SIS Hosts Archives Expert


Rick Prelinger The School of Information Sciences and the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership will present Rick Prelinger, Founder of the Prelinger Archives, as the next speaker in the Policy, Ethics and Accountability Lecture Series. On January 26 th, Mr. Prelinger will offer his speech, “Are the Archives Doomed?,” at 4:30 pm in the Frick Fine Arts Building. The event includes a reception and a screening of Prelinger’s 90-minute film, “Panorama Ephemera” at Pittsburgh Filmmakers beginning at 8 pm. All events are free and open to the public.

Prelinger will discuss the marginalization of archives in light of copyright issues, advances in technology and resistance to providing access to collections. He will then examine the potential new public roles of the archivist and their collections.

In recent years, archives have moved from the cultural fringes to the center and are often seen as exciting and relevant institutions. Archival materials and collections permeate the culture, and old and new images and sounds intertwine in our media and minds. Prelinger contends that, while the time of archives has come, their life may be endangered. Crucially important cultural resources reside behind for-profit or restricted walled gardens, inaccessible to many. Quick web searches are replacing deep research, and most archival materials aren't on the web. Copyright snags, a reluctance to embrace technology and resistance to providing public access are marginalizing archives at the very moment when they might otherwise be finding massive new audiences for their contents. Mr. Prelinger asks: how can we save the archives? And, how can archivists embrace new public roles and put the stereotype of the reclusive, dust-covered repository to rest?

Following, there will be a screening of his all-archival feature film, “Panorama Ephemera,” at 8 pm at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, 477 Melwood Avenue. No reservations are required for the lecture or the screening. The 90-minute film is a collage of sequences from industrial, advertising, educational and amateur films made from 1626-1978. The New York Times notes that “Rick Prelinger's collection of industrial and educational films, combined in a feature called ‘Panorama Ephemera,’ creates a compelling narrative of our collective conscious.”

Rick Prelinger, an archivist, writer and filmmaker, founded Prelinger Archives, whose collection of 51,000 advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur films was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002 after 20 years' operation. Prelinger has partnered with the Internet Archive to make 1,970 films from the Prelinger Archives available online for free viewing, downloading and reuse. Mr. Prelinger has taught in the MFA Design program at New York's School of Visual Arts and lectured widely on American cultural and social history and on issues of cultural and intellectual property access. He has served on the National Film Preservation Board as the representative of the Association of Moving Image Archivists and is Board President of the Internet Archive and the San Francisco Cinematheque. He is co-founder of the Prelinger Library, an appropriation-friendly reference library located in San Francisco. He is Acting Director of the Open Content Alliance, an organization of libraries, archives and technology companies that was launched in October 2005.

Visit for more information about the Policy, Ethics, and Accountability Lecture Series.