The Library of Congress has announced that it has a new channel on YouTube. Though the films are going to be available at LOC.gov and American Memory, you definitely want to check out the official YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/LibraryOfCongress.
At the moment the LOC has 74 videos available, divided into several playlists including videos from the 2008 National Book Festival and “Kluge Center Series: Prominent Scholars on Current Topics”. But I suspect the playlists that’ll hold your attention are the 21 early (1904) films from Westinghouse and the 20 early (1890s) films from Edison Companies. The Westinghouse videos range from a minute to six minutes long and tend to feature industrial machinery in action. The Edison Films are much shorter (between 30 seconds and a minute) and feature everything from Native American dancing to boxing cats to a strongman named Sandow doing a 56-second posedown.
If you’ve used YouTube at all, none of this is going to look unfamiliar to you. The videos are organized into easy-to-use playlists and a lot of them have gotten serious numbers of views even though the announcement for the new site was only ten days ago. Unfortunately, while this collection has reach through YouTube it doesn’t have much in the line of community — every video I looked at had comments disabled. I was very much hoping that comments would be used like they are for Flickr Commons — folks with historical information supplying background that the LOC doesn’t have in its description (or perhaps doesn’t even know about.)
The Library of Congress is also using brief bumpers before and after featured video. This is okay — they’re not really long enough to be intrusive or annoying — but they can give a surreal quality to what you’re watching, especially as the old videos are silent. “From the Library of Congress in Washington DC.” (30 seconds of boxing cats in a silent movie ensues.) “This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress.”
Worth a look, but I am missing the comments.