Prelinger’s Archives is a collection of thousands of hours of films that have been digitized and made available to you online. These are a varied collection of “ephemeral” films: those sponsored by corporations and organizations, educational films, and amateur and home movies, mostly from the early to mid-twentieth century. You probably won’t find much information about your ancestors in these films but they will show you the environment in which your more recent ancestors lived. And, yes, for many of us these will show the environments that WE lived in when we were young.
Founded in 1983, Prelinger’s collection has amassed to over 60,000 films, 65% of which are said to be orphan works, meaning they lack copyright owners and active custodians. The films can be watched online or, if you prefer, downloaded and saved to your computer’s hard drive(s) or flash drives. All the films are available free online, thanks to hosting by the Internet Archive.
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has said:
“This comprehensive collection provides a unique window into the world of 20th-century American ideas and lifestyles. The picture it gives is quite distinct from that found in Hollywood feature films and newsreels. These are the films that children watched in the classroom, that workers viewed in their union halls, that advertisers presented in corporate boardrooms, and that homemakers saw at women’s club meetings.”
Some of us remember this cigarette commercial from many years ago:
Click on the the images to watch the videos.
Prelinger’s Archive may be found by starting at: https://archive.org/details/prelinger&tab=collection.