The Internet Archive, a trove of amazing things

The Internet Archive, a trove of amazing things

Founded in 1996, the Internet Archive is a free resource of materials ranging from previous versions of websites to video games to concerts from well known recording artists and much more.  So much, in fact, that it can be quite overwhelming.  As an avid user of, KT Lowe, Instruction Librarian, is glad to provide you with a list of her all-time favorite resources. Let us know on Facebook what is YOUR favorite Internet Archive resource!


Sita Sings the Blues – a full length animated film by Nina Paley recounting the Ramayana from the perspective of a divorcee. Terrific animation, a great soundtrack featuring the music of 1920’s jazz chanteuse Annette Hanshaw and a thoroughly enjoyable set of characters, this is a must-see.   Incidentally, this film is made available through the Internet Archive due to a copyright dispute regarding the movie’s soundtrack.  The whole story is worth reading in depth, as it discusses the importance of public domain works on creativity.

Film still from Sita Sings the Blues

Night of the Living Dead – the 1968 George Romero classic kicked off everything you think you know about the modern zombie.  Filmed on a budget of $114,000, Night of the Living Dead has grossed over $30 million through the years and spawned two sequels – Day of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead, both directed by Romero as well. Fun fact:  This movie was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress,

The Georges Melies Collection – One of the earliest cinematographers, period, and the first science fiction filmmaker, Georges Melies’ work is referenced in everything from the feature film Hugo to episodes of Muppet Babies. He began his film career in 1896 after viewing an early film by the Lumiere Brothers.  Most of Melies’ work involves trick photography and stage magic, two of his lifelong interests, and a handful are hand colored.  Start with his most famous work, “Le Voyage Dans de Lune” (A Trip to the Moon) and pick through from there.  214 of his nearly 500 films are still in existence!

Film still from “A Trip to the Moon” (1902). Yes, the color is original to the film!

The Warren Zevon Archive – Listen to 131 live shows by this master of modern popular song. While his name may not be immediately familiar, his work has been recorded by everyone from Stevie Nicks to Jackson Browne, his songs have been performed live by Bob Dylan, Kid Rock sampled his work for his single “All Summer Long” and Zevon’s only hit, “Werewolves of London” is a Halloween staple.   

Hip Hop Mixtapes – The earliest days of hip hop in New York were DJ driven and distributed by cassette tape. This collection of 75 mixtapes is a rare look into how hip hop culture developed from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.

Kentucky Alan Lomax Recordings, 1937-1942 – Alan Lomax was a folklorist who worked for the Library of Congress, both alongside his father John and on his own.  While his field recordings have been collected and compiled in a number of areas, this particular collection is narrowly focused on rural music from Harlan, Bell and Clay counties.  Some of the treasures in this collection include early versions of “House of the Rising Sun” (also known as “Rising Sun Blues”); “K.C. Blues”, which is the source material for songs like “Kansas City” (a hit for Wilbert Harrison and later recorded by the Beatles) and “K.C. Loving”; and “Ida Red”, the source material for Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene.”

The Oregon Trail – “You have died of dysentery.” Find out where you’ve heard that before with this game, where you play as the leader of a group of five people crossing the country on the Oregon Trail.  According to Jason Scott, archivist for the Internet Archive, The Oregon Trail is the most popular video game emulation in their collection.  The game itself traces its origins to the Minnesota Education Computing Consortium, who released the first version of the now classic game in 1974.

Screen shot from one of the man Oregon Trail emulations on the Internet Archive.

Where in Europe is Carmen Sandiego? – While you don’t get the terrific Rockapella theme song  from the 1990s PBS series, you do get the thrill of chasing the world’s most notorious thief and her henchpeople across the continent.  As a detective, you can interview witnesses, collect clues and gather warrants to arrest your criminal.  Carmen Sandiego was first created in 1985 with “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”, and spinoffs include games about American history, world history and mathematics.

The Voynich Manuscript – This mysterious document, which was likely composed during the Renaissance, has never been deciphered, despite recent scholars claiming otherwise.   Perhaps you can crack the code and figure out what it says!  The Manuscript itself, named for an early 20th century book collector, dates to the 15th century and is composed on vellum, a form of parchment often made from calfskin.  It’s the language itself, however, that causes so much trouble for people who work with the book; while it appears some of the words are Latin or German, most of it is written in an as-yet-unknown language. 

The Voynich Manuscript, page 29.

The House in the Middle – This Cold War era propaganda film sends the extremely odd message that the best way to survive a nuclear bombing… is to keep a tidy house.  Like Night of the Living Dead, this film has also been preserved by the National Film Registry.  The film itself was taken at the Nevada Test Site in 1953, and two versions exist. 

First 50 Digits of Pi – This is a collection of public domain recordings of, well, the first 50 digits of Pi in a variety of styles and languages.  Ever wonder how a Klingon would recite pi?  Or a pirate?  Or as a line in Lord of the Rings?  You can find those and many more here.

The Internet Archive continues to serve a valuable role in preserving internet culture and born digital objects.  If you make any terrific discoveries of your own, or want to learn more about digital preservation, let us know!

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