A/V Geeks: Archiving.org the Ephemeral
June 24, 2015 5:27 PM   Subscribe

From Archive.org: "The A/V Geeks Film Archive is an ephemeral film collection curated by Skip Elsheimer. What started as a hobby more than ten years is now a lifetime commitment. His collection has grown to over 24,000 films gathered from school auctions, thrift stores, closets and dumpsters." Includes such hits as "Wink Martindale Talks about "Year 1999 AD"! Disney's "VD--Attack Plan"! DoD's "Red Nightmare"!

More about the project:
Skip Elsheimer...has come to discover that many of these films are worth a second look, not only for their comically dated take on the world, but because some of them actually have something worthwhile to say to modern audiences.

Mr. Elsheimer is the founder of A/V Geeks, a Raleigh, North Carolina based company named in honor of all those students assigned to run all those 16mm projectors back in school. With over 24,000 titles in his collection, he happens to be one of the foremost collectors of educational films in the country, which is why he travels all over the country presenting curated screenings of these films built around specific themes.
Profile (2015/1999): Skip Elsheimer is a man ahead of his time
For a moment, the complication of moving is solved. Which is when, amidst the clutter of everything he needs, Elsheimer asks the obvious out loud: Just how am I going to find a place big enough for all of these movies?
Access is the First Step to Preservation: An Interview with Skip Elsheimer of A/V Geeks (2013)
“I think the most important component of preservation is access” he says. “If you aren’t actually doing something to give access to people to make it important or introduce it to the world then you’re not doing preservation in the grand sense. It’s great keeping the original around … but there are ways now to share that information without impacting the original object by putting them online and making them available to someone even in another part of the world. That stuff is really important.”
As of this previously, Elsheimer was still working on digitizing his collection, which has since grown by 2,000 items; now, in addition to the collection's new home at Archive.org, the A/V Geeks trove can be found on YT (Added five months ago: Mob and Riot Control (1964); "Winning Ride," from Daytona, 1963, and "Play it cool : a question of attitudes," from 1970). At last—a place big enough for all of these movies.
posted by MonkeyToes (9 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Skip is a hero. Up with Rick Prelinger and his film collection.
posted by Darwina at 6:11 PM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

The PineHaus was a magical place in the early 90s -- I was at NC State at that time and visited it a few times.

Little in life is more unsettling than getting roaring drunk at a college party and then someone starts playing 50s hygiene films on the walls. (About the time you adjusted to that would be when another PineBoy would come running out in an orange wetsuit with an enormous purple penis pillow hanging from the crotch, but that's something you'd EXPECT at a college party.)
posted by delfin at 6:55 PM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

MeFi's own Skip Elsheimer, that is.
posted by NoMich at 7:03 PM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

How does copyright work with films like these?
posted by dilaudid at 7:32 PM on June 24, 2015

Since they're educational films, this probably falls under educational fair use, on the off chance that the copyright holders actually care.
posted by JauntyFedora at 9:57 PM on June 24, 2015

"Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me? G-O-N, O-H... no, wait..."
posted by Prince Lazy I at 1:34 AM on June 25, 2015

I was hoping to find some of the 163 movies of Dr. Harvey E. White, which my high school physics teacher would bring out whenever he felt like taking a break- i.e. twice a week.
"Let's crank up old man White."
I don't find them here, and the only video of him on YouTube seems to be from a different series, and doesn't have his trusty sidekick, Mr. Flick. :(
posted by MtDewd at 10:25 AM on June 25, 2015

Second year Master's of Library Science student chiming in here on the copyright situation: Archive.org's copyright policy is very short and doesn't tell you a whole lot, but here's my impression of what's going on:

The vast majority of these films are orphaned works, works old and neglected enough that their current copyright status and owner are unknown and very difficult to ascertain. It's incredibly expensive and time-consuming for an archives to find out who owns orphaned works, and oftentimes impossible. These works are not available commercially in any fashion, and the rightsholders may not even know they hold the rights. Digitizing them and making them available online helps to keep them preserved and makes them accessible to researchers and the general public. This is good for the archives, good for the films, good for the public, and 99% of the time doesn't bother the rightsholders.

Currently, a popular legal strategy for archival institutions digitizing orphaned works is to put them all online under the aegis of Fair Use, with an extremely fast takedown policy. If a rightsholder notifies them that they're infringing on copyright, they will take down the work immediately.

Fair Use is not an ironclad defense, and the archives could still be subject to legal action. However, awards in copyright lawsuits are based on lost revenue. Since these works are not commercially available, no revenue has been lost by the archives' actions. Any rewards from lawsuits would be miniscule. For this reason, Archive.org and other institutions taking this strategy are unlikely to be taken to court.

Keep in mind, I'm not affiliated with Archive.org and copyright law is REALLY complicated, so I may have gotten some details wrong here. If so, I apologize!
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 10:48 AM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wow, such a nice surprise to get a shout-out on a site that I visit regularly. Not only have we been working on digitizing the A/V Geeks collection, we've also digitized other giant collections at Archive.org - the Academic Film Archive of N America, most of the Prelinger Archive, Duke Univ AdViews project (which has several thousand TV commercials), and so much more... I really feel that you gotta get film and video that is languishing on shelves out, so that they don't become irrelevant. Thanks for noticing! Thanks also to Brewster Kahle at the Internet Archive for hosting this material - even the stuff that is in a copyright grey area!
posted by avgeeks at 8:14 PM on June 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

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