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Film Resources
February 25, 2010 - 12:34am


One of my former professors used to say that when he eventually retired he’d sit around all day in his jammies watching (Ingmar) Bergman films. That sounds pretty good to me, but he still hasn’t retired at 82. Maybe he will by the time I do, in 25 years or so, and we’ll watch together.

I love film and other visual media and try to use it in classes when I can justify it. If I’m looking for something specific there’s always hopes that YouTube and Hulu will have something useful for discussions, but as usual, the good stuff is put up on the high shelf where the kids can’t get to it.

That is, the country has many good film archives for on-site scholarly use, such as the Chicago Film Archives, the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive, the Harvard Film Archive, and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

Other archives are more specialized, such as the Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University Bloomington,, and the National Anthropological Archives, a branch of the Smithsonian.

Other places have the good stuff too, but they’re for-profits that charge licensing fees to documentarians, TV shows, and advertisers, and my kind would not be welcome there. Get a tantalizing glimpse of world travel clips licensed by Getty Images, which I could watch all day. Or the Americana reel at the WPA Film Library (“these are your neighbors”).

In any case, here’s one list of film archives at a site run by Cleveland State, and another terrific one at the National Film Preservation Board Public Moving Image Archives and Research Centers (the Smithsonian) that has lists of archives in each state and many in foreign countries.

But I don’t have the funds, time, or necessity to visit these places in person, so I’m always happy to find high-quality, free, online digitized resources I can search quickly for material to use in classes.

How about downloadable scripts of hundreds of well-known films and TV shows? Screenwriting, acting, film, cultural studies, and other students will appreciate Drew’s Script-O-Rama. Don’t pretend you’re not going to start memorizing lines from Purple Rain tonight.

Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications along with its allied site, Museum.TV, has 7,000 hours of TV and radio programming digitized (out of more than 100,000 hours-worth in their collections), as well as 12,000 commercials and 3,000 photographs. They also have web pages curated for Black History Month, Top 125 Political Moments, the 1968 Democratic Convention, and more.

The Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has excellent and moving film that would be great in history classes.

The Academic Film Archive of North America has digital holdings too and is partnered with the Internet Archive, one of the most interesting, versatile, and potentially time-sucking resources I’ve used of late. They also have a live music archive, an audio archive, and a textual archive.

At the Internet Archive, you can find Buster Keaton’s silent comedy “College”; a public service/social engineering ad on venereal disease with confused visual rhetoric (everyone’s happy and attractive); and an army training film from 1944 that came out of the Warner cartoon studios, with Mel Blanc doing a Bugs Bunny voice for a different character, and what might be the first instance of the “Endearing Young Charms” piano gag in it.

Pack your jammies and come on over. And bring that Purple Rain script.


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