Library of Congress to Provide Hundreds of Free Historic Films Online
The film-loving Library of Congress has unveiled its latest movie-centric initiative: the National Screening Room, a free collection of over a century of video assets that capture “a broad range of American life.” The New York Times reports that the new online screening room includes “digitized historical films, commercials, newsreels and other clips. … Most of the movies are in the public domain and are available for downloading; others are only available to stream.”
The available videos cover over a century of time, spanning 1890 through 1999, with new content set to be added every month. The current, quite wide-ranging selection includes almost 300 videos, with such highlights as “home movies by the songwriters George and Ira Gershwin; issues of the ‘“All-American News,’ a newsreel intended for black audiences in the mid-20th century; and a selection of instructional films about mental health from the 1950s.”
Other highlights include footage of Theodore Roosevelt visiting the Jamestown Exposition, President McKinley taking his oath of office, early looks at the New York City subway, D.W. Griffith shorts, and even footage related to the sinking of the Lusitania.
“The goal of this digital project is to present the public with a broad range of historical and cultural audio-visual materials that will enrich education, scholarship and lifelong learning,” said curator Mike Mashon, head of the Library’s Moving Image Section, in an official statement. “The National Screening Room is designed to open up the Library’s collections, making otherwise unavailable movies freely accessible to viewers nationwide and around the world.”
Per an official release, Mashon is also “working with the Library’s team of educators to develop lesson plans for the classroom and other educational initiatives.” Proposed educational assets will “examine the Harlem Renaissance, Industrial Revolution, Dust Bowl, Jim Crow and segregation, scientific data, Spanish-American War, World War I, Mexican-American communities, immigration, women’s history, children’s lives at the turn of the 20th century, symbols of the U.S. and many more.”
Every December, the library adds more titles to its National Film Registry, which now includes 725 films. In years past, the library has also made some of those selections available to stream online. With the addition of the National Screening Room, the NYT reports that “the library says it has the largest archive of moving images in the world, amounting to more than 1.6 million materials.”