Rick Prelinger

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Rick Prelinger
Prelinger at the Prelinger Library in 2009
Occupation(s)Archivist, professor
Known forPrelinger Archives, Prelinger Library

Rick Prelinger is an American archivist, writer, and filmmaker.[1][2][3][4] A professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz,[5] Prelinger is best known as the founder of the Prelinger Archives, a collection of 60,000 advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur films acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002 after 20 years' operation.[6][7]

Rick has partnered with the Internet Archive to make over 6,000 films from Prelinger Archives available online for free viewing, downloading and reuse. With the Voyager Company, a pioneer new media publisher, he produced fourteen LaserDiscs and CD-ROMs with material from his archives, including Ephemeral Films,[8] the Our Secret Century[9] series and Call It Home: The House That Private Enterprise Built, a laserdisc on the history of suburbia and suburban planning (co-produced with architect Keller Easterling).[10] For Prelinger, "archives are a primary weapon against amnesia."[11]


Prelinger worked at The Comedy Channel from its startup in 1989 until it merged with the comedy network HA! to become Comedy Central. He then worked at Home Box Office until 1995. Prelinger has taught in the MFA design program at New York's School of Visual Arts and lectures widely on American cultural and social history and on issues of cultural and intellectual property access. He sat (2001–2004) on the National Film Preservation Board as representative of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, was Board President of the San Francisco Cinematheque (2002–2007), and is a board member of the Internet Archive and a professor in the Department of Film & Digital Media at UC Santa Cruz. With spouse Megan Prelinger he is co-founder of the Prelinger Library, a reference library located in San Francisco, California.


His feature-length film Panorama Ephemera, consisting of 64 self-contained segments from various ephemeral films, opened in Summer 2004. He has also produced such archival home movie compilation films Lost Landscapes of San Francisco (15 annual films, 2006–2020), Lost Landscapes of Detroit (three films, 2010–2012 and a fourth and fifth, Yesterday and Tomorrow in Detroit, 2014 and 2015) and All-Is-Well (2016).[12][13] He received the Creative Capital Award in 2012 to make the home movie compilation film No More Road Trips?,[14][15][16] which premiered in Austin, Texas, at South by Southwest in March 2013.[17] A summary of his 2019 film Useful Prophecies states that:[18][19]

"While the distance between cinema and truth is often impossible to bridge, some films reveal more than we might think any films could. Such is the case with the long-neglected body of useful cinema —films produced because they had jobs to do, like sponsored, educational, and industrial films— and home movies, sometimes revelatory works that seem to spring from the unconscious. Built from the collections of Prelinger Archives, one of the world’s largest collections of nonfiction films and home movies, this program builds a prophetic portrait of futures to come as proposed by filmmakers who let these visions speak through them."

He wrote The Field Guide to Sponsored Films (2007) which "describes 452 historically or culturally significant motion pictures commissioned by businesses, charities, advocacy groups, and state or local government units between 1897 and 1980." It is available as a book and as a free PDF from the National Film Preservation Foundation.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Panorama Ephemera published in the Vectors Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular, Volume 2 Issue 1 (Ephemera)
  2. ^ Prelinger's "Reimagining the Archive" presentation at UCLA, November 2010
  3. ^ Interview/podcast on the future of archives and issues relating to access to archives and culture (2011)
  4. ^ Interview with Spots Unknown
  5. ^ "Rick Prelinger - Film+Digital Media BA, PhD / MFA in Social Documentary Production at UC Santa Cruz". University of California, Santa Cruz. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  6. ^ Lost Landscapes and Found Collections, Rick Prelinger at MACBA in Barcelona
  7. ^ EPHEMERA: The Prelinger Archives (March 2013 Edition) on Vimeo
  8. ^ "Rick Prelinger's Ephemeral Films (Richard Gehr)". Levity.com. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  9. ^ "Mediamatic Review: G. J Strengholt - Our Secret Century - R. Prelinger". Archived from the original on February 1, 2008. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  10. ^ Easterling, Keller; Prelinger, Richard (February 15, 2013). Call it Home: the house that private enterprise built. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1481920087.
  11. ^ Rick Prelinger, "Dr. Rick Prelinger on Sharing as Activism" video, UCSC Library [1]
  12. ^ "Essayistic Interventions: Taking the City into the Theater – The Essay Review". TheEssayReview.org. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  13. ^ All-Is-Well: Open Space
  14. ^ Library, Prelinger (March 8, 2013). "No More Road Trips?". Prelinger Library No Morer Road Trips? blog. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  15. ^ NO MORE ROAD TRIPS? WITH LIVE SCORE BY SULLEN PROSPECTOR (Dir. Rick Prelinger, 2013) on Vimeo
  17. ^ "A rowdy look back at the home movies a nation's road trips have inspired". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  18. ^ Opening - Rick Prelinger - Useful Prophecies - Punto de Vista
  19. ^ Useful Prophecies - we can't go home again
  20. ^ Official website

External links[edit]