Category Archives: Video materials

The Perils of Digitization

  • What can you capture, and not capture, when you digitize something?

Digitization currently is limited to either capturing the appearance of an item (through a scan or photograph), the sound of an image (through an audio file), or a motion picture (through a video file).  You are not able to capture the smell or texture of an item.  And no matter what format you use, the digital image is not an exact reproduction of an item, even when a photograph is scanned or an analog sound recording is digitized.  There are “losses” that may occur depending on the software used, plus the user may manipulate the image or audio file in ways to change it from its original state.

  • Which forms of digitization make the most sense for different types of items?

Texts are the most easily digitized, although you do lose the physical presence of the original object.  Photographs or 2-D objects can be scanned, with the caveat that the new scan is not the same as the original.  Objects that have a particular physical presence–a smell or texture as two examples–are less easily transferred to a digital representation.

  • To what extent does working with digitized representations impact how we understand different kinds of items, and/or our ability to use them for different purposes?

This depends on what kind of study you are making.  If you are analyzing text, you probably aren’t losing much by not having the physical object available to you.  However, if you are analyzing an audio recording, artwork, or photograph, you are losing key elements of the original item if you rely solely on its digital image.

The Prelinger Archives

The Prelinger Archives website can be accessed here:

Its rights and permissions statement may be found here:

The Prelinger Archives is a collection of films, many of which are in the public domain, from many different sources, including a rich collection of US government films, educational television, home and amateur movies, and libraries and archives.  Founded in 1983, it has been a part of the Library of Congress’ Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division since 2002.  The Prelinger Archives generally offers its footage through a Creative Commons-Public Domain license, although those requiring higher quality footage would need to work with its licensing agent, Getty Images.  Additionally, each individual item is tagged with licensing information, giving its Creative Commons license and any limitations on use.

NASA Commons

The NASA Commons site on Flickr is located at:

A rights and permission statement is available on the NASA Images website:

The NASA Commons Flickr site gives access to a selection of copyright-free images, video, and other materials from the NASA archives found on its master website, NASA Images:  These images are free to use by the public, with some restrictions as outlined on NASA’s rights and permission page.  Most of these restrictions have to do with commercial usage in advertisements or in other ways that might imply NASA’s endorsement of a commercial project.  Likeliness rights to individual astronauts or individuals shown in photos may be necessary to obtain as well.  The rich library of imagery gives users the ability to draw on NASA’s entire history of space flight and exploration.