Welcome to Rick Prelinger and Prelinger Archives' almost-all-text website. This site contains both current and historical information; current information is at the top of this page.
In search of archival or stock footage? Please look at our Archives FAQ here first.
Rick Prelinger (brief biography)
Rick Prelinger is an archivist, filmmaker, writer and educator. He began collecting "ephemeral films" (films made for specific purposes at specific times, such as advertising, educational and industrial films; more recently called "useful cinema") in 1983. His collection of 60,000 films was acquired by Library of Congress in 2002, and since that time Prelinger Archives has again grown to include some 30,000 home movies and 7,000 other film items. Beginning in 2000, he partnered with Internet Archive to make a subset of the Prelinger Collection (now over 8,500 films) available online for free viewing, downloading and reuse. His archival feature Panorama Ephemera (2004) played in venues around the world, and his feature project No More Road Trips? received a Creative Capital grant in 2012. His 30 Lost Landscapes participatory urban history projects have played to many thousands of viewers in San Francisco, Detroit, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere. He is a board member of Internet Archive and frequently writes and speaks on the future of archives. With Megan Prelinger, he co-founded Prelinger Library in 2004. He is currently Emerit Professor of Film & Digital Media at University of California, Santa Cruz.
Many of my films are viewable online. Here's a list, from oldest to newest:
Panorama Ephemera (2004)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 3 (2008) (documentation of live presentation at Cowell Theatre, San Francisco)
Lost Landscapes of Detroit (2010)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 5 (2010) (documentation of live presentation at Internet Archive)
Lost Landscapes of Detroit 2 (2011)
Lost Landscapes of Detroit 3 (2012)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 6 (2011) (documentation of live presentation at Internet Archive)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 7 (2012)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 8 (2013)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 8 (2013) (documentation of live presentation at Internet Archive)
No More Road Trips? (2013)
Yesterday and Tomorrow in Detroit (2014)
Lost Landscapes of Oakland (2014)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 9 (2014)
Yesterday and Tomorrow in Detroit (2015)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 10 (2015)
Lost Landscapes of Los Angeles (2016)
Lost Landscapes of New York (2017)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 11 (2016)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 12 (2017)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 13 (2018)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 13 (2018) (documentation of live presentation at Internet Archive)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 13 was presented along with a new 4K scan of the legendary film A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire (1906), available here. I suggest watching the 2.5 GB version.
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 14 (December 2019)
Lost Landscapes of Los Angeles (December 14, 2019), documentation of my live presentation of the new Los Angeles film (still a work in progress) at Los Angeles Public Library.
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 15 (December 2020)
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 15 (December 2020) (replayable with reconstruction of live chat from premiere)
Lost Landscapes 02021: Earth, Fire, Air, Water: California Infrastructures (replayable with reconstruction of live chat from premiere)
Lost Landscapes 02022: Bay and Gateway: Past Glimpses and Possible Futures (replayable with reconstruction of live chat from premiere)
Useful Prophecies: An Archival Compilation, made for the opening night of the Punto De Vista Festival, (Pamplona/Iruñea), March 11, 2019
Prelinger Archives is now a collection consisting of approximately 30,000 home movies; 3,000 "useful" films (advertising, educational and industrial films); and several thousand cans of miscellaneous unedited footage. Most material that has been digitized is available online.
8,672 films from Prelinger Archives are online at the Internet Archive. More are frequently added.Prelinger Archives actively collects home movie material (35mm, 16mm, Super 8, 8mm and other film formats) and is pleased to connect with families and individuals who may have materials to donate to the archives. We can be reached via email at the address at the bottom of this page. Access to Prelinger Archives
Prelinger Library, co-founded with Megan Prelinger in 2004, is an appropriation-friendly collection of books, periodicals and print ephemera, open to the public in downtown San Francisco.
Blackoystercatcher blog (presently inactive)
Upcoming Events (not current, shown for historical value)
View or download Panorama Ephemera (2004), a feature-length collage film
News of Panorama Ephemera
My "Points of Origin" piece, published in The Moving Image 9 (No. 2, 2009) here:
Prelinger Collection Acquired by Library of Congress
My spouse Megan Shaw Prelinger's website
What's New (updated 14 July 2004; my blog is much more current)
Archives FAQ (updated September 2023)
Approximately 8,596 Prelinger titles presently available for free viewing and downloading from Internet Archive.
Access to Products
Intellectual Property Issues
About Ephemeral Films
Watch the Prelinger Archives official orientation video:
View or download This Is Prelinger Archives (2001)
Producer: Prelinger (Rick)
Sponsor: Prelinger Archives
Official Prelinger Archives corporate video, describing its contents and mission. With excerpts of many films in the collection and rare scenes shot inside the New York vaults.
Descriptors: Motion pictures: Ephemeral; Motion pictures: Archives; Prelinger Archives
Run time: 10:45 Color/B&W: B&W/C Silent/Sound: Sd
P.O. Box 590622
San Francisco, CA 94159-0622
CV (downloadable PDF)
September 5, 2023