series from 1961 to 1963 (comprising a total of 65 half-hour shows) have been digitized from 16mm prints that were circulated among schools and universities after the original airing of the syndicated show.

In contrast with later iterations of this series, the original run focused on deceased, historical figures without the focus on the entertainment industry and celebrity that was prominent later on.

It goes without saying that in profiling figures like Spanish dictator Francisco Franco or Soviet leader Josef Stalin the program does not stand up to any scholarly standard of objectivity; it is very much a reflection of the cold war sensibilities that produced it. The choice of subjects, too, reflects a bias toward statesmen (including even politicians like Fiorello Laguardia who no longer have the name recognition they once did) and figures of American history and culture like Mark Twain and Clarence Darrow. However, the episodes do include a variety of rare archival footage that functions as a primary historical document, making them still valuable from a pedagogical and scholarly point of view. Another aspect of the series that remains useful today is the larger argument it presents about the relationship between an individual life and the course of national and global history.

Films in the Internet Archive’s educational film collection thus provide a window not only into history but also the way in which it was recorded, whether in written or audiovisual forms, which in turn had a great influence on the way history was taught and learned throughout the twentieth century.

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The Internet Archive Telethon Pt. 3

See also Parts 1 and 2.

We dreamed up the idea of an Internet Archive Telethon, and due to the work of employees, volunteers, and performers, we put together an (almost) 24-hour show. We had an amazing time doing it.

But what were the results?


In total, including the 2-1 matching grant we had going on, we raised $131,134 across the 24 hour telethon period. Many donations were $50 or $100, with some lower and a few higher. Watching the funding trends that were in effect from the previous year and this month, there was roughly $30,000 expected to be made if we hadn’t done anything unusual beyond the fundraising banner and the usual contacting of folks to donate. So that means, unscientifically, that the Internet Archive Telethon caused a 400 percent increase in donations, which makes it a wild success!

A shout-out to Doug Kaye of IT Conversations, who donated $10,000 to the event towards the end, as well as Kevin Savetz, who contributed $1,500 in the name of the vintage computing history he and others have been uploading. Limor Fried of Adafruit donated $500, and many, many others contributed other amounts throughout the day and night.

Not only was money raised, but awareness was raised: people were being told about the show and were checking out the Internet Archive for the first time. We got a chance to see everyone excited and happy at the end of the year about this place we work in, and to talk about what brings us there. And the performance acts, all volunteering time and effort, provided us with amazing entertainment and spectacle. It was a resounding success on many other levels as well.

Will it happen again next year? Who knows. What we do know is how incredibly wonderful the experience was, even through all the hard work and intense effort, and how great it is that a mission like the Archive’s can inspire so much.

Thank you so much for being a part of this.

There are so many people to thank for this event. We’ll start with Eddie Codel for livestreaming equipment and Jasmine/Chris/Alex at Support Class for their on-screen reactive graphics – you all made us seem much more professional. On the internal side of Internet Archive employees, June Goldsmith handled administration concerns with the hosting of the event and worked out logistics. The front office (Katherine, Laurel and Michelle) made the calls and the reaching out for security, scheduling and logistics. Michelle invited many of our acts and made logistical arrangements for their media, as well as recruited and organized our team of non-staff volunteers. Wendy Hanamura provided advice, booking, and contacts for multiple acts, as well as being onsite for portions of the event.  A lot of employees and volunteers came onsite to help run the Cortex, including Sam, Davide, Jake, Kevin, Laurel, Trevor, Jackie, Carolyn, and Jeff. Rachel Lovinger was a tireless producer for the majority of the cortex’s existence. Carolyn did the Telethon landing page graphics and web design. Will Fitzgerald provided coding for the banner linkage as well as a major assist to near-realtime automatic updating of telethon fundraising totals. Ralf, Tracey, Tim, Trevor, and Brewster and others helped during the Great Network Confusion of December 2015, getting the entire network infrastructure whipped into shape. And, of course, our many acts, including Conspiracy of Beards, Diva Marisa Lendhart, Craig Baldwin, Andy Isaacson, Chris Gray, Justin Hall, Lauren Taylor, Jeff Kaplan, Odd Salon, Gary Gach, Trevor von Stein, the Balkan Brass Band, Alexis Rossi and Dwalu Khasu, Rick and Megan Prelinger, John Perry Barlow and John Gilmore, John Law.

We are no doubt missing many more people who contributed to the Telethon both behind and in front of the camera –  it’s a testimony to how many hands came forward to lift this dream up into reality. Thanks to everyone who was a part of it.

Posted in Cool items, Event, News | 1 Comment

The Internet Archive Telethon Pt. 2

See also Parts 1 and 3.

The Internet Archive Telethon 2015 began at noon on December 19th, and almost immediately we had things go pretty crazy. The co-hosts (Jason Scott and Michelle Krasowski) and the opening staff of the Cortex got used to the timing of the whole thing, while tests and fixes kept happening to get the infrastrucure functioning.

But to get things off to a rousing start, Diva Marisa Lenhardt sang an aria from The Fifth Element and talked about how the Internet Archive’s Wayback machine saved a copy of a site she’d lost due to a disagreement with her hosting provider.

From there, we ran into issues with audio synchronization, to the strangeness of the cameras, and ultimately, a network outage. Due to the efforts of multiple employees coming onsite and online on that Saturday, the network connection returned, stronger than ever, and by 4pm, we had our act together.

Pasted image at 2015_12_21 04_31 PM

So, it turns out that a telethon is a very stressful, very weird, very involved project, and a 24 hour marathon is all of that times 10!

Luckily, the calls and e-mails resulted in some pretty amazing appearances through the day and into the night (and back into the morning). Volunteers have edited together some of the highlights (although there were many more) and they are now available in the Archive’s collections. They include:

A pretty historic segment was Brewster Kahle interviewing John Perry Barlow and John Gilmore, co-founders of the EFF and with accomplishments on all sides, doing a combination interview and conversation among the statues.


Internet Archive employees played a huge part in the events and the acts onstage, including Alexis Rossi and Dwalu Khasu singing christmas carols and Jeff Kaplan performing on guitar.


It was a time for interviews and conversations about the nature of the Archive that rarely are heard outside its walls – employees sitting back and chatting about what brought them there, kept their interest, and what inspired them.


Among these were:

Michelle’s late late show ran from Midnight to 8 AM Pacific Standard Time.  Along with hosting engaging interviews, she was inspired to dig deep into the Archive’s collection to feature some of our fascinating oddities, which included the horrors of candy eating, promotion of violence by Santa, and testing of toys in zero gravity:

Michelle also pulled out the 35mm filmstrip projector and slide carousel to bring us back to our days of compulsory education in the dark, and we learned about Cities in Space and The Poetry of Rock.

In the Internet Archive 2015 collection, you can see both edited sequences as well as extended unbroken clips, some of them going for hours, of the Telethon as it happened.

There were moments of great excitement, of improvisation, and of having to just make do with who or what was onstage at that exact second. Though it all, hundreds of viewers weighed in with tweets, suggestions, questions and demands.

So, in basically one day, we generated a couple dozen hours of content and media, a good portion of it unique and amazing and some of it beyond classification.

But how did the Telethon actually do with regards to its goal, to raise awareness and funding for the Archive?

That’s in Part 3.

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The Internet Archive Telethon Pt. 1

See also Parts 2 and 3.

The thinking was rather simple: The Internet Archive holds a year-end fundraising drive to encourage donations and recurring donations to provide the great service it does to the world. It does this in recent times through a combination of banner ads and grants, all meant to help cover the annual $12 million budget.

But the Archive is also made up of people, and is a resource for millions not just for web pages and historical documents, but for movies, music, software and a range of other data that have been contributed by institutions and individuals over the years. It also has its headquarters in San Francisco, which has quite a diverse amount of artists, musicians and figures.

So, the logic went, why not do a telethon?


The beginning of the setup – machines in the “cortex” and lighting up the stage.

The word “telethon“, a combination of “television” and “marathon”, is the idea that you do something, whatever it is, broadcast it as widely as possible, and keep doing it while asking for whatever it is you’re asking for.  Traditionally, this has been charity or non-profit organizations or causes. It’s probably most popularly heard when you flip past a public radio station and you hear a couple hosts talking about all the things that the station does across the year.

And the Archive happened to have an advantage for putting on a show that many places might not – a wonderfully inspiring Great Room, which was part of the church the headquarters building used to be, which has hosted a number of fun events in the recent past.


So, starting in the later part of 2015, a group of people started organizing the idea of an Internet Archive Telethon – contacting possible guests, figuring out what would sit where, and what would make sense for a final date.

The in-process photos of what would become “the cortex”, the central video switching and social media tracking, show the range of equipment:


The arrangement of computers, video/audio cables, encoders and switchers across the bench of a pipe organ was eventually cleaned up into something a little easier to understand. One or two people could run the three cameras (although they’d have to move them) and then a large monitor would allow the social media tracking (to answer questions and see what people were saying) as well as driving the on-screen graphics (to show donation totals, list who was talking, and send out “more to come” messages).

In all, it was very complicated, very improvised, and of course we had no idea how well it would work for its very first test, a 24-hour show.


The final setup, with a much cleaner arrangement (less obvious wires!) and a big screen.

In 2014, after a power outage, a 5 hour “test telethon” happened, where we sat in the great room and talked to people over a webcam. It was just a big conversation, talking about why the Archive does what it does, and dozens of people weighed in over the course of the event before we called it a day. It proved several things: We could stream live video for hours from the Archive, we could interact with people online doing it, and we needed some class acts to perform during the show.


We got all of that. We’ll talk about it in Part 2.

Posted in Event, News | Comments Off on The Internet Archive Telethon Pt. 1

Gingerbread Internet Archive

Anne Regenstein made a gingerbread Internet Archive! Happy Holidays!

Gingerbread Internet Archive

Gingerbread Internet Archive!

Posted in Announcements | 2 Comments

(Educational) Film of the Week: Reading, Writing and Reefer (1979)

After-school specials are arguably the best-known (and perennially popular) category of educational film. This has to do more with the unintended irony and outdated rhetoric, rather than their originally intended purpose as informational and instructional media.

A prime example of one of the leading sub-genres, anti-drug campaign films, is surely Reading, Writing, and Reefer released in 1979 as an episode in the (ironically titled) series “NBC Special Treat.”

The film follows in the precedent long established by such war-on-drugs classics as Marijuana (1936), Reefer Madness (1937), The Terrible Truth (1951) and The Marijuana Gateway (1968). While it is important to understand that these films were not meant for the same audience and are frequently reflections of the political and sociocultural debates of the time, such films help us understanding the history of medical, civic and pedagogical understanding of psychotropic substances, including – in the most prominent case – of canabis.

Reading, Writing, and Reefer was co-sponsored by Robert DuPont who would later become the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the White House’s anti-drug czar. As one contemporary review put it, the TV special aimed to “portrayed a nation of schoolchildren turned into zombies by pot”; it thus anticipated an apex in the War on Drugs promotional campaign of the 1970s, that started with Richard Nixon’s 1971 press conference on the issue and ended (for the most part) with Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” rallies.

The film is particularly pointed in its language and imagery, with scenes of “15-year-old heroin addicts and 12-year-old middle school students from affluent suburbs who skipped class and smoked upward of five joints per day.” In addition to it being broadcast on a national network, it had a very wide circulation within schools and a quick search reveals several 16mm prints in circulation today some three and half decades after its premiere. Its use of exaggerated and untested statistics (“five joints is equal to smoking 112 cigarettes”) and the sarcastic stance it takes toward an “idle” youth culture deviate from the more scientific tone of similar films that have not had the cult afterlife of Reading, Writing, and Reefer.

Major educational film catalogs consistently included entire categories dedicated to substance-abuse information films and separate publications like “99+ films on drugs” (1970) and “Selected Drug Abuse Education Films” were issued. In future editions of our blog we will be highlighting films produced throughout this period and the different ways in which they tackled this sensitive but culturally important issue.

Dimitrios Latsis

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



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QUINTET: Guest Curating the Archive by Gary Gach

Photo by Colin Gift

Photo by Colin Gift

My Picks

  1. The Stranger  (Orson Welles)
  2. Conquer By the Clock  (Slavko Vorkapich)
  3. Mercury Theater of the Air (Orson Welles)
  4. The Prelinger Archives
  5. The City  (Ralph Steiner, Willard Van Dyke)

A couple months ago, I volunteered to be a tester of the redesign of the Internet Archive’s new interface. So, to prep, I decided to visit, online, during my lunch hours, to familiarize myself a little better beforehand with the Archive’s riches. Here’s an initial report of a few of my favorite findings –- of possible interest.

  1. THE STRANGER (1946)—directed by Orson Welles

As my mouse hovered over the home page, poised over petabytes of universal wealth – an image came to mind from the last scene of Citizen Kane. A few journalists have gathered at the great hall of Charles Foster Kane’s castle, dwarfed against an unreal, gargantuan assemblage of “…objects great and small…piled pell-mell all over the place. Furniture, statues, paintings, bric-a-brac, things of obviously enormous value… standing beside a kitchen stove, an old rocking chair….a Burmese Temple and three Spanish ceilings down the hall….all in crates….” A nameless newspaperman wonders aloud what if— what if all the paintings and palaces and toys were all put together: what would it spell? (Imagine asking that about a petabyte of this archive!)The_Stranger_(film)

So, as a point of departure, I started with Orson Welles. Just a click of the mouse, and Presto! I found what I feel is one of his best, and one of his few cohesive movies, The Stranger (1946) — and in a quite decent print, thanks to its depositor. Its tags (those indispensable, subtextual, navigational landmarks) include WWII, thriller, mystery, drama and film noir.

Noir deserves a separate blog. (“Film noir” literally might mean a black screen, blank, without image.) For now, my definition (25-words-or-less): film noir registered an undercurrent of dissatisfaction within a triumphal, post-War American society. In it, good and evil, shadow and light, are polarized, and even switch roles.

And noir presents a curatorial challenge, as it’s usually mistaken as a genre (like thriller, mystery, comedy, Western, etc.), when really it’s a style (like baroque, hard-boiled, minimalist, postmodernist, etc.) It’s not always offbeat, rock ’em-sock ’em, but can also apply to documentary, comedy, romance, period drama, and so on. Prime noir features “mood cinematography” — pictures that can tell thousands of words. And traditional noir owes a great pictorial debt to German Expressionism. But, enough.

Anyhoo — noir style is most apt here, as The Stranger is about the infiltration of ex-Nazis into American society. What violence occurs on screen is Shakespearean, rather than gratuitous, yet the theme itself is quite unnerving. And there’s a haunting use of the subtext of clocks. That kept ticking in my mind as I continued on through the Archive.

Image courtesy Cannes Festival 2015

Image courtesy Cannes Festival 2015

  1. CONQUER BY THE CLOCK (1943) directed by Slavko Vorkapich

Next, I looked up the ace film montage specialist, “Slavko Vorkapich,” just out of curiosity — and, Shazam! a discovery! I’m already familiar with his 1941 pictorial fantasy, starring… the sea!  But I’d never seen his solo short, Conquer by the Clock (1943). And, fortuitously, it forms a curious sidebar to The Stranger. Just as a film montage juxtaposes images, it’s interesting to juxtapose films, as well.

Conquer by the Clock is propaganda – it’s preachy – and it’s a peachy piece of work. From the perfectly constructed opening montage of men picking up tools (like clockwork,) to its two morality tales, on to the rousing finale, it’s all of a piece and runs like a Swiss watch. They sure don’t make them like that anymore. Notice, for instance, how the squarish ratio of the screen permits a montage of ideas, which got left behind when the studios widened the screen, trying to compete with TV.

Orson Welles quite likely saw Clock (1943), before making The Stranger (1946). No question in my mind. For me, frankly, the question is, “Did Orson Welles ever understand cinematic montage?” He was a theater person who took to radio like a duck to water – but in his cinematic work (with exceptions like The Stranger, and Kane) his operative strategy of cinematic montage seemed more like a carnival of attractions, an amusement park rather than a dynamic whole like Vorkapich’s.



I’ve never seen his theater, but Orson Welles’ genius truly blossomed beautifully in the realm of radio theater. This is one of my lifelong, hands-down, favorite media. I grew up with radio alongside TV and movies. I preferred radio. Why? Simple: the pictures were better! Radio catered to the unrivaled medium of them all: human imagination. I invite you to set aside some time in the coming year to stroll through the golden era of radio drama at the Internet Archive. Listen with some friends, the way families used to gather together around a radio.

Radio broadcasted the gamut: comedies and westerns, melodramas and gangster tales. For a time, Orson Welles was a cut above, establishing and maintaining a repertory company of gifted dramatic artists presenting vivid radio adaptations of literature. It was called the Mercury Theater of the Air. The company was best known for its 1938 adaptation of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds, (aka “the panic broadcast”) — arguably the Media Event of the 20th Century

Lesser known, but highly worth the time, are their dozens of other adaptations. Try a few, to acquire a taste. From the wild storytelling of The Count of Monte Cristo – to the simple spell of Our Town, recorded a few years after its stage debut. I’ve yet to hear them all, while others I keep coming back to. I’ve never been anything but totally engrossed and amazed by their pleasures.

CaliforniaSt Prelinger


Next, a further lateral move. Having branched out from individual works to a collection, here’s another collection, from which Clock was taken. Of the many collections in the Internet Archive one of my hands-down favorites has been the Prelinger Archives. For background, it might worth digressing to touch upon the idea of a “film archive” in general.

In the early 20th-century, Henri Langlois had a passion for collecting film. Back then, people thought motion pictures an ephemeral amusement, a mere bagatelle. Eventually, as people came to appreciate cinema more discerningly, they discovered he had the only copies of forgotten masterpieces as well as missing reels of important movies. .:.

In Paris, in 1938, Henri Langlois co-founded an archive for the preservation and presentation of cinema, the Cinémathèque Française. In 1968, Richard Prelinger launched an archive for films still considered ephemeral – training films, propaganda, home movies, and so on. I’ve been a fan of his work since its inception, and was thrilled when the Library of Congress acquired his collection — and the Internet Archive began making major portions available via the Net.

If you haven’t yet visited the Prelinger Archives, pack a lunch before you visit, ‘cos there’s an overflowing cornucopia of treasures and treats in store. For an initial program guide, I recommend the profile in Mental Floss (2007).

Scene from "The City," 1939

Scene from “The City,” 1939

  1. THE CITY (1939)—directed by Ralph Steiner & Willard Van Dyke

Where to go next? To round out my initial tour, I wanted to end on an up note. I’ve been impressed by how Brewster Kahle, Archivista Numero Uno, has definitely been doing the right thing in trying to figure out how to include housing into the equation for his employees. As much of the world now knows, San Francisco is now aiming to welcome 150,000 new citizens, in a city limited to seven by seven miles. How come? This physical and cultural transfiguration is being fueled by the new Gold Rush: software companies large and small, plus a bevy of Silicon Valley moguls. Rents have spiked such that, last week, a venerable 93-year-old tamale parlor had to close ‘cos its employees cannot afford to live here anymore. Interesting times.

All of that — plus my search for an antidote to our opening noir despair — motivated my looking up a film I hadn’t seen since I was a sophomore at UCLA, The City (1939) and – perfect! There it is. Right at my fingertips. Plus, there’s a handy narrative summary and partial shot list. Alongside all that, one can also cross-reference, starting with entries in Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). Directed by Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke, this visionary documentary features music by Aaron Copland and commentary by philosopher/critic, Lewis Mumford.

Seen today, the film is itself an archive of Americana – and a still vital call for shaping a humane, resilient urban future. Flawed in spots, it yet serves as a much-needed tonic, while such American cities as Allentown, Asheville, Cincinnati, Detroit, Louisville, and others, here and around the planet, deeply consider revitalization, sustainability, and community in these transitional times. “Think global, act local.” GG says, “Check out The City!”

May you and all beings enjoy the wisdom of infinite light and the compassion of endless life in this New Year. Amen!

.:. Hollywood has always downplayed its cultural and artistic importance. (“Aw, shucks, we’re just an amusement business that’s gotten real popular.”) Had it acknowledged the fact that film might just well be the great art form of the 20th century – marrying pictorial representation, musical form, drama, science, and technology – then all the movie studios would be beholden to preserving miles and miles of celluloid. Bottom line: no way.

Gary Gach writes haiku and swims in the San Francisco Bay. He is also author of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism (Nautilus Book Award) and editor of What Book!? Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop (American Book Award). He hosts the Mindfulness Fellowship weekly in San Francisco. And a shout-out to the Internet Archive: when an anonymous hacker took down his home page (1997-2008), the WayBack Machine came to the rescue.


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Digitization at Scale or What does it Mean to Scan for Access?

As previously reported on this blog, the Internet Archive is engaged in a large-scale digitization project of over ten thousand reels of educational, industrial and amateur films as well as the development of tools that facilitate pedagogical and research use of this collection. In doing this we have striven to follow guidelines and specifications accepted within the archival community and consulted with partners on best practices and workflows. We have also been actively involved in discussions and webinars within the Association of Moving Image Archivists to develop a tiered approach that best serves the needs of each project.

Such a differentiated approach is necessitated by the fact that digitization of physical assets held by archives, libraries and museums has thus far been construed as the generation of preservation-quality digital surrogates that can serve a number of potential needs: restoration, exhibition and online distribution among them. Setting the bar this high has understandably hindered progress and made archivists reticent to invest in the time, personnel and equipment needed to plan such a complex project. The result has been  enormous backlogs, widespread neglect — especially in genres and modes of filmmaking like non-theatrical films where there is no immediate incentive for distribution and commercial exploitation –and overwhelmed grant makers (NFPF, CLIR) trying desperately to prioritize from a sea of equally worthy projects.

Granted, this situation cannot be solely attributed to the insistence for high standards and the costs of film preservation; nor is this a call for the bar to be lowered on these fronts. Instead, the archival community should replicate what has been a very successful and continuously updated set of guidelines for preservation into the realm of digitization which currently lacks national, disciplinary and scholarly guidance. We desperately need a set of shared practices that can serve a wide variety of institutions while keeping in mind the primary reason why we are all striving to preserve our shared audiovisual heritage in the first place: to put it (back) in the hands of the public, on as global and open-access base as possible.

The Internet Archive as a whole is driven by this philosophy and thus it is no surprise that in our film digitization activities too, emphasis has been placed on scale and access.

IA Poster-page-001

Instead of following the example of other major archives that are frequently constrained (as a partner complained to us) into scanning a maximum of 100 reels of home movies a year out of a collection that numbers in the tens of thousands, we have chosen to take a nuanced approach into what NARA calls “distribution/reproduction” masters.

We ask ourselves what it would  be like to structure a digitization workflow on the following assumptions:

  1. that we are providing digital surrogates of films that have long been unavailable, buried in archives or destroyed through de-accessioning and chronic neglect;
  2. our films are often many generations removed from camera originals and thus not fit to be used as preservation masters;
  3. copies of most of our films exist in many other archives and libraries, nearly none of whom has a plan or the resources to digitize them in the near future;
  4. we aim to build an extensive collection (in breadth and depth) in a single genre –educational films– that can act as a proof of concept and example for future work of a similar nature (digitization- and metadata-wise)
  5. we do not want to lock films down because of lack of clarity in rights issues; we aim for the widest availability possible.

Currently at the Internet Archive, we are digitizing, uploading, curating and making publicly available (in most cases for the first time in many decades) upwards of 40 hours of content every week. That corresponds to almost 100 reels of 16mm film and 1,5 terabytes of audiovisual files. This is approaching the amount of original programming that the NET (National Educational Television) was providing weekly to its viewers during its heyday. We are doing this with a limited staff, enthusiastic volunteers, one 16mm film scanner and optimum coordination from the physical to the digital to the online curation realms.

While numbers don’t tell the whole story, it’s certainly hard to argue that an access-based model of digitization should not be part of the (inter)national conversation about the preservation of our audiovisual heritage.

Dimitrios Latsis

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



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Internet Credit Union 2011-2015: RIP

[background, NYTimes]

Internet Credit Union board and staff in April 2014.

Internet Credit Union board and staff in April 2014.

Rest in Peace

[previous, NYtimes]

Dear National Credit Union Administration,

You win, we lose.
This is our notice of Voluntary Liquidation of the Internet Credit Union.
We write this hoping many of you will read it.

You did not need to crush this credit union.
You did not need to make it take over 18 months to charter, forcing 5,000 changes to our application documents.
You did not need to restrict our total loan portfolio to $37,000 when we had $1,000,000 in reserve for bad loans.
You did not need to keep us from lending $8,000 to a student, forcing him from college.
You did not need to keep us from originating mortgages for permanently affordable housing.
You did not need to keep us from working with other credit unions on their loans and our loans.
You did not need to force us to revoke the membership of our migrant farm worker members.
You did not need to send people into our offices every month for 2 years taking up our time.
You did not need to treat us like children. And yes, your people said they were “treating us like children” in a meeting with our board.
You didn’t need to laugh when Occupy sent you an application to start a credit union, snarking
”That is not going to happen.” And yes, an NCUA official said that while we were in your offices in DC.
You do not need to overreact every time the Federal Reserve sends you a letter like you did over bitcoin.
You do not need to sow fear into every small and medium sized credit union with your subjective rating system.

You can stop hurting, and start helping.

You need to stand up to the banks that want our membership rules to be arbitrary and shifting under us.
Technology has made starting and running a Credit Union easy.
We need you to not shut down 200 to 300 Credit Unions a year.
We need you to not start 1 or 2 Credit Unions a year, but start 500 credit unions a year (as used to happened before the NCUA existed).
You can create a 5 page application, that any group can submit in a month to get started.
You can leave new credit unions alone for a couple of years.
Clean house of your agents of shutdown, and replace them with agents of start-up.
Thousands of communities are not geographically clumped, let them start credit unions.
27% of our citizens are “underbanked” – your organization is part of the reason for this.
We need a distributed and robust banking system for deposits, transactions, and grassroots credit.
NCUA: Please fix yourself.

We need you… We need you to change.

Your Sincerely,
Members of the Board of the, now dead, Internet Credit Union

Internet Credit Union 2011-2015

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

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

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The Internet Archive Telethon: December 19th-20th! Tickets Available!

To spice up our end-of-year fundraising drive, a number of employees of the Internet Archive are going to be hosting a 24-hour Telethon at our 300 Funston Location!

This will not only be a livestreamed event, but in a grand experiment, a simultaneous live event happening for a lucky audience, who can attend up to the full length of the telethon and have an overnight experience in a truly unique place.

The telethon location is the Great Room, Internet Archive’s legendary meeting space and stage and home to our ceramic archivists and multiple petabytes of our content.  The fun begins at noon on Saturday, December 19th, and goes through non-stop to noon on September 20th.



Your hosts are Michelle Krasowski and Jason Scott, who will be sharing duties and shifts throughout the 24-hour marathon, introducing and interviewing guests, and answering questions and requests from the on-site and on-line audiences.

We have been hard at work arranging appearances and performances from a wide variety of folks, including musical acts like Conspiracy of Beards and Marisa Lenhardt, longtime friends of the Archive including Nuala Creed and Megan Prelinger, and surprises, strangeness and dips into the deep stacks of the Archives the whole way through!

More will be added, so be sure to check both the Eventbrite page or our pop-up site at telethon.archive.org for who else is making appearances.

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(Educational) Film of the Week: Now is the Time (1967)

The Internet Archive’s educational film collection is particularly rich in films from the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, events and movements of national and international important like the Vietnam War (Interviews with My Lai veterans (1970)) and the Civil Rights movement (Civil rights movement: the North (1966)) are well represented.

One of the more interesting and hard-to-find ones is surely Now is the Time (1967) featuring Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (a couple in real life).

Davis and Dee participated in a variety of similarly themed film, including some in our collection like Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad (1964).

Produced for NBC’s local affiliate in Philadelphia and originally broadcast on December 13, 1967 (a few weeks before the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination), the tone of Now is the Time is that of reporting on history as it happens. Although it does not pretend to impartiality – the two hosts act as voices-of-conscience and often speak  in the first person – it cover the decade’s events succinctly and accurately: a story of anger but also of a people of “remarkable strength.” Archival footage, interviews, songs and music compliments the evocative staged vignettes between Davis and Dee in the studio.

The film won a number of awards and was featured in a number of prominent publications about educational film, including Richard A. Maynard’s The celluloid curriculum: how to use movies in the classroom (1971, see page 29) and was even the subject of a recent Master’s thesis (JoyEllen Freeman, Portrayal of Power: Black Nationalism in the Documentary Now Is the Time, University of Georgia, 2011)

This a wonderful example of how programs on current affairs that by the 1960s had transitioned from the newsreel to the TV set, where often repurposed in the opposite direction; transferred on 16mm these “films” often had a second life in the educational and non-thetrical market. Indeed, it is striking to find a film as opinionated and potentially controversial as The Time is Now  in the curriculum of public schools (in this case in the state of Pennsylvania). This is just another indication of how varied, transmedial and socioculturally rich the medium of the educational film was during its heyday.

Dimitrios Latsis

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

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Film of the Week: Film Firsts (1959-60)

The Internet Archive is actively engaged in digitizing a wide variety of educational films on science, education, the arts, psychology, medicine and history. In this new blog series, we will highlight films that are newly digitized and available each week on the collection page, to provide visitors with a better idea of the breadth and depth of this quirky, informative and much-in-need-of-preservation medium: the non-theatrical film.

First up is Film Firsts a documentary in two parts (Part 1 and Part 2) covering the early history and development of the medium of motion pictures.

Our collection is rich in films about the film medium itself, whether aspects of its production (e.g. Cinematographer) or its history (e.g. Hollywood: The Golden Years and Hollywood the Dream Factory). Film Firsts, however, focuses on the early part of cinema’s developed the period usually described as early and silent cinema.

Produced for television audiences (ABC) but also screened for school groups and other non-theatrical audiences, the two-part, hour-long documentary does not exactly amount to a thorough and unbiased history but it is very representative of this reflexive sub-genre that dealt with the evolution of the motion picture. Often such films catered to the audience’s nostalgia in an era where memories of the nickelodeon and the picture palace were very much alive. They also provided a venue for studios to repurpose their library of films for the era of television. Finally, in a more implicit manner, they partook in an evolutionary rhetoric that cast the turn-of-the-century flickers as a primitive manifestation  of an art and industry that by the 1950s and 60s had blossomed into a global entertainment empire.

While film historians have long pointed out the fallacy in such reasoning, it is still useful to  consider these compilation/history documentaries for the narrative of film’s development that they provide, the moments along this trajectory that they choose to highlight and, just as important, what they obscure or gloss over.

Film Firsts has references to all the usual highlights: Edison’s Black Maria studio, Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, Melies’ Trip to the Moon, as well as a substantial section on early Westerns. This reflects the origins of the project in director Paul Killiam’s “Movie Museum” talks covering “films of historical interest illustrated by clips of vintage 1895 to 1915.” Many similar compilation films started as programs of the lecture circuit, reflecting a significant practice of the non-theatrical market.

Focusing on well-known “screen personalities” like Bronco Billy Anderson, but also delving into more idiosyncratic, behind-the-scenes aspects of the art and craft of moviemaking like special effects and animation, Killam compiles a list of “bests” and “firsts”: the first close-up, the first kiss, the first cartoon, the first western, the first use of lighting for effect, etc. Although, even with the resources that historians and archivists have today it is always perilous to claim any single example of an effect, practice or technique as “the first” of its kind, the authoritative voice of the documentary accurately represents an early vein of film historiography (see also works by Terry Ramsay and Maurice Bardèche and Robert Brasillach in the same period). As the medium was entering its second half-century of life, it was taking stock of pioneers, sentimentally remembering great moments and stars of the past, and “leafing” through its own history, as one might leaf through an old scrapbook or album of photographs.

Film Firsts thus represents this early “scrapbook” phase of historiography, crucial in that it was conducted by the medium itself in an era where it’s viability was threatened by the popularity of television — which is here deployed in the service of the older medium. It was actually the first episode in a six-part series entitled “Silents Please! The History of the Motion Picture” that promised an overview of “the stars, thrills, laughter and heartbreak” of silent cinema. Whether a nostalgic look on a much-evolved medium, a semi-authoritative account of the people and technology that made the motion picture possible or a potpourri of clips and firsts for the consumption a television audience, the film is a valuable document of historiography in practice and as such a valuable addition to our collection covering the history of educational audiovisual media.

For more information on the film see:


Dimitrios Latsis

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

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Home Movie Day–A Celebration of Amateur Films and Filmmaking

Do you have a much loved home movie sitting in the back of your closet?  Something you would love to screen but don’t have the means to project anymore?  Then Home Movie Day is for you.  The Internet Archive will be hosting Home Movie Day for the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday, December 12, 2015 starting at 3 p.m.  The event if free and open to the public.  Reserve your free tickets here.

Home Movie Day provides an opportunity for individuals and families to see and share their own home movies with an audience from their own community, and to see their neighbors’ in turn. It’s a chance to discover why these films are important and learn how best to care for them. We will have the film projectors, you are encouraged to bring your own home movies on 8mm, 16mm, or Super 8 to project on our big screen.

From 3:00-5:30 p.m. come enjoy free food and drinks, learn how the Internet Archive digitizes thousands of educational films, and participate in presentations on local history by the Western Neighborhoods Project.

From 5-7 p.m. there will be the Open Screening of your home movies.

8-8:45 p.m. Stay to enjoy some of the Bay Area’s best home movies curated by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and the Internet Archive with live organ music accompanying the (mostly) silent films.

We are still accepting early submissions of your home movies for screening, both at the Internet Archive (300 Funston Avenue, SF) and at the Center for Asian American Media (145 Ninth Street, Suite  350, SF).  Home Movie Day is organized by Pamela Vadakan (California Audio Visual Preservation Project), Antonella Bonfanti (Canyon Cinema/Center for Home Movies), CAAM and the Internet Archive.


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