Resources for Filming the Past

This is a list of resources and guidelines for students that will supplement our class work. It may be added to and updated throughout the semester. Students (and others!) please feel free to leave suggestions for additional resources in the comments, particularly open source or public domain resources.

First things first:

Set up a twitter feed (practice subscribing to lists, following other students/historians/documentarians, interacting with class via #filmpast). Longer term goal will be to try to get a conversation going that draws in people from outside the class—gains interest and followers. Try to make sure your feed doesn’t go dormant after you sign up: try to post something at least once a week. Here is a list of useful feeds you should subscribe to and read:

And here is a list of your classmates’ tweets:

Set up a account that you don’t mind using for class. You will upload some of your class assignments here.

Use iTunes or another service to subscribe to several podcasts that will be good models for the audio documentaries you will do later in class. These include This American Life (, 99% Invisible (, and the Moth ( There is also a class podcast feed at:

Download Audacity or a similar audio editing program:

Find where to watch assigned movies by using the libraries and by looking for online availability via


Public Domain Images:

As we’ll dicuss in our class on copyright and fair use, we need to be careful in terms of what we use in our documentaries. Familiarize yourselves with the public domain resources listed below, and add ones of your own by commenting on this post (below).

The British Library, via their Labs project’s delightfully-named “Mechanical Curator” program, have just made over one million new images available for public use:

The Public Domain Review is a great resource for finding images and other materials that are now legal to use—no longer under copyright. All students should subscribe to the public domain review’s email newsletter and to their twitter feed.

New for 2014: authors whose work is going into the public domain, including Nikola Tesla and Beatrix Potter:

US National Archives/Library of Congress public domain materials guidance:

Guide to a variety of copyright-lenient sources and search tools from University of Notre Dame. NOTE THAT THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN USE ITEMS WITHOUT ATTRIBUTION:


Public Domain Music:

Youtube public domain music collection:

Brief rundown of the differences between public domain and creative commons:

Places to find usable music (with different levels of copyright restriction):

BUT, remember that even if the music is in the public domain (like classical music), you can’t legally use it if the performance or recording of that music is the property of a particular philharmonic, orchestra, or musician. Both the music and the recording need to be rights-free in the case of classical music, or you need to perform it yourself.


Non-public domain collections:

These collections can be used in a variety of ways under “fair use” and they will be important sites for you to do your research.


London Times (Galvin)

JSTOR (limited access through Galvin)

Newspaper databases (including the historical New York Times, available through Chicago Public Library, at Downtown branch:

More specific:

IIT archives/IIT news archive online (Galvin)

Chicago Film Archives:

Yale Photo Archives Project (some may be copyright-free):

Pathé film  archives:

UK National Archives (including film archives):

Internet Archive (film, photos, text):

Oral histories at the Computer History Museum:

Oral histories at the Charles Babbage Center for the History of Computing:

Newberry Library:


Sites with valuable resources:

Duke/Center for Documentary Studies Program:

And the associated Full Frame Film Festival:


Albany’s documentary studies program:

From course site above:

Also of interest, from the sites above:


  1. Melanie Standish

    I never knew that IIT kept their own archives… what is interesting though is that there are years that are undocumented. A chunk of which is when my Dad attended here… guess I’ll just have to explore those years through him!

  2. Nick Taluzek

    My iTunes is all setup to listen to the podcasts you listed. I’m excited to hear what everyone in the class is able to produce for the project!

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