The Internet is an incredible source of information, a lot of it collected by some of the best free archives online.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Well, duh…thank you for that insight, Captain Obvious.” But I think people fail to realize just how massive the scope of the web really is.
Do me a favor and go to Google. Run a search for “dog”, and you will see approximately 1,310,000,000 responses.
These are just indexed pages, which means there are actually an infinite number more out there that were either removed by the search engine, or never fell under the crafty digital feelers of their crawlers.
Thinking of it in these terms, the Internet is an infinite expanse, filled with all of the information that humankind could ever ask for. True information, false information, fun information, dumb information…just data, data, data, collecting and growing exponentially over time.
Information contributed by billions of people who use the resource in their daily lives.
You would think, therefore, that databases and archives would be everywhere and that information would be free and regularly contained.
But that isn’t always the case. Free archives are not nearly as prevalent as the data they seek to collect and provide. Those that are might not even be known to most internet users.
How sad is that?
This is not an exhaustive list. But these are some great, free archives that you should have in your bookmarks.
The Internet Archive is one of the most extensive resources on the web. It collects everything from media like music and books, to videos and articles.
It also has the Way Back Machine, a helpful tool that lets you search past cached websites that have since changed or disappeared.
If you want a real blast from the past, search some of your old websites that you used to build or maintain. I once looked up a few of mine and realized I had a serious and devastating obsession with glittering animations and guestbooks.
So many talented photographers will happily allow you to use their work on Flickr.
All you have to do is narrow your results down to Creative Commons in the header, where it specifies licenses.
It is one of the best photo collections out there, and filling up more by the day.
You will be surprised by some of the gems you can find for both commercial and noncommercial use.
Just be sure that you provide proper credit when you publish it. You may also want to leave a note in the comments stating you used it somewhere, with a link. It isn’t generally required, but the photographers appreciate seeing where their work is being placed.
Having been around for awhile, Project Gutenberg is one of those staples for ebook lovers.
This archive site holds tens of thousands of books, and is adding more all the time.
Not only that, but they are easy to connect to your smartphone device, so you can download from anywhere. Isn’t that nifty?
They even come in several translated languages.
If you want an archive of self-published works, they have those, as well. This has become a popular platform for authors to share their work without asking for monetary gain.
Sadly, project founder Michael Hart passed away in 2011. But his work goes on, with a team dedicated to providing a source for books in the public domain and easily accessible around the world.
So far, Open Culture has a collection of over 600 free ebooks for various devices.
However, that isn’t all they offer. They also provide links to free movies (great for fans of Hitchcock, John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin and other legendary icons), and to free courses online in various fields.
Their mission is to offer information on a web that is becoming increasingly hostile towards open sharing.
At a time when the future of the internet is being battled for by giant corporations that want control, it is up to the people to fight for the freedom of the web.
Open Source has that in mind, like many other archives.
Open Library is another book archive, but it has a different purpose.
They are looking to create a web page for every book. And they mean every book.
It is a long time goal, and one they are slowly working their way towards.
They have had a great start with over 1 million titles currently available, and a growing lending problem for non public domain books.
One of their best features is “Lists.” Users can create reading lists of things they have either already read, or what they want to read. It is similar to Goodreads. Then they can share those lists, so others can check out what interests them.
Maybe not the best archive, but a pretty great one, the Online Archive Of California is full of information from some prestigious sources.
Scientific research, medical studies, dissertations and projects from UCLA, history and information on Native Americans who had and still do live in the state and a lot more are available.
You can browse by both institution and collection, which is helpful. One of my personal favorites is the Berkeley Art Museum.
Take the above link to the Online Archive of California and multiply it by a thousand. That is the US Library of Congress.
It is adding content all the time, and has gained a reputation for its quickfire inclusion of new materials.
You can also find some resource and research tools on their site, some of which further expand on what they have to offer.
Have a specific collection you want to search?
An institution that might be associated with it?
This is a surprisingly well maintained collection of links to resources from organizations on a private basis.
The organization will come to them, they will help to provide an archive and database that is searchable, and you can go through their own search engine to find it.
Have another ‘best free archive online’ to add to this list?
Let us know in the comments!