Navigating Multimedia III
In the Spring 2007 and Summer 2007 Newsletters, I outlined several multimedia resources available on the Internet and through Boston College. The amount of video content has grown quickly since my last entry. For this article, I have decided to focus on a few key education and commercial video resources. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or if you come across some great resources I might have missed! Just a warning... many of these are free sites, so they will have advertising content.
There are several historical and cultural multimedia collections and initiatives available online. One of my favorites is the Living Room Candidate from the American Museum of the Moving Image. The Living Room Candidate is an innovative online exhibition presenting more than 250 television presidential campaign commercials from every election year beginning in 1952 and ending with our most recent election of 2008. Users can watch nearly four hours of TV commercials and explore the expanding world of web-based political advertising. The site includes a searchable database and features commentary, historical background and context, election results, and navigation organized by both year and theme. You can also search commercials based on themes (taxes, civil rights, change, etc.), as well as by commercial type (fear, background, biographical, etc.). Another great site, though it is not as organized or 'pretty' as The Living Room Candidate, is American Rhetoric from Speech Bank. American Rhetoric provides free downloadable and steaming audio of historical speeches and interviews. They feature over 100 original recordings (and supporting text and video) of the most important speeches delivered through the 20th Century to the present day. Most of the speeches are political in nature, by presidents such as John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and our President- elect Barack Obama. The site also includes speeches from Democratic and Republican National Conventions, commencements, legal proceedings, and famous orators like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. From their most accessed speeches you will hear a wide range of history. Finally, the American Memory Collection from the Library of Congress tries to incorporate written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music into an online module to document the American experience. American Memory is a free and open access digital record of American history and creativity. The intention of these materials and collections, from the Library of Congress and other institutions, is to serve the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.
Cultural and Archival
If your interest is in finding full length independent documentaries about American folk and roots culture, then I recommend folkstreams. Folkstreams partners with several divisions of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (ibiblio.org, School of Information and Library Science, and the Southern Folklife Collection) and is funded with grants by the National Endowments, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, as well as state Arts and Humanities organizations. By creating an online database of streaming films, folkstreams accomplishes two goals: they've built a national preserve of hard-to-find documentary films about American folk or roots culture and they've given them new life by streaming them on the internet. The films in folkstreams begin in the 1960s and focus on the culture, struggles, and arts of Americans from many different, and very often unnoticed, regions and communities.
Two more online collections focusing on archival and news footage are Newsfilm Online from the British Universities Film and Video Council and the Moving Image Archive from the Internet Archive. NewsFilm Online has produced 67 news stories and associated clips which are freely accessible and may be browsed by decade or theme. NewsFilm Online also offers a subscription access to over 3,000 hours of digitized news stories spanning the 1910s to the present day, including some primary research materials, as well as television news and cinema newsreels. The Internet Archives' Moving Image collection displays a wide range of footage and user uploads. Full length feature films (now in the public domain), newsreel and commercial footage, and the Prelinger Archives (60,000 hours of 'ephemeral' -- advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur-- films), are all a part of the Moving Image Archive.
One of the most interesting digital video trends that have been popping up online are 'How To' or tutorial sites. One pertaining to online research and technology is the In Plain English series from CommonCraft. CommonCraft is a husband and wife team that set out to create simple explanations of Web 2.0 technology and some associated online tools. Not sure what an RSS feed is? Phishing? Wonder why people Twitter or use social networking sites? They have recently stopped producing videos themselves, but their library is small and useful.
ExpertVillage, HowCast, and HowStuffWorks-Video Center are three other video sites that hope to connect self-serving users with information they want on a variety of topics. Have you ever wanted to repair your own garbage disposal? Learn Yoga, or to play a guitar? How to start a grassroots movement? Or just to make chocolate covered strawberries? These sites mean to show you how it is done, but like everything else on the web, it is important to be critical. Keep in mind that only a small amount of sites like these are closely monitored and under control from pointless and inappropriate content, but what is inappropriate or pointless is for the user to decide. ExpertVillage aims to pair professional videographers and 'experts' in a field to create a series of videos covering a particular topic. Both need to complete an application process and make their credentials available. Howcast is designed to bridge the gap between user-generated videos and more professionally produced videos. From their website, "Howcast brings together the personality of user-generated content with the quality of a professional video studio to create engaging, informative, and free how-to videos for consumers. It also offers emerging filmmakers an opportunity to gain experience, exposure, and income." HowStuffWorks was started in 1998 by Marshall Brain as a website and a book series geared towards students and teachers. From the website, "Our premise is simple: Demystify the world and do it in a simple, clear-cut way that anyone can understand." HSW is now owned by the Discovery Channel (of Discovery Communications, Inc.) and the Video Center is just a small part of the overall website.
Speaking of the Discovery Communications, Inc. and its subsidiaries, there are several multimedia collections available online that are meant to be teaching and learning resources about the environment, the Earth, and its many forms of wildlife. The ARKive project has access to the very best of the world's wildlife films and photographs, with more than 1,500 of the world's leading filmmakers and photographers actively contributing to the project, and giving ARKive unprecedented access to their materials. Contributors include the most famous names in natural history broadcasting, commercial film and picture agencies, leading academic institutions and international conservation organizations, as well as myriad individual filmmakers, photographers, scientists and conservationists. ARKive also has the backing of the world's leading conservation organizations, including BirdLife International, Conservation International, IUCN, UNEP-WCMC, and WWF, as well as leading academic and research institutions, such as the Natural History Museum, London; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and the Smithsonian Institution. ARKive's web-based materials reciprocally link with and highlight the work of these organizations and others, helping to promote their activities to ARKive's wide civil-society user base. ARKive also contributes to the Encyclopedia of Life. The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is an ongoing and ambitious project to organize and make available via the Internet virtually all information about life present on Earth. Some of the institutional partners are the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Marine Biological Laboratory. EOL is a series of Web sites—one for each of the approximately 1.8 million known species. Each species site is constantly evolving and features dynamically synthesized content ranging from historical literature and biological descriptions to excellent images, videos and distribution maps.
One pattern you can see in all these multimedia sites is the representation and need of partnerships. Whether it is from libraries, archives, corporations, or the users themselves, these sites would not exist without time and monetary investments and contributions. I hope some of these sites were of interest to you and I hope to share more in the near future. There is so much content on the web - it helps to share some, because very often it leads to a new and interesting resource!
Digital Media Reference Librarian