The Open Video Project

Edison titles

2 A.M. in the Subway (1905), Japanese Acrobats (1904) and The Boys Think They Have One on Foxy Grandpa, But He Fools Them (1902), from http://www.open-video.org

There are a number of online video collections out there designed for university use which feature lectures, demonstrations, educational documentaries etc. One that has been around for some time is the Open Video Project, which is hosted by Internet2 in America, and aims “to collect and make available a repository of digitized video content for the digital video, multimedia retrieval, digital library, and other research communities.” It comprises a number of collections from around the world such the University of Maryland HCIL Open House Video Reports, Digital Himalaya, NASA K-16 Science Education Programs and the HHMI Holiday Lectures on Science, but for our purposes what is interesting about the site is the Edison Video section.

This features 187 Edison production from the Library of Congress, dating from the 1890s and 1900s. Many early Edison titles are, of course, available from the LoC’s own excellent American Memory site, but the majority of the titles here are not on the better-known site. Among the varied titles only available here are A Ballroom Tragedy (1905), A Nymph of the Waves (1903), A Wake in “Hell’s Kitchen” (1903), Dog Factory (1904), Fights of Nations (1907), Gordon Sisters Boxing (1901), International contest for the heavyweight championship–Squires vs. Burns, Ocean View, Cal., July 4th, 1907 (1907), Princeton and Yale Football Game (1903), a series of films on the United States Post Office, films of the Westinghouse electrical works in 1904, and films from the St. Louis Exposition of 1904. And many more.

Basic cataloguing information is provided, though there are some peculiar errors with dates from time to time, and the presentation is rudimentary apart from some helpful synopses. There is little information available on the collection overall, so nothing to explain the significance of Edison films or why these titles – predominantly actuality – have been chosen. All are available as freely downloadable MPEG-1s, with the same frustratingly small image size as one finds on the American Memory site. But let us not be churlish – here is a wonderful selection of titles, many of them unfamiliar and indicative of the range of Edison production, including comedies, dramas, variety acts, sports films, travel films, and sponsored industrial work. Well worth exploring.

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