Archivist and documentary filmmaker, Rick Prelinger

4th May 2021

Rick Prelinger is an archivist and professor at UC Santa Cruz. He’s a collector of found and discarded footage: home movies, outtakes from industrial videos and never before seen b-roll from old feature films. Rick also co-founded the Prelinger Library in San Francisco. It’s one of the largest collections of ephemeral films in the world. In the film series Lost Landscapes, Rick compiles footage from his archives to create documentaries about changing cities. He’s covered San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, Detroit and more. We talk with Rick about his film series, how he curates his archives and his passion for all things ephemeral. Plus, shares a story about the time he found a video of himself at 5 years old in someone else’s home movies.

Episode notes

(Photo: Joi Ito via Flickr Creative Commons)

Rick Prelinger on using ephemeral media to explore the recent past

Rick Prelinger is an archivist and professor at UC Santa Cruz. He’s a collector of found and discarded footage: home movies, outtakes from industrial videos and never before seen b-roll from old feature films. He has digitized, labeled and archived literally thousands of hours of footage.

He helped found the Prelinger Archives, one of the largest collections of ephemeral films in the world. About 20 years ago, the Prelinger Archives were inducted into the Library of Congress.

Rick also co-founded the Prelinger Library in San Francisco. The institution collects similarly ephemeral stuff: out of print books, magazines, flyers and photographs.

Maybe one of our favorite things Prelinger has done, though, is the film series Lost Landscapes. In it, Rick compiles footage from his archives to create documentaries about changing cities. He’s covered San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, Detroit and more.

You can view all of the Lost Landscape films on Rick’s website. But the best way to see the movies is in person. Rick presents the films in a big auditorium without a soundtrack. He grabs a mic and sort of acts as tour guide, and the audience is encouraged to chime in: questions, memories and discussion.

We talk with Rick about his film series, how he curates the archives and we discuss his passion for all things ephemeral. Plus, he shares a story about the time he found a video of himself at 5th grade in someone else’s home movies.

In this episode...

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Guests

  • Rick Prelinger

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Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

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People

Producer

Associate Producer

Associate Producer

Maximum Fun Production Fellow

Maximum Fun Production Fellow

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