What happens when the Prelinger Archives, a collection of over 3,000 advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur films, meets the Free Music Archive, an ever-growing interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads? In a contest titled "The Past Re-imagined as the Future," participants were asked to answer that very question. According to the FMA, the 122 resulting videos mashups "are deeply disturbing, abstract, violent, beautiful, and often half-naked." In pairing the two archives, contestants edited images from the past with technology from the present, merging video with sound in repeated demonstrations of the rich resources available within these open digital libraries.
The San Francisco-based Prelinger Archives, is a stockpile of ephemeral films meant to record, instruct, and sell. In founder and collector Rick Prelinger's opinion, these tell us more about the history than feature films -- or at least more about the ideals and role models of the past. But such material is generally marginalized in favor of more established, highly produced narratives. As a result, the Prelinger Archives contain many reels of original film stock and master negatives that do not exist anywhere else in the world.
The goal of the Prelinger Archives is to make public all this previously inaccessible material. Film by nature necessitates equipment, but after digitization, no more than a computer and a pair of headphones is needed to appreciate such gems as A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire. Instead of preserving and sequestering these often one-of-a-kind films, the Archive seeks to provide preservation and access.
Conversely, a seemingly infinite stream of digitized music is readily available for download with a few clicks of the mouse. The trouble is not finding it for free, but finding it legally, respectfully, and in keeping with the artists' wishes regarding use. Launched in 2009 and directed by the great New Jersey freeform radio station WFMU, the Free Music Archive is a tightly curated library of free downloadable music. What you can do with a song after downloading it depends on each track's specific license. With the motto "It's not just free music; it's good music," the FMA provides a hub for musicians, audio curators, podcasters, remix artists, and audiophiles looking for new, rare, and guilt-free tunes.