It’s only in the last few years that the public domain has started connecting with the public in a meaningful way, that is, since hundreds of thousands of out-of-copyright works have made their way to the Internet. Books, sound recordings, video, graphics and other digitalised riches together form a resource of incalculable value, a truly global cultural heritage.
Making sense of it all and actually finding works which may interest you – that’s another matter all together. Sites like the Internet Archive and Europeana do an amazing job of aggregating public domain materials, but are best suited to users with a good idea of what they’re looking for.
The Public Domain Review, on the other hand, is a skillfully curated selection of this tidal wave of material. I’m continually amazed at what they turn up and I’ve shamelessly appropriated their findings (here and here, for example). With intelligence, wit, discernment and a keen eye for the absurd and miraculous, a team of contributors select and annotate works which would otherwise languish unseen on institutional hard drives. From early Outsider art to exquisite illuminated liturgical texts, it represents a kunstkammer of the human experience.
I mention this now because there is a chance that this essential resource will be no more. With initial funding running out, the site is aiming to raise a modest US$20,000 by 1 May. If you head over there and like what you see, or you’re already a fan, might I suggest making a contribution towards this goal.
On a related note, my blogroll has been a bit samey for too long, so if anyone has tips on blogs of a Strange Flowery nature, I’d be very grateful. If it’s got biographical oddities, hidden histories, aesthetic mavericks, sexual dissidents or arcane lore…send it my way!