U bent hier
by Nancy Watzman & Katie Dahl
With the turn of a dial, some flashing lights, and the requisite puff of fog, emcees Tracey Jaquith, TV architect, and Jason Scott, free range archivist, cranked up the Internet Archive 20th Century Time Machine on stage before a packed house at the Internet Archive’s annual party on October 11.
Eureka! The cardboard contraption worked! The year was 1912, and out stepped Alexis Rossi, director of Media and Access, her hat adorned with a 78 rpm record.1912
“Close your eyes and listen,” Rossi asked the audience. And then, out of the speakers floated the scratchy sounds of Billy Murray singing “Low Bridge, Everybody Down” written by Thomas S. Allen. From 1898 to the 1950s, some three million recordings of about three minutes each were made on 78rpm discs. But these discs are now brittle, the music stored on them precious. The Internet Archive is working with partners on the Great 78 Project to store these recordings digitally, so that we and future generations can enjoy them and reflect on our music history. New collections include the Tina Argumedo and Lucrecia Hug 78rpm Collection of dance music collected in Argentina in the mid-1930s.1927
Next to emerge from the Time Machine was David Leonard, president of the Boston Public Library, which was the first free, municipal library founded in the United States. The mission was and remains bold: make knowledge available to everyone. Knowledge shouldn’t be hidden behind paywalls, restricted to the wealthy but rather should operate under the principle of open access as public good, he explained. Leonard announced that the Boston Public Library would join the Internet Archive’s Great 78 Project, by authorizing the transfer of 200,000 individual 78s to digitize for the 78rpm collection, “a collection that otherwise would remain in storage unavailable to anyone.”
Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive, then came through the time machine to present the Internet Archive’s Internet Archive Hero Award to Leonard. “I am inspired every time I go through the doors,” said Kahle of the library, noting that the Boston Public Library was the first to digitize not just a presidential library, of John Quincy Adams, but also modern books. Leonard was presented with a tablet imprinted with the Boston Public Library homepage.1942
Kahle then set the Time Machine to 1942 to explain another new Internet Archive initiative: liberating books published between 1923 to 1941. Working with Elizabeth Townsend Gard, a copyright scholar at Tulane University, the Internet Archive is liberating these books under a little known, and perhaps never used, provision of US copyright law, Section 108h, which allows libraries to scan and make available materials published 1923 to 1941 if they are not being actively sold. The name of the new collection: the Sony Bono Memorial Collection, named for the now deceased congressman and former representative who led the passage of the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, which had the effect of locking up most books from the public domain back to 1923.
One of these books includes “Your Life,” a tome written by Kahle’s grandfather, Douglas E. Lurton, a “guide to a desirable living.” “I have one copy of this book and two sons. According to the law, I can’t make one copy and give it to the other son. But now it’s available,” Kahle explained.1944
The Time Machine cranked to 1944, out came Rick Prelinger, Internet Archive board president, archivist, and filmmaker. Prelinger introduced a new addition to the Internet Archive’s film collection: long-forgotten footage of an Arkansas Japanese internment camp from 1944. As the film played on the screen, Prelinger welcomed Sab Masada, 87, who lived at this very camp as a 12 year old.
Masada talked about his experience at the camp and why it is important for people today to remember it, “Since the election I’ve heard echoes of what I heard in 1942. Using fear of terrorism to target the Muslims and people south of the border.”1972
Next to speak was Wendy Hanamura, the director of partnerships. Hanamura explained how as a sixth grader she discovered a book at the library, Executive Order 9066, published in 1972, which told the tale of Japanese internment camps during World War II.
“Before I was an internet archivist, I was a daughter and granddaughter of American citizens who were locked up behind barbed wires,” said Hanamura. That one book – now out of print – helped her understand what had happened to her family.
Inspired by making it to the semi-final round of the MacArthur 100&Change initiative with a proposal that provides libraries and learners with free digital access to four million books, the Internet Archive is forging ahead with plans despite not winning the $100 million grant. Among the books the Internet Archive is making available: Executive Order 9066.1985
The year display turned to 1985, Jason Scott reappeared on stage, explaining his role as a software curator. New this year to the Internet Archive are collections of early Apple software, he explained, with browser emulation allowing the user to experience just what it was like to fire up a Macintosh computer back in its hay day. This includes a collection of the then wildly popular “HyperCards,” a programmatic tool that enabled users to create programs that linked materials in creative ways, before the rise of the world wide web.2017
After this tour through the 20th century, the Time Machine was set to present day, 2017. Mark Graham, director of the Wayback Machine and Vinay Goel, senior data engineer, stepped on stage. Back in 1996, when the Wayback Machine began archiving websites on the still new world wide web, the entire thing amounted to 2.2 terabytes of data. Now the Wayback Machine contains 20 petabytes. Graham explained how the Wayback Machine is preserving tweets, government websites, and other materials that could otherwise vanish. One example: this report from The Rachel Maddow Show, which aired on December 16, 2016, about Michael Flynn, then slated to become national security advisor. Flynn deleted a tweet he had made linking to a falsified story about Hillary Clinton, but the Internet Archive saved it through the Wayback Machine.
Goel took the microphone to announce new improvements to Wayback Machine 2.0 search. Now it’s possible to search for keywords, such as “climate change,” and find not just web pages from a particular time period mentioning these words, but also different format types — such as images, pdfs, or yes, even an old Internet Archive favorite, gifs from the now-defunct GeoCities–including snow globes!
Thanks to all who came out to celebrate with the Internet Archive staff and volunteers, or watched online. Please join our efforts to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge, whatever century it is from.
We are pleased to announce that the Internet Archive and OCLC have agreed to synchronize the metadata describing our digital books with OCLC’s WorldCat. WorldCat is a union catalog that itemizes the collections of thousands of libraries in more than 120 countries that participate in the OCLC global cooperative.
What does this mean for readers?
When the synchronization work is complete, library patrons will be able to discover the Internet Archive’s collection of 2.5 million digitized monographs through the libraries around the world that use OCLC’s bibliographic services. Readers searching for a particular volume will know that a digital version of the book exists in our collection. With just one click, readers will be taken to archive.org to examine and possibly borrow the digital version of that book. In turn, readers who find a digital book at archive.org will be able, with one click, to discover the nearest library where they can borrow the hard copy.
There are additional benefits: in the process of the synchronization, OCLC databases will be enriched with records describing books that may not yet be represented in WorldCat.
“This work strengthens the Archive’s connection to the library community around the world. It advances our goal of universal access by making our collections much more widely discoverable. It will benefit library users around the globe by giving them the opportunity to borrow digital books that might not otherwise be available to them,” said Brewster Kahle, Founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “We’re glad to partner with OCLC to make this possible and look forward to other opportunities this synchronization will present.”
“OCLC is always looking for opportunities to work with partners who share goals and objectives that can benefit libraries and library users,” said Chip Nilges, OCLC Vice President, Business Development. “We’re excited to be working with Internet Archive, and to make this valuable content discoverable through WorldCat. This partnership will add value to WorldCat, expand the collections of member libraries, and extend the reach of Internet Archive content to library users everywhere.”
We believe this partnership will be a win-win-win for libraries and for learners around the globe.
Better discovery, richer metadata, more books borrowed and read.
Boston Public Library’s Sound Archives Coming to the Internet Archive for Preservation & Public Access
Today, the Boston Public Library announced the transfer of significant holdings from its Sound Archives Collection to the Internet Archive, which will digitize, preserve and make these recordings accessible to the public. The Boston Public Library (BPL) sound collection includes hundreds of thousands of audio recordings in a variety of historical formats, including wax cylinders, 78 rpms, and LPs. The recordings span many genres, including classical, pop, rock, jazz, and opera – from 78s produced in the early 1900s to LPs from the 1980s. These recordings have never been circulated and were in storage for several decades, uncataloged and inaccessible to the public. By collaborating with the Internet Archive, Boston Public Libraries audio collection can be heard by new audiences of scholars, researchers and music lovers worldwide.
“Through this innovative collaboration, the Internet Archive will bring significant portions of these sound archives online and to life in a way that we couldn’t do alone, and we are thrilled to have this historic collection curated and cared for by our longtime partners for all to enjoy going forward,” said David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library.
Listening to the 78 rpm recording of “Please Pass the Biscuits, Pappy,” by W. Lee O’Daniel and his Hillbilly Boys from the BPL Sound Archive, what do you hear? Internet Archive Founder, Brewster Kahle, hears part of a soundscape of America in 1938. That’s why he believes Boston Public Library’s transfer is so significant.
“Boston Public Library is once again leading in providing public access to their holdings. Their Sound Archive Collection includes hillbilly music, early brass bands and accordion recordings from the turn of the last century, offering an authentic audio portrait of how America sounded a century ago.” says Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive’s Digital Librarian. “Every time I walk through Boston Public Library’s doors, I’m inspired to read what is carved above it: ‘Free to All.’”
The 78 rpm records from the BPL’s Sound Archives Collection fit into the Internet Archive’s larger initiative called The Great 78 Project. This community effort seeks to digitize all the 78 rpm records ever produced, supporting their preservation, research and discovery. From about 1898 to the 1950s, an estimated 3 million sides were published on 78 rpm discs. While commercially viable recordings will have been restored or remastered onto LP’s or CD, there is significant research value in the remaining artifacts which include often rare 78rpm recordings.
“The simple fact of the matter is most audiovisual recordings will be lost,” says George Blood, an internationally renowned expert on audio preservation. “These 78s are disappearing right and left. It is important that we do a good job preserving what we can get to, because there won’t be a second chance.”
The Internet Archive is working with George Blood LP, and the IA’s Music Curator, Bob George of the Archive of Contemporary Music to discover, transfer, digitize, catalog and preserve these often fragile discs. This team has already digitized more than 35,000 sides. The BPL collection joins more than 20 collections already transferred to the Internet Archive for physical and digital preservation and access. Curated by many volunteer collectors, these collections will be preserved for future generations.
The Internet Archive began working with the Boston Public Library in 2007, and our scanning center is housed at its Central Library in Copley Square. There, as a digital-partner-in-residence, the Internet Archive is scanning bound materials for Boston Public Library, including the John Adams Library, one of the BPL’s Collections of Distinction.
To honor Boston Public Library’s long legacy and pioneering role in making its valuable holdings available to an ever wider public online, we will be awarding the 2017 Internet Archive Hero Award to David Leonard, the President of BPL, at a public celebration tonight at the Internet Archive headquarters in San Francisco.