Visiting the Prelinger Library (by Marcus)

About the Prelingers and their endeavors: The Prelinger Archives is a collection some 60,000 industrial and ephemeral films discovered and preserved by Rick Prelinger since 1982. After being acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002 the Prelingers have placed over 2,000 of their films into the public domain and made available for download through the Internet Archive. From this source, Clandestine draws near 80% of its visual material. In 2004 Megan Shaw Prelinger, along with Rick, established the Prelinger Library which houses over 50,000 books and pieces of ephemera.

Last weekend I visited San Francisco with my brother Donny. Besides doing the usual site-seeing we made an effort to visit the Prelinger Library during their public hours of operation. We discovered Megan and Rick there, working hard, labelling, preparing, and sorting various types of ephemera. I was flattered to find out that Rick had already known about Clandestine and already had some ideas of places for me to research and people to get acquainted with. He directed me to a collection of Monitoring Times periodicals that he has subscribed to for many years. I was impressed to find out how interested Rick was in radio, radio history, Numbers Stations and other types of ambient noise. At one point in the conversation he retrieved a scanner from his carryall and we began listening to whatever signals it would pick up from the surrounding area. We all spoke about the state of film and documentaries, about giving things away, about the Library, its history, and other archives and libraries in the south and around the country that are worth visiting. My brother and I dug into their collection of the Official Gazette of U.S. Patents in hopes of finding a patent with our Great Great Uncle’s name attached. (A feat that we quickly realized could not be accomplished during our time there.) Donny flipped through music and aviation ephemera, and I went looking for items related to some of Climenole’s upcoming projects. All of this while the Library was filled with sound of opera coming from Megan’s stereo. If you’re in San Francisco make time to visit the Prelinger Library.

The library is at 301 8th Street (corner of Folsom Street), Room 215 in San Francisco. See website for public hours.