The Prelinger Archives

Whether you are a researcher finding films on hygiene propaganda campaigns in the 1950’s, a teacher looking for cool material on nuclear war, or an amateur filmmaker putting together a film fest, The Prelinger Archives would be a great place to visit.
This website is a compilation of thousands of ephimeral filmic records on a variety of subjects; ranging from governmental, educational films, to amateur, commercial, and industrial.
Because of the diversity of materials and contexts for which these films are used, there are several dimensions of value to this collection that the user must put into question: is the film made to (mis)educate,  is it to influence, is it to negotiate meaning? Having this plurality of values among these holdings will have an impact on the user’s responsibilities when it comes to creating original or derivative works, as well as accessing and distributing content.
Snapshot of Prelinger Archives Landing Page
Snapshot of Prelinger Archives Landing Page. Image Credit: Nashieli Marcano. 2019.
What makes The Prelinger Archives special?
In an interview conducted by Creative Commons’ contributor by the name lisa, the Prelinger Archives founder, Rick Prelinger. defines the uniqueness of the types of films archived on his website:
“Films that embody the persuasions of the past. In addition to showing us the way things were, they also show how things were supposed to be. They are a wonderful set of visions of the way we were supposed to think, what we were supposed to buy. A vision of the sort of people we were supposed to become, and as such they record aspects of our history that are suppressed. They are not necessarily public aspects of our history.” Rick Prelinger
The Library of Congress acquired the Prelinger Archives back in 2002, and is currently in the process of cataloging the collection, an ambitious task that will take a few years to finalize. And if I understand correctly, the main method to access the film digital files, for the time being, is via the Internet Archive and Getty Images.
Users can make use search delimiters to locate film titles, including:
media type, topics and subjects, year of creation, collection, creator, and language.
Once users locate a footage of interest, by clicking on the thumbnail, the site takes them to an aesthetically pleasing page with a link to the film, a description of this holding, the rights of usage, a list of all the available download formats, as well as a section where viewers get to review the footage.  Take for instance, the record page of the film: “Private Life of a Cat” (Hammind, 1947), an intimate look at the life of a female cat and her five kittens.
Snapshot of "Private Life of a Cat" Record Page
Snapshot of “Private Life of a Cat” Record Page. Image Credit: Nashieli Marcano. 2019.
In the About page, there is a link that takes user to a browsing feature, called the Tag Cloud . I tried browsing for titles in this fashion, but I must admit,  that even though I got disoriented and a bit overwhelmed by this visualization, I did gain an appreciation for the capacity and scope of this great collection.
Snapshot Prelinger Archives TagCloud
Snapshot Prelinger Archives TagCloud. Image Credit: Nashieli Marcano. 2019.

One very interesting aspect is the Forum, a platform for a community of users to discuss a range of topics related to film titles, such as, licensing, sourcing, locating, accessing, uploading and submitting works, encoding, producing, and publishing, among many others.

Snapshot Prelinger Archives Forum
Snapshot Prelinger Archives. Image Credit: Nashieli Marcano. 2019.
This forum is a key place for users to ask questions related to copyright and fair use, which takes us to our next section.
Strings Attached: Policies on Properly Using this Collection:
Due to the fact that a great percentage of Archives’ holdings either (1) has expired copyrights, (2) was published without copyright protections, or (3) its creators were entities not subject to copyright (i.e. governmental films), many of these titles would be considered to be in the public domain. Therefore, the best Prelinger Archives can do is make their online films available through a Creative Commons License.
According to the information found on the page entitled, Prelinger Archives FAQ: Licensing, Access, Collections, users can access downloadable digital copies of the Prelinger Archives, mostly free of cost or restrictions via the Internet Archive, and many governed by a Creative Commons license. In the case of a film title that doesn’t carry a CC license, the site advises users to take responsibility for locating a version of the film that does carry it or contacting them before reusing the film of interest (most likely you’ll need a written permission from Getty Images to clear ($) the footage you are interested in using.
Overall, I find the Prelinger Archives to be a fantastic place for scholars interested in conducting research, filmmakers to make their mark as they create original or derivative works, teachers to transmit knowledge related to Americana, and film buffs to host screening events.  If there is one thing to keep in mind when locating film titles on this website, is the following statement appearing in the About page:
Screenshot of Prelinger Archives Statement on Rights
Screenshot of Prelinger Archives Statement on Rights. Image Credit: Nashieli Marcano. 2019.

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