The Prelinger Archives is a collection of films, mostly shorts made for industrial or educational distribution.
The Archives was founded by Rick Prelinger in 1982 in order to preserve what he calls "ephemeral" films: corporate advertising and promotional films (1914-1980), educational films or U.S. government productions, television commercials, theatrical trailers and ads, newsreels, amateur and home movies, and other items of cultural significance which are in the public domain because they were never registered for copyright or their copyrights have expired.
The stated goal of the Prelinger Archives is to "collect, preserve, and facilitate access to films of historic significance that haven't been collected elsewhere."
By 2001 it had acquired 60,000 completed films of varying lengths and over 30,000 cans of unedited film. In 2002, the Library of Congress acquired the contents of the Archives as of that date. As of spring 2005, the Archives holds about 4,000 films on video and over 30,000 cans of film acquired since the Library of Congress transaction. Approximately 2,000 public domain films are available for download and unrestricted reuse on the Internet at the Internet Archive. All the films in the archives are available for license for production use through Getty Images.
- Footage from the archives was used for Weird Al Yankovic's music video, "Pancreas" , and the Peak Oil documentary The End of Suburbia.