I love exploring digital collections, so it’s probably no surprise that I’m an enormous fan of the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive is a non-profit library that hosts digital versions of billions of archived webpages and millions of books, texts, audio recordings, videos, images, and even software programs. Many people are familiar with Internet Archive due to it’s Wayback Machine collection of archived webpages (about the closest we currently get to preserving the internet), but the other collections on Internet Archive also deserve attention for the wonderful, educational, and sometimes bizarre text and media artifacts they contain.
Searching the Internet Archive
The Internet Archive includes both a simple search form accessible in the upper right corner of the page (which allows you to search across metadata, full text of books, TV captions, or archived websites) or an advanced search with fielded search forms or the option to search with lucene query syntax.
When exploring the collections, I personally prefer to just select the icons for web, text, video, audio, software, or images in the upper left corner of the screen and then choose to view all items for that specific media type (like All Video).
I’m then able to use the side filtering options to narrow my search by criteria like subject, collection, creator, or language. I can also search across the metadata within that specific collection or media type.
Strange Collections: Text, Video and Audio
I’m just going to focus on three media types in this post (text, video, and audio collections), but I hope to explore software, image, and web collections in a future post. Here is just a quick sampling of some of the interesting collections to explore on the Internet Archive:
- eBooks and Text Collection: Over 12 million freely downloadable books and texts. Interesting collections include:
- Children’s Library: Almost 3,000 books for children from around the world.
- Archive.org Manual Library: Almost 90,000 instruction manuals, guides, and data sheets for a wide range of technologies. This collection may be particularly valuable for patent searching.
- The Magazine Rack: Browse through over 124,000 issues of old magazines, ranging from gamer magazines to teen magazines.
- Moving Image Archive: Over 3.5 million free movies, films and videos, such as:
- Sci-Fi/Horror: I personally love sci-fi/horror movies, so I was excited to see this collection of about 450 films. Many of the films are classics and B-movie gems, like Plan 9 from Outer Space.
- Educational Films: View over 4000 vintage educational films, ranging from actually educational to completely ridiculous.
- TV News Archive: View clips from 1.4 million shows since 2009.
- Audio Archive: Browse 3.6 million music and audio recordings, including:
This is just scratching the surface of the Internet Archive’s digital collections. Be careful about beginning to explore the Internet Archive, since once you get started, you may go down a rabbit hole that will take hours to find your way out of (like spending 3 hours listening to old-time radio shows).