Blog Post

Media History Digital Library - Website Launch

Media History Digital Library - Website Launch

I've been gone from the HASTAC blog for several months. I had a good excuse (two actually). I am a recent father of twins! Fortunately, the kids are doing great, we've all found a good rhthym, and I can spend time again on more things, including HASTAC.

I also have a good reason to dive back into HASTAC at this moment. Earlier this week, I helped launch the Media History Digital Library's new website. On the site you, you will find access to over 200,000 digitized pages of public domain media industry trade papers and fan magazines, including Moving Picture World (1912-1918), Film Daily (1918-1936), Photoplay (1917-1940), Radio Broadcast (1922-1930), and much more. Film and media historians are used to looking through these publications on microfilm, issue by issue, just hoping they come across something relevant to their research project. Needless to say, it's a huge improvement to be able to search by keyword and read the periodicals while sitting on the couch in your pajamas, rather than hunched over the microfilm machine.

A little more background on the project: The Media History Digital Library digitizes collections of classic media periodicals that belong in the public domain for full public access. The project is supported by owners of materials who loan them for scanning, and donors who contribute funds to cover the cost of scanning. Our sincere thanks go to the owners, donors, and Rick Prelinger, who has allowed us to incorporate scanned material from his collection into our project. David Pierce is the founder and director of the MHDL. I am the digitization coordinator and collaborated with Wendy Hagenmaier, a talented young archivist at the University of Texas Information School, on building the website. We're currently digitizing more materials and developing an Advanced Search function that will allow you to perform customizable searches across multiple publications, volumes, and years. In the meantime, you can perform searches within individual volumes (which span anywhere from 3 months to 2 years, depending on the publication).

I hope you will try out the Library, pass along the link, and let us know how we can improve the experience. We all still have a long way to go in making the public domain accessible and building digital resources that will enable scholars to ask new questions and write new histories. But, I hope you will agree, this is a good step forward!

I'm looking forward to blogging more about this project in the coming months. Glad to be back!




...on the birth of your twins and on the MHDL! The site looks great. I've only had a chance to poke around for a few minutes, but what an improvement over microfilm!

I know public domain is always an issue, but have you all collected any publications from outside the U.S?



Thanks, Sarah, for your response.

We definitely want to take the Media History Digital Library in a global direction. One of my favorite publications on the site is the Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal, a British periodical from 1904 that shows the close relationship the movies had in the early-1900s to other showmanship techniques. We hope to add many more non-US (and non-English language) publications in the months and years ahead. It would be fascinating, for instance, to have a range of international broadcasting publications that demonstarted the way the broadcasting services/industries were structured differently in different nations.

Do you have any suggestions of non-US media publications to add?






Hi Eric,

Let me check with some friends who do this kind of research. (I'm afraid I spend all my time running around museums.) I know people who are working on media history in Brazil and Nigeria, for example, but I'm not sure what kinds of publications they typically use.


Hi Sarah,

Thanks for checking with your friends. Please do let me know what you find out!





Hi Sarah,

Thanks for checking with your friends. Please do let me know what you find out!





It's amazing that much of this is a volunteer effort. It looks like great amounts of work have gone into making this a quality resource for the public. I love it when people are able to make accessible CMS tools work for them. Have you run into any problems with it or what are you finding that you can't do? How are you looking to expand?




Thanks for your nice note, Melody. I thought I had responded to this, but I realized just the other day that I sent my message through another Drupal channel instead. Sometimes, the options of CMS sites can overwhelm even me. Fortunately, my extended response to your great post about libraries and librarians answers most of your questions and gives an idea about where the project is headed.

Look forward to more productive discussions about digital libraries!