American Memory

Among the very best resources on the web is the Library of Congress’ American Memory site. The purpose of American memory is to provide “free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience”. Its Motion Pictures section is a marvellous example of this, offering users access to a wide range of predominantly early cinema subjects, all available for viewing and downloading, in MPEG, QuickTime and RealMedia formats.

Each collection is usefully contextualised and indexed, and there are impeccable cataloguing records. The collections with silent film material (both fiction and non-fiction, but chiefly the latter) are:

Needless to say, this is all non-copyright material, one of the consequences of which being that eBay is full of DVDs of early film materials which are simply repackaged downloads from this site.