January 13, 2005
The Internet Archive
One of the more fascinating online collections I’ve come across on the web is at Archive.org casually known as the Internet Archive. The site's self-described goal is to create a "digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public."
Contained in the archive are snapshots of web sites created and archived between 1996 and the present. These are accessible through the Wayback Machine (named for the device used by Mr. Peabody and Sherman to visit cartoon times past) by entering a URL. Researchers should find this useful to find documents and other materials once available, but no longer, on the impermanent web. There are at least 10 billion pages of material available for searching. I’ve used this feature to verify the existence and content of more than one web site as part of research projects. While not a day-to-day view of any one site, most of the pages and links it contains are searchable to varying degrees. The Wayback Machine prominently appears on the Internet Archive main page.
The Internet Archive also features various collections of art, music, and film. While at the site, check out the Prelinger Archive Collection of ephemeral films. With approximately 2100 titles, a visitor can select from a vast array of government, educational, industrial films, and others, to view or download. Those interested in law and culture will find the site invaluable. There are, for example, films produced in 1943 and 1944 by the United States government defending the internment of Japanese citizens ("A Challenge to Democracy," and "Japanese Relocation"). These sit side by side with the often-parodied “Duck and Cover” civil defense film from 1951.
For those looking for a diversion, many of the social control films from high school are there as well. While browsing, look for a film called "The Librarian," which shows the work of different library personnel, at least as it existed in 1947. Every librarian stereotype is portrayed in the 10-minute film, along with some of the most condescending narration imaginable. (“Do you like books? Do you like people? Young people? Old People? Then you may have the makings of a librarian.”)
Much of the collection is in the public domain, and the site encourages the downloading and reuse of material in its collection.
Mark Giangrande (DePaul Law Library)
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