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Rick Prelinger

Professor Emeritus, Film and Digital Media
Critical archival studies; personal and institutional recordkeeping; access to the cultural record; media and social change; ephemeral cinema; amateur and home movies; participatory documentary; digital scholarship; cinema and public history
Research Interests: 

Rick Prelinger is an archivist, writer, filmmaker and outsider librarian. In 1982, he founded Prelinger Archives, a collection of industrial, advertising, educational and amateur films that was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002. Prelinger has partnered with the Internet Archive (of which he is a board member) to make 2,100 films available online for free viewing, downloading and reuse. His archival feature Panorama Ephemera (2004) played in venues around the world. Prelinger has recently made several film programs that he categorizes as “historical interventions,” called Lost Landscapes of San Francisco (7 annual parts) and Lost Landscapes of Detroit (3 annual parts). With Megan Prelinger, he is the co-founder of Prelinger Library, an appropriation-friendly private research library open to the public in downtown San Francisco. His archival work currently focuses on collecting, recontextualizing, and exhibiting home movies and amateur films.

Selected Publications: 

Film, Video and Digital Media Production
NO MORE ROAD TRIPS? (projected completion, 2013). Director/Producer. Feature-length film in progress. A project of Creative Capital. Capsule description online at

THE LIVES OF ENERGY (2010, 70 min.). Director/Producer/Editor. Archival collage film broadly conceived around energy, commissioned by AV Festival (Newcastle, UK). Screened at AV Festival; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; 01SJ Biennial (San Jose, Calif.); Other Cinema (San Francisco); Portland (Oregon) Art Museum; Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus); University of Oklahoma.

LOST LANDSCAPES OF DETROIT (2010-12, three annual episodes, each 65-75 min.). Producer/Editor. Compilation of archival footage, principally home movies, meditating on the past and future of the city of Detroit. Screened at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) as a live, participatory cinema event, February 2010; Home Movie Summit, Library of Congress National Audiovisual Conservation Center, Culpeper, Va., September 2010; CounterPulse, San Francisco (2011); Internet Archive, San Francisco (2011 and 2012); Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Durham, N.C. (2011); MOCAD (November 2011); Salt & Cedar Letterpress Gallery, Detroit (September 2012). Viewable online at (episode 1); (episode 2) (episode 3)

LOST LANDSCAPES OF SAN FRANCISCO (2006-2012, seven iterations, each 70-75 min.). Producer/Editor. Compilation of archival footage meditating on the past and future of San Francisco and presented as a live, participatory cinema event. Screened at CounterPulse, San Francisco (2006 and 2007); Cowell Theatre, San Francisco (2008); Exploratorium, San Francisco (2009); Herbst Theatre, San Francisco (2009 and 2010); Internet Archive, San Francisco (2011); Castro Theatre, San Francisco (2011 and 2012); Internet Archive, San Francisco (2012 and 2013); Contemporary Jewish Museum (2012). Episodes 3-6 are viewable online at: 


Selected Publications (Academic)

"Driving Through Bunker Hill." In Rough Cuts: Media and Design in Process collection edited by Kari Kraus for the new everyday, Media Commons, 2012. Online at

“Smoothing the Contours of Didacticism: Jam Handy and His Organization.” In Learning With the Lights Off, edited by Dan Streible, Marsha Orgeron and Devin Orgeron, Oxford University Press, 2012.

Review of Richard Cox's Personal Archives and a New Archival Calling: Readings, Reflections and Ruminations. American Archivist 73 (No. 2, Fall/Winter 2010): 691-95.

"Points of Origin: Discovering Ourselves Through Access." The Moving Image 9 (No. 2, 2009, pp. 164-175). "Mehr als nur überleben — Chancen von Filmarchiven im 21. Jahrhundert," Recherche Film und Fernsehen,

Nr. 5 (2009).
“The Appearance of an Archives.” In The YouTube Reader, edited by Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau,

published by Swedish National Archive of Recorded Sound and Moving Images and distributed through

Wallflower Press, 2009.
"Eccentricism, Education and the Evolution of Corporate Speech: Jam Handy and His Organization."

In Vincenz Hediger and Patrick Vonderau, eds., Films at Work: Industrial Film and the Productivity of

Media, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2008.
"Archives and Access in the 21st Century." Included in Schaefer, Eric, "In Focus: The 21st Century Archive,"

Cinema Journal 46 (No. 3, Spring 2007), 114-118.
Panorama Ephemera. Vectors, an online publication of the Institute for Multimedia Literacy, Annenberg Center,

University of Southern California, September 2006. At Prelinger, Rick. The Field Guide to Sponsored Films. San Francisco: National Film Preservation Foundation, 2006.

Guide to 452 historically significant films commissioned by American advocacy groups, businesses, charities, educational institutions, fraternal and service organizations, state and local government units, and trade associations between 1897 and 1980. Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

"Public Access to Digital Material." Co-authors: Brewster Kahle and Mary E. Jackson. Presented at the Internet Archive 2001 Colloquium, San Francisco. March 2001. Published in D-Lib Magazine, October 2001. Available at 

Education and Training: 
University of California, Berkeley