29 January 2012

Research Heaven at the Internet Archive

Writers and readers of breadth and depth, do you know about the Internet Archive

I discovered the archive a while back when I was looking for online copies of obscure Renaissance plays. The archive is, in my opinion, exactly what the internet should be: an endless stream of videos of baby animals a place where libraries can store their stuff so everyone has access to it. The Archive is multi-media: you can find films and audio there as well as books. Through it I found Nina Paley's amazing animated film Sita Sings the Blues, which she has since made available on YouTube. Even the tiniest poke around the Archive's music collection produces incredible gems like this 1920 recording of Lucille Hegamin.

If you like ephemeral films, like those old chestnuts made in the 1950s and 60s about the right way to do just about anything, and the horrors that will happen, say, for example, if a twelve-year-old becomes president if you don't think manners are important, you will find boundless fodder for your entertainment.

And then there are the books.

Many libraries have donated copies of books that are copyright free. That means there is an enormous collection of books from centuries past. In my experience, one of the best ways to get a fresh perspective on the past or to get out of a present-day mindset is to read something written by someone not of today. Example: this week I was playing around with the idea of alien visitation in past eras. I thought about the witch craze of the new world in the late 17th century, and needed a perspective from that period. Voila: Cotton Mather's diary.

You can read original scans of Archive books on your computer in a handy flip book format, but there are also digitized versions for ebooks. The usual problems with ye olde typefaces and OCR software apply (long "s" scans as "f", some letters squished together because of old typesetting practices scan as weird letters). In other words, the digitized versions are not error-free, but they are all open access.

Enjoy, and mind your manners!


Deborah Walker said...

Oh that Mickey! Thanks for pointing me in the direction of a great resource, Elizabeth.

Raquel Byrnes said...

What a great find! Thanks so much for sharing!

Folly Blaine said...

Very cool. Thanks for sharing!